Starling Cycles is practically synonymous with steel bikes, so it came as some surprise that they've developed a prototype to demonstrate a new type of carbon manufacturing. It's the fruit of a joint project with the National Composites Centre
(NCC), Composite Braiding
and Starling, all of whom happen to be based in Bristol, UK. Starling's founder, Joe McEwan, used to be a composites engineer in the aerospace industry, and despite being known for steel bikes, is far from a carbon sceptic. The trio secured £100,000 of funding from Innovate UK to investigate the use of braided carbon fiber using thermoplastic (rather than thermoset epoxy resin) for bike frames.
According to McEwan, the advantage of this approach is a product that's "tougher, repairable, re-useable, lower energy to manufacture, better manufacturing quality [and] much less environmentally damaging" compared to conventional carbon frames. Part of the study involved a life cycle assessment (LCA) comparing the environmental impact of thermoplastic to (regular) epoxy-based carbon frames, which found the CO2 emissions over the life of the thermoplastic frame to be significantly lower than the epoxy frame - though still much higher than a steel frame. It's worth noting this LCA was carried out by the National Composites Centre, not Starling themselves.
Thermoplastic carbon is nothing new. Guerrilla Gravity
already use it, as do a couple of wheel manufacturers. What makes this project different is the combination of thermoplastic resin with braided carbon for use in a bicycle frame. Braided carbon is essentially a tri-axial weave of carbon, with full-length fibers running parallel and +/-60 degrees to the axis of the tube.
According to Joe, the braided structure and manufacturing process is a bit like a steel cable or the sheath of a climbing rope. That, he says, means there's less wasted material, fewer voids and other imperfections, less labour required (up to 90% less according to Composite Braiding
, plus a lower scrap rate because human error is reduced and because it's possible to inspect the frame in the middle of the manufacturing process.
Joe is quite clear that true
large-scale recycling of any carbon fiber is economically unfeasible because the energy required is high and the fibers aren't the same afterwards, but he says that it is easier to downcycle and repurpose this material than epoxy carbon fiber. He also says it's more resistant to impact damage due to the plasticity of the material and easier to repair because the thermoplastic medium can be heated and reformed.
But the idea is not to create a niche, expensive product for the eco-conscious few. The aim is to "develop a new high volume, low cost, high-quality manufacturing process for carbon fiber bike frames." By removing the need for laying up by hand and by eliminating a step involving the resin infusing into the fibrers, it should be possible to make a high volume of frames at a competitive price. That's the idea anyway.
The prototype they developed just happens to be an ebike frame, similar to the steel version
we already reported on. It uses a Freeflow Technologies motor with a chainring on the left, which will connect to a drivetrain on the right via a jackshaft that runs through the middle of the high pivot, with a second chain connecting the motor to the LHS of the shaft. The bike has a steel swingarm (Joe says this still offers the best ride quality) with a machined aluminium motor mount to make manufacturing easier for a first attempt. Apparently, the lugs connecting the frame tubes together didn't quite work out as hoped, which means this particular bike probably isn't fit for shredding. Joe is hoping to partner with another manufacturing company to try and get production up and running at some point but not everything is worked out at the moment.
For more information, check out Starling's blog
plus, is a proto.
Everyone curious check out www.starlingcycles.com/bikes/sturn
It is referenced in the Starling Blog post if you read that.
"It uses a Freeflow Technologies motor with a chainring on the left, which will connect to a drivetrain on the right via a jackshaft that runs through the middle of the high pivot, with a second chain connecting the motor to the LHS of the shaft."
What does "significantly" mean? And how does aluminium compare? There is very little actual information in this article.
But to summarise the findings, reduction in energy for manufacture is around 25% less for the thermoplastic frame than epoxy. But if we also add in the the extended life of the thermoplastic frame due to its greater damage tolerance, then the benefit grows. There are also gains to be made by a a more repeatable manufacturing process, reducing scrap rates. I've heard of up to 50% scrap rates for some carbon manufacturing!
I'm not totally convinced durability of the frame really enters into it, as I think bikes (particularly alloy) are thrown away due to age and obsolescence more often than damage. A study looking at people's behaviour would be more revealing that speculation based on durability - BUT, I also know that catastrophic damage is not unusual in carbon frames, so anything to reduce that is absolutely to be welcomed.
By scrap rates I assume that relates to waste material in the manufacturing process? If so that sounds crazy high, so how this process compares to that will also be really important.
Look forward to seeing the data when it's available, and as I say, especially how it compares to alloy, because from what I can find out, carbon does not compare favourably.
I slightly disagree with you on durability. Bike is a sum of many components not just frame. But what makes people throw the bike away as complete (or many of it's part at the same time) straight into the bin is extensive wear and failure of a couple of components in short time frame. A biyccle frame failure will lead to throwing away frame and many components. Especially if it is a cheap one.
Many current bike components still are shit, even high end ones. Look at the brakes for the love of God. Why does Hope have such zealous following? because they make quality products that are easy to maintain, cheap to maintain and you can be sure that this maintenance will keep the product alive for 10+ years. Shimano, Sram or Magura brakes? That stuff is one roulette. Then many forks and shocks are also made this way. Like Fox shocks - roulette again. Yes most mechanics say failures are mainly due to user negligence but some stuff is just shit, even at 800-1500€ price tag. Then we should consider reintroducting open bath cartridges on lower and mid level models. More coil suspension. It all requires less service and lasts longer than air springs and bladder/ IFP dampers. Rims? Sub 500g alloy rim should not exist on a 29" mountain bike, and they all should be made to standard of high end DT Swiss. 12speeds?! That stuff is so sensitive to minor deviations from perfect setup compared to 10sp that it's just waste. At least Shimano has now created durable Link Glide and I bet people will embrace it in the end. Ironically E bikes made normal bikes better.
It is a long way ahead to 17kg carbon trail bike for 10000€ that performs worse than 15kg alloy for 3000€. It may be too utopian but we have to stop trying have a cake and eat it. We just won't be able to do this in the future so we can start adjusting ASAP. I work with big construction companies and I wouldn't give too much benefit of doubt to some of them. If they push on "sustainability" by actually implementing expensive "sustainable" tech there must be more behind it than marketing. They must know sht and look at it in the long run. Nobody chooses 3 times more expensive timber structure expecting to get that investment back by selling properties to other huge companies that are also highly profit oriented. It just shows up in their excell sheets, no doubt about it. The green arms race is only beginning and let's keep our eyes and ears open to spot cures that are worse than the disease. Shut the virtue signalling in the first place.
@Lemmyschild - totally, despite that being basically unconstitutional due to supposed separation of church and state.
A final anecdote: first school ending in my daughters life. Kids go to the stage and sing song, and one part of the lyrics hit me deep: "before you want to fight for peace in the world, find peace within yourself". And it was a wonderful song about summer. Rewind to my time Poland when I was 7: National anthem, 3 religious songs, teacher: wish you a great summer... read a book, dont waste time!!!
Nevertheless never make a mistake, US is exceptional in terms of greatness and has pushed the development of humanity in the West far further than if there was a huge sea there or Tundra like in Siberia and Brits had no colony there. Why don't we blame China for not being more than what it is today? Russia? Why is Putin playing all those stupid games? Where is his highway and railway through Chechenya or Georgia? He took over strategic locations, fkd up people's lives and what happens there? nothing.
US fks around, sends countries into middle ages then acts as if savages they themselves created hated them for their freedom. But the idea that Europe and UK took all the best decisions after WW2 with best interests in mind would be a naive one.
A comparison to aluminium (the most commonly used frame material) is important to understand where it sits in relation to other methods, otherwise it's missing vital context - however, if it's compared to carbon, and there's already data on how alu compares to carbon, making the comparison between the three shouldn't be too tricky.
This is a thick lecture but worth listening for anybody interested in LCA
For me having drone this for a while I’m a big fan of the plant based option
Compared to epoxy resins, the thermoplastic offers; lower manufacturing energy and a tougher structure. In addition, the specific novel solution we are looking into offers: simpler repair and more manufacturing process control and inspectability offering a higher quality part and a much lower scrap rate.
Make it with less energy, make it better, make it last longer, and ultimately make it repairable. All of this is much more important than making it recycleable...
Your carbon bike lasts. Any material does. The vast majority of ‘proper’ bikers never break frames or rims of any material. A lot of mtb and road riders ‘choose’ to buy carbon frames and rims and in doing so make a deliberate decision to remove the recycling option on their bike.
But making things last as long as you like creates more issues than it solves. You also just read the article on bikes turning 10 this year and thought about how crap they must ride now. How many bikes have you bought since then? I bet 99.9999999999% here would still be on their 10 year old bike and kit if replacement was not an option*
Its us that makes the change not the quality of the product.
*fitted my first Reverb this time 10 years ago. 4-5 later and the reality is my comments still hold. Yes they all died. But. Would I as a consumer want a 125mm external routed dropper in 2022 when I can have a 170mm internally routed version??! At least this time I can buy a £9 gadget to bleed the air - to make it last longer
However, if companies made products out of materials that A) last a long time so don't need upgrading B) made them out of materials that can be recycled and therefore not produce more waste, then we would be in a much better position as a planet. This is particularly true for lower end bikes for kids etc that get used for a few years, sit and rust and then get taken to the dump (though they might be recycled there I'm no expert).
Surely if the energy used to produce aluminium/steel was drawn from renewable energy sources then you have the best of both, instead of creating more material to end up in a landfill eventually?
Yes we make short life crap but put a different way, you could realistically be eating off the same plates your Roman ancestors ate off. Stuff lasts. Chances are though that over time we get bored of an image of Caesar staring back under our sandwich so binned it. Bike stuff is mostly the same. Its us thats the problem. Unless of course someone wants to be all high and mighty and explain how riding their steel hardtail with Girvin Flexi-Stem and calliper brakes whilst wearing 30 yr old lycra is still the most awesome way to enjoy MTB?
I think bikes from the last few years are so drastically different from bikes from 10+ years ago (from what people say anyway I'm not that old) that it's understandable why people have upgraded. If all those old bikes were made to be recycled then it wouldn't really be such a big issue, just make new bikes/products out of them.
Personally I reckon it would be pretty cool to have plates etc left over from the Romans, but I see your point. I think people should really be more content with what they have ( of anything, plates and bikes included), as it is the only way to end the want for more.
I work for a small but innovative aerospace and robotics company. It took a long time before we were able to receive grants, mainly because we lacked the resources to apply for them. The relatively small (less than $100k usd) government contributions we have received allowed us to grow from a tiny operation of 14 staff with a lot of bright ideas to close to 130 employees currently supplying our systems and providing R&D services to customers all over the world.
I prefer that my tax dollars are spent for the betterment of those who pay them, NOT to private, for-profit companies.
I could come up with a list of 1,000 things that those dollars could be spent on that would benefit the taxpayers more than, "green carbon for MTB".
"I work for a small but innovative aerospace and robotics company. It took a long time before we were able to receive grants"
Do you even read what you type? I would compel that your company is not all that innovative if they need grants to survive. If your company had products that consumers wanted, there would be no need for government welfare (grants).
"Durn that scientific development an all those ivory tower eggheads with their edumacation and larnin'"
Funny the person printing hackneyed cliches like "indoctrinating more lazy, woke socialists...." is railing againt projecting. Irony is dead to you ain't it?
Public education in Mississippi is ranked last in the nation year after year. Public education in Mississippi ranked last, yet again, on Education Week's Quality Counts report . The state received an “F” grade for academic achievement, and a “D” for the chance of success for students.
What about those British tax dollars you were originally so concerned about? You don't seem want to continue that discussion now that it's clear you didn't know what you were talking about.
I prefer that my tax dollars are spent for the betterment of those who pay them, NOT to private, for-profit companies.
Private for profit companies pay taxes. That is just blustery BS based on the whacky idea that either these corporations are not paying taxes or at least not paying ENOUGH taxes to make him/her happy. If those corporations are paying taxes why shouldn't they reap some investmemt from government if they are able to produce something that is beneficial to society?
As far as your assertions about government funding hampering reasearch and the free market benefiting the consumer as much as the proprietier: BS.
Our entire defense industry and all its technological innovation over the last 60 or 70 years are a byproduct of grants, subsidies, and tax deductions granted to corporations. Boeing Lockheed, United Technoligies, are you and he/she really trying to say that none of the products they have developed has been worth the subsidies they recieved? I don't think any innovation they were working on has been "hampered" by tax dollars. If anything it was spurred.
Take the development of the covid vax as an example. Point out how that was constricted by the government while also being incentivized by the government.
A "true free market" is something that only exists as a fantasy in the minds of people who can't grasp the basic fact that before you can even have a market you have to have some type of authority that secures the market, and makes it safe and equitable. Throughout history that authority has generally been government.
The whining and kvetching about government oppressing us and making is poorer in this day and age of advanced luxury is a perfect example of the decadence you complained about in another comment.
A, "true free market" has to have, "some kind of authority that secures the market and makes it safe and equitable"? LOL. You have much to learn, grasshopper.....
Defense is defense, it is paid for by the collective, for the collective good. It is one of the few necessary Government functions, has nothing to do with carbon mountain bikes. And you accuse me of straying off topic....
I can see by your posted views that you not only lean left, you lean to the far, socialist left. Do yourself a favor and learn some history. Find out where socialism has ever worked in the history of mankind. Good luck with that.
One of the biggest debacles of all time! "two weeks to slow the spread". LOL
Two years, trillions of dollars and a fundamentally changed society later and we have shots that don't protect us from contracting OR spreading the virus. Tell me how effective that was? Government should butt the eff out of private enterprise and fix some of our true social woes......Illegal immigration, homelessness, drug addiction and education are FAR bigger detriment to society.
Buy eachother a box of chocolates and call it a day.
[edited with the right link]
You can understand my question, when further along you get comments like “its shit?” from @crazy9
Not upset, mostly curious.
Seemed like a very definitive answer to my question so I thought I’d probe a bit more.
But this isn’t an industry first.
I saw some Arduino controlled device to braided carbon dîner at home and make tubes:
Passion and integrity have some limits as I can see, so why not, but no thanks.
"A regular bike obliges us to do what we can, in a suble mix of joy and pain. At the opposite, an e-bike allows us to do without too much efforts what we normally couldn't do at all" (missing parts of course..) I don't think he's much into MTB concerns though...
Sorry for my poor explanation, the article is much more documented and interesting :-)
As far as I'm aware...( as someone who's job it is to design and manufacture thermoplastic composite prepreg machines as well as advising on automated production processing machines for thermoplastic composites! and who's previous job it was to design and build carbon bikes, so speaking from a point of a little bit of background knowledge )
Thermoplastic/ carbon braiding processes use co-mingled fibres, so generally carbon and nylon fibres loosly combined into a material tow, as you cant really guarantee the fibre position in the bundle generally you have to run quite a lot more nylon/polymer than would be optimal in the material compared to a filament wound prepreg tape or tow.
now that comes with the caveat that it is a hell of a lot cheaper on a small scale to process cold co mingled fibres and then melt/cool in a mould rather than to try and process pre manufactured tapes. filament/ multi axis wound forms would be much faster to make and technically better parts but would require much larger capital investment from the manufacturer. (not to say braiding machines are cheap but all the heating cooling requirements for the other technologies are another level of expensive and would generally be born by the manufacturer of the component not the material/preform manufacturer like Composite braiding)
Now...how to find a way to get the government to pay for me to build a bike for me too via the NCC
My comment was coming more from this direction: people on this site like to talk about how much carbon pollutes, but THEY HAVE NO CLUE about what it takes to make steel and aluminum alloys. Carbon is a drop in the bucket compared to the steel making process. It is what it is, but don’t pretend you’re some kind of environmentalist because you have a steel or aluminum bike. That’s all I was getting at. I’m not sure how you got to “woke” about it.
Nowhere is there evidence that I didn't know what you were on about. The part about you not giving a shit is precisely what I posted about. Hypocrisy. Because you want to prattle on about how dirty the steel industry is, yet use the products because it suits you was my whole point. That didn't change. I already clarified that I don't give two shakes of whizz about how you feel, so you not caring is completely irrelevant. Those are all typical liberal traits, along with your knee-jerk reaction to go on the offensive, instead of simply answering to your hypocrisy. You are a waste of time.
someone else chimes in with their opinion and i reciprocate by stating i live near a steel mill too at no point did ANYONE other than you go in all guns blazing about whatever the f*ck you were on about lol
YOU and only YOU have implied everything you need to start your own one man argument , by then stating you think its HYPOCRITICAL, so what ? no one gave a f*ck about what you think I sited that 5 posts in , which was when you got all butt hurt first time round
this was before you even talked about shaking your vagina , honestly you aren't going to fix the internet one post at a time by going FULL SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR , I must reeducate these people on us
shock horror you are irrelevent if you think we are hypocritical ,again irrelevant , we seem to have gotten over it already whereas unlike the 10th post in wher you said you were moving along you haven't , oh deary
You have made so many deluded assumptions since then its pure speculation that
you aren't some AI bot with learning difficulties
(I'm aware of your CV in and out of the bike industry Mike, good to know the NCC has always been 'interesting' to work with ha, )
I mean pfff
Its got a freegn Jack Shaft bro
Join Pinkbike Login