Max Betteridge, a 26 year old product designer form Auckland, New Zealand built a custom-made motorcycle based on Ducati Monster, wrapping it in basalt fiber. He found time to tell us about his project and specifics of basalt fiber applied for the motorcycle bodyworks.
Max, is building bikes your hobby or a job?
It is my hobby, because I build custom motorcycles during my spare time after my work as a product designer for medical devices.
What captured you in basalt fiber so that you decided to use it for Ducati Flat White?
What sold me on basalt was the unique gold colour. I had a small amout of experience with fibreglass before beginning this project but I wanted to develop my composite skills and learn to make high quality visual parts. Carbon was the obvious choice as it is well recognised in the motorcycle word, however I find the look of carbon to be very harsh and I wanted something unique; when I learned about basalt and saw what it could look like I was sold.
Are all the main parts made of basalt composite or you used some other materials?
On the Flat White all the visible bodywork is basalt; including the fuel tank, tail, belly pan, and speedometer enclosure. Each part is a combination of basalt and fibreglass and is laminated with Coremat to stiffen the parts. The fuel tank also has a layer of Kevlar in the laminate and an additional protective fuel coating on the inside.
What processes and technologies did you use?
A lot of this project was done digitally on CAD. The whole bike was 3D scanned and the bodywork created in Creo and Rhino. I used a combination of CNC mills, laser cutters, and traditional hand methods to create the bucks and moulds for all the composite parts. This project was a big learning exercise for me and I experimented with a lot of new techniques to learn what works best. All of the basalt, fibreglass, and coremat patterns were also designed in CAD and laser cut before laminating. I was not brave enough (or skilled enough…) to try vacuum infusion, instead all of my parts were wet-laid and then vacuum-bagged at room temperature.
Unfortunately, basalt fiber is not well-established material despite all its benefits. How did you learn about it?
My workmate introduced me to basalt fibre. He is into building kiteboards, paddleboards, and RC planes and I believe he came across the material somewhere in one of these hobbies.
Could you give us the benefit on your experience, in what way basalt composite is easy to work with and, to the contrary, are there any difficulties?
Having not worked with carbon much before I can not really compare, however I can tell you that when creating a visual component (with the weave exposed) basalt is a lot more forgiving than carbon. With carbon and irregularity in the weave or any loose fibres in the part really catch the eye. With basalt the weave is much more subtle and I found that any problematic areas in the layup didn’t show at all in the final product.
One of the big difficulties I didn’t foresee was how much work was involved in painting the finished part. My layups were probably not as good as a professional’s and I had very small pinholes in every weave. which creates large fisheyes when the painter tried to clearcoat it. It required about 4 thick coats of clear (with sanding in between) just to get the part to a smooth finish to apply the paint to.
How would you rate the prospects for basalt fiber application in the automotive?
It seems like a good alternative to carbon and I could imagine it would become quite popular in the automotive industry.
Was it a one-time experiment or you intend to use basalt fiber in another projects?
I currently have no more plans to make anything more out of basalt; however I still have a lot of basalt material left over so I will definitely be making something new in the future.
Max, we wish you every success in your creative efforts and hope your interesting ideas will turn into reality.