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HOW IT'S MADE – A bike integrating overbraided parts and self-sensing fiber reinforced thermoplastics

A consortium of SMEs from the Dutch province of Limburg and companies at Brightlands Chemelot Campus is developing an unbreakable lightweight road bike that combines 3D printed materials, biobased glue, overbraided tubes & frontfork and integrated fiber sensing.

100% Limburg Bike team

The 100% Limburg Bike is a project to develop a racing bike full of innovations, worked on by small and medium-sized businesses and companies at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus.

Menno Smeelen, project leader for the 100% Limburg Bike project says:

“This will be a very special bike that meets the requirements of the UCI and the ISO standards. And we will be marketing it from Limburg. At the Brightlands Chemelot Campus, we were looking for a way to enable the Euregion knowledge parties on campus to collaborate with manufacturing companies in the field of innovation, thereby strengthening the regional economy. In addition, we identified a certain need in the market when it comes to special racing bikes.

Figures show an increase in the number of sportive cyclists. Exercise is an important means of improving your health. The fact that cycling is popular in Limburg and that it is high on the sports agenda is an added bonus. From that perspective, the participants in the project started thinking about an innovative racing bike, as a product and a showcase. The name ‘smart bike’ was quickly chosen, but the project needed more than just a good name. It required businesses that, each with their own knowledge, experience and expertise, were able to contribute to the realization of the racing bike. We can count ourselves lucky that there are many good small and medium-sized businesses in Limburg that make that possible.”

Brightlands innovation, the market demand and the SMEs in Limburg are the three driving factors behind the 100% Limburg Bike project. The name does not require any explanation. The project led to the formation of a consortium of Limburg companies from the SME sector, companies on Brightlands Chemelot Campus and the campus itself, who together have developed an innovative lightweight racing bike.

Menno Smeelen, project leader for the 100% Limburg Bike project added:

“The bike will be customized and tailored to the desires of the future user. Every racing bike is unique, completely personalized and super safe.”

The participating parties were brought together through Brightlands Chemelot Campus. Menno Smeelen names them: CeraCarbon, Mullens Sports & Health Innovations, Belgian Cycling Factory, Eurocarbon, Kembit, Brightlands Materials Center and Chemelot Innovation and Learning Labs (CHILL).

Each party has its share in the project. Menno Smeelen commented:

“For example, Mullens Sports & Health Innovations ensures that the new owner will be properly guided in their sporting choices. And CeraCarbon, one of our start-ups, will play a central role in the production, which is customized to the exact measurements of the cyclist. That is precision work: those measurements determine the frame’s design.”

What are the innovations?
The innovations that make this a special racing bike include the materials and special 3D printing technologies. The bike is made of titanium, sealed magnesium and carbon fiber. The new owner can order their customized bike in their favorite colors.

100% Limburg Bike project

According to Menno Smeelen, a combination of carbon fibers and Dyneema fibers ensures optimum strength and stiffness, making the fork unbreakable. A special braiding technique (overbraiding) ensures the correct density and direction of fibers.

All this makes the racing bike safe. Menno Smeelen:

“We are very proud of this. That has to do with sensing, a feature that checks to which load the bicycle is exposed. When you collide with something on such a lightweight bike, the damage is not always visible on the outside. Sensing can also detect invisible damage, which can prevent a lot of problems.”

Another very special feature is the fact that the frame and the connections (lugs) are glued together. A sustainable biobased adhesive is currently being developed for this purpose. The development of a thermoplastic resin will ensure that the carbon becomes recyclable.

How it’s made: Overbraiding technique
Eurocarbon is a company specialized in the overbraiding technique since 1994. The overbraiding technique is used to braid reinforcement fibres directly on top op a mandrell, creating a preform. The benefit of this proces is an automated, cheap and repeatable preforms, ready for injection with RTM or an other infusion process.

Overbraiding is the technique used to produce net shape cost-effective structural  preforms. During overbraiding the braid is placed directly onto a core, which has the inner geometry of the desired preform. By reciprocating the core through the braiding point a pre-selected number of layers can be braided to obtain the desired wall thickness/aerial weight. The lightweight core can remain in the product or a lost core technique can be used for production of a hollow product.

Overbraiding Eurocarbon

Menno Smeelen:

“These are techniques that are also relevant in the aircraft and automotive industries. The technology and innovations that have been used in this area may soon find their way into these sectors.”

Self-sensing fiber reinforced thermoplastics
Damage detection by self-sensing in 3D printed bike frame lugs is part of the project. Self-sensing is the ability of a material to sense its own condition.

Brightlands Materials Center is combining the self-sensing of continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastics with fabrication by additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing with continuous fibers enables very precise positioning and orientation of carbon fibers. The carbon fibers are placed at chosen locations inside the product that form an integral part of the structure. That means that the carbon fiber “sensors” are located where they are needed, and multiple fibers could form a range of sensors throughout the part.

Brightlands Materials Center - Sensing Beam

The 100% Limburg Bike project is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Province of Limburg. The ERDF funds projects that contribute to the development of the economy in the south of the Netherlands, and more specifically the innovative capacity of SMEs.

Menno Smeelen:

“This will be a special Limburg knowledge product: conceived and made in Limburg and customized in detail for the user. We have responded to a need from the market. This fits in perfectly with the knowledge and strength of the region, the power of Brightlands and the bridge to the powerful small and medium-sized enterprises in Limburg.”

Companies: Brightlands Materials Center, Eurocarbon B.V., Limburg Bike

Industries: Sports, Leisure & Recreation

Technologies: Injection, Other Processing Method

Terms: Applications, Innovations, News Worldwide

This article has been edited by Basalt.Today
This article has been written on JEC Composites Magazine
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