When last we checked in with chemical giant BASF, they'd developed injection-molded plastic automotive rims, looking firmly towards the future. Now the materials company is looking back to the past, and asking an interesting question: What would a certain primitive product design have looked like, had its inventor had access to modern-day materials? BASF's resultant "Concept 1865 - Rethinking Materials" project seeks to answer that by looking at a vehicle that predates the automobile, and even the modern-day bicycle: the Penny Farthing.
As for the project's title, 1865 was the year BASF was founded, and the velocipede would go into mass production just two years later.
As a tribute to this era of enthusiasm for technology and invention, BASF and the DING3000 design studio have developed a velocipede with today's state-of-the-art technology—including 24 high-performance plastics, specialty foams, epoxy resin and polyurethane materials from BASF.
And this e-velocipede of the 21st century runs! Concept 1865, a ready-to-ride prototype with an electric drive, is made almost entirely of modern plastics from BASF. Only its brakes, axles, and motor are still made of metal. Everything else is lightweight construction.
Make no mistake: BASF didn't commission this project on a lark, nor as a mere design exercise. It was produced to promote the company's stable of materials. But we can't think of a better way to get designers to read through a 43-page brochure filled with chemical-sounding products than to design something interesting to link it to. Here's an example of how the materials and components are presented:
7. Brake Hose
Brake hoses have to resist wear and the fluid they contain while remaining flexible. Hoses made from Elastollan fill the bill and have proven effective for years. They exhibit optimal bursting behavior under pressure, are highly wear resistant and permit the tight bending radii that are essential on bikes. The transparent Elastollan used here also renders the oil inside visible and thus makes it easier to check bubble-free filling and hence reliable braking behavior. Thanks to these transparent hoses, designers now have the op- tion of color accentuation with dyed oils.
Elastofoam I flexible integral foam has proven to be a highly versatile material. This is due not least to its blend of a light, flexible foam core and a compact and tough skin. The foam is particularly pleasant to the touch, while displaying excellent mechanical properties and outstanding resistance to abrasion. In addition, the surface can be given a decorative structure in the mold. Elastofoam I is typically used for armrests, treat- ment tables, steering wheel covers and gear lever knobs.
9. Accelerator Grip Cable
Tried-and-tested Elastollan cable sheathings achieve the highest standards of protection of valuable power and control cables. They are flexible and very suitable for applications outdoors as they are resistant to stone chipping, water, ozone and cold. It was just what the DING3000 designers were looking for, as it is also possible to adjust its degree of hardness ad libitum. The arc of the accelerator cable is now just as elegant as that of the much stiffer brake hose.
Those of you interested to see the full list of 23 components, from the brake discs to the seat covers to the forks, can download the entire PDF here.