It'll take a bit of diligence, but I'm hoping to save up enough for my first custom bicycle next year. (I've acquired two bikes a year for the past two years and while I've been very happy with my collection thus far, I hope to go for quality over quantity from here on out.) As such, I've been following Prolly's excellent documentation of his enviable new ride, a custom carbon road frame from Portland's Argonaut Cycles (not pictured here).
Per the Munich Composites website:
Weaving is one of the oldest textile techniques at all. Alternately yarns over and under each other out and thus formed a braid. Converted textile looms have been used for the 80 years in research facilities for the processing of carbon fibers and developed. The braiding is now used in the series.
With the help of braiding the fibers are braided into a tube which stores closely to a shaping core. The fibers are then infiltrated in an injection process with resin and cured. The braiding technique offers the advantage of fully automating the fiber deposition. This minimizes the manual work previously required and possible sources of error are eliminated.
This manufacturing process was the subject of Haim's thesis project for his degree in Applied Technology and Science from the University for Applied Sciences FH Joanneum - Graz. "The goal of this diploma work is a product range for high-end racing and casual bikes on the basis of a new frame technology, lug connections, special materials and high-end components." As Haim told Bicycle Design:
His goal with the project was to challenge the way high-end composite bicycles are constructed today, and he went with a lugged construction that allows for a range of frames sizes (50cm to 60cm) using the same parts. Jacob points out a few of his reasons for the construction—"no material waste, low error rate, customized to the individual needs." He also feels that it creates "a connection between high class engineering and the spirit of design."
The young designer shared more information about the project via e-mail:
Haim with the prototype
First of all, Haim noted that the main criteria for the design of racing bicycles—the de facto brief—are well established: "materials, manufacturing, usage, terrain, measures and weight of the driver. The combination of all of these attributes and a breaking down of the functions to the essence of functionality brings the success."
The final frame design of concept one is the combination of research, market and a persona analysis, many talks and the wish of new shapes in the road bicycle segment. I generated an organic shape which is covered in straight lines and edges. The components, such as fork, seatstays, etc., are designed to keep that look straight, which is underscored by the color and the materials.
Manufacturing the top tube...
It's worth noting that the RaceBRAID isn't the first frame that is fabricated with Munich Composites' braiding technology: the BlackBraid, an urban singlespeed with less aggressive geometry, debuted at Interbike this year.
The Blackbraid at Interbike
Designer Benjamin Hansbauer with his creation
Notice the weaving machine in the background
Like Haim, designer Benjamin Hansbauer worked with Munich Composites to develop the bicycle, which distributor PG Bikes hopes to launch in February 2013. Haim notes that "the RaceBRAID will use most of the same techniques and processes but also new ones."
Meanwhile, if the RaceBRAID will likely remain out of my reach for the time being (not least because it's not in production), Haim is optimistic about his next steps:
During my research, I learned a lot about carbon, from its values to its negative aspects, as well as concepts in the given technique in combination with future possibilities of material use. I'm thinking about braiding the tubes with hemp strings injected with water based resins an other nature friendly materials. Those concept renderings demonstrate my vision of alternative materials on the aspect of sustainability.