High-strength thermoplastics for bicycle components: How compounders/application developers are helping to further increase the scope for innovation for designers.
Cycle chic, e-bike boom, bike culture, low-tech, high-tech, bike highways - the bike is in the midst of its reinvention; in the midst of a transformation from a mere means of transportation and sports equipment to an expression of a serene, sustainable, individual attitude to life. More and more people around the world are attaching the same emotional significance to the bicycle as they once did to the car. This makes the bicycle one of the main players in the mobility megatrend. In the midst of this megatrend are also the people who create one of the technological foundations for bicycle designers and their innovative design ideas for bicycle components of all kinds: the plastics compounders or application developers who ensure the composition and thus the performance of the required materials.
Plastics compounders and application developers have the knowledge, experience and creative drive to provide designers and manufacturers of bicycle components with the materials they need to ultimately inspire cyclists of every stripe. Like Lot van Hooijdonk from the Netherlands, for example. Quote*: "Cycling is like a piece of magic: it has only advantages." Lot should know - she's an alderwoman for the municipality of Utrecht - one of the three most bike-friendly cities in the world, according to the Copenhagenize Index.
Whether weight reduction, strength, lightweight construction, aluminum replacement - by means of high-strength thermoplastics and comprehensive expertise, compounders make designers' working lives easier.
A practice-oriented, experienced application developer can be a valuable "player" for his "teammate" on the manufacturer's side - a permanent, accepted project collaborator. He can offer him comprehensive technical application advice, ranging from materials consulting and component design (keyword: metal replacement) to mold design and processing support.
And that along the entire process chain: from design to prototype construction to series production. For a single product as well as for an entire group of components. From the initial idea for a component - the first "pencil stroke" - to the time when the finished, tested part is ready for use on the table.
For one component:
- whose material selection and manufacturing process were always considered in the effective environment of the entire assembly,
- which has undergone all the necessary optimization loops (until it can be produced, used and assembled in a "reasonable" tool, i.e. in a quality-compliant manner) and
- whose recycling behavior has been considered and optimized from all aspects of its carbon footprint or product life cycle.
Advantage: Recipe expertise
A key element of comprehensive technical application consulting is the thermal design of components or metal substitution (which can be interesting for a number of reasons - be it weight savings, the desired reduction of the carbon footprint, corrosion or resource scarcity).
A really good compounder/application developer can always play to his strengths here if he is able to draw on a large number of high-performance plastics or thermoplastics/polymers that "keep pace" with every development stage and every development step. Simply because he can always modify them in such a way that they reach the performance levels of metals or exceed their performance limits.
Be it injection-molded high-performance plastics with glass or carbon fibers, wear and friction-optimized materials, mixed-fiber compounds, ultra-high-strength carbon-fiber variants, or even long-fiber thermoplastics: they all enable a designer to replace metals - and here in particular products made of steel and aluminum, as well as die-cast aluminum and magnesium.
This access to such a "thermoplastic toolbox" - comparable to a pharmacy cabinet with countless active ingredients and possible combinations of active ingredients - puts him in the position of being completely free in his choice of materials. This means that he can generate an entire assembly from a material program if required.
Advantage: Processing expertise
The compounder's expertise in the processing of thermoplastics also plays an important role in providing targeted technical application advice. A really good compounder is also able to transfer his formulation know-how - and thus the entire development and production of materials, for example from the area of polymers or fillers and reinforcing materials - directly to other processing technologies. In addition to injection molding this includes 3D printing (with filament, direct printing and laser sintering). For example, for the production of open-cell, soft lattice structures, such as those required for saddles or high-strength add-on components - such as fixings.
Conclusion: It's like in cycling - teamwork counts.
The best assembly or even the best wheel alone do not make a winner in the overall classification. This also applies to high-strength thermoplastics in a figurative sense: even the supposedly best material alone is no guarantee of exceptional resilience or innovative design freedom. It only has a beneficial effect if it falls into the hands of a professional who knows all aspects of component development in cycling.
In the team of the LEHVOSS Group, such professionals "drive": compounders or application developers, who stand by a designer as a valuable, supportive team member. With comprehensive technical application advice on materials, component and mold design, and processing. With a materials portfolio that a) can be used worldwide and b) is unrivaled in its diversity and performance. And above all, equipped with the necessary flexibility and speed to successfully master every product change cycle, every product development, every pressure to innovate and every bike show in the world. In short: with the ability to shift up a gear at any time.
Go directly into the subject matter and find out more in our whitepaper "Structural applications and metal replacements with thermoplastic materials and compounds":
*"If you build it, the Dutch will Pedal"/Utrecht Journal/The New York Times 2017