Friday, June 5, 2009

Composites in the Sporting Goods

Since the introduction of composite materials, recreational sports has often taken the lead in advancing the material usage. Golf club shafts were one of the first to take advantage of the lightweight benefits of carbon fiber, sail and surfboards were some of the first to utilize composite sandwich structures, snow sports have created some of the best tooling in the industry, and biking continues to push the limits of weight reduction.

The steel in bicycle frames was slowly replaced by lightweight aluminum alloys, more recently, carbon fiber has been used to achieve the needed stiffness of the bike frame but eliminate weight. Now a days, carbon fiber alone is not light enough, designers using some of the most advanced computer modeling software available are reducing the amount of carbon needed, while using aerospace-grade prepregs and expensive autoclaves.

Pushing the envelope further and further, leading bicycle companies are integerating carbon fiber and creating processes and technology that should really be examined by leading aerospace and defense companies.

In this article, the bike wheel company Zipp is discussed. Having never even heard of Zipp I find it interesting how such a small niche company is really a leader in composite processing. If this company wanted, they could probably exhibit at the JEC composites show, and license their technology for drilling the tiny holes in the wheels for spokes...

PhotoCredit: BrandontheMandon

1 comment:

  1. Projects like this are really interesting. If you're looking to explore making something new like this, check out It's only been up for about 8 weeks, but already has over 110 companies ready to provide quotes on custom composite work, from one-offs to mass production. Best of all, it's free to post an RFQ!