German bicycle-frame manufacturer V Frames is partnering with compounder Lehvoss Group to push the limits of environmental sustainability through the introduction of bio-based polyamides (PA) reinforced with carbon fibers for deployment in bicycle frames. Lehvoss Group has supported the development of V Frames’ injection molding technology and bike frame products for some time now, according to Rene Warnick, Head of R&D at Lehvoss. “Bike frames are a particularly challenging application from the perspectives of product safety and performance,” said Warnick.
Several world-first developments
The new materials introduced in the market under the cooperation represent a completely new generation of materials, consisting of a series of reported world firsts available for purchase by third parties:
- Bio-based long-carbon-fiber materials for water-assisted injection molding;
- bio-based polyamides reinforced with short carbon fibers;
- economical-, ecological-, and performance-optimized materials based on PA, carbon-fiber, and glass-fiber compounds.
Additional materials are currently being developed and tested. V Frames is also involved with an initiative to promote the sustainable use of recycled materials and trace emissions in the bicycle industry using a blockchain platform.
The new agreement sees Lehvoss signing an exclusivity agreement for its new materials with V Frames and its manufacturing affiliate Isoco. This includes the tailor-made development of optimized materials in combination with water-injection technology (WIT), tailored to the areas of application and their exclusive production for V Frames.
More lightweight, impact-resistant bicycle frames
Since V Frames entered mass production of injection-molded carbon-composite frames, forks, and other components for several bicycle OEMs, targeting volumes of one million components produced at the Isoco plant in Schmiedefeld, Germany, by 2027, the major focus of development has been to increase raw material performance. With this step, future frames can become even more lightweight and impact resistant. Long term, elastic modulus can be increased from the current 32,000 MPa to up to 50,000 MPa, further increasing stiffness.
V Frames is already producing the world’s most sustainable bike frames, reducing the carbon footprint by 64% compared with traditional aluminum frame production, according to life cycle analysis by the University of Linz, Austria. In addition, V Frames and Lehvoss are focusing on compounds containing fibers recycled from different industries for new frames as well as recycling all frames and other products at the end of their lifetime into new bike component products, providing 100% circularity.
All production done in Germany
Further, traditional supply chains from Asia are significantly shortened and decarbonized, as all production is located in Germany and can be arranged on a just-in-time basis. Current production capacity at Isoco is around three million frames per year.
Technical collaboration with Lehvoss will further improve the environmental footprint by introducing biopolymers reinforced with carbon fibers into bike frame and component production for the first time.
V Frames Managing Director Michael Müller summarizes: “Lehvoss is an excellent partner for the development, production, and testing of high-performance materials. With these steps we could push the limits of our technology to new levels.” He cites the example of the Buddy Electric/Isoco X1 frame passing the falling mass test with 23 kg at a drop height of 1,120 mm, a level far beyond the maximum test requirements of any institute and unreachable by most aluminum and traditional carbon frames.