Carbon fibre frame manufacturing with Scott + video

Go behind the scenes with the production of a carbon frame at the Scott factory

by David Arthur   March 4, 2013  

Carbon fibre, a once exotic material only found wrapped in secrecy in the military, is now a common, almost everyday, material used for the construction of road bicycles, and many of the components that adorn the frames too.

While the process of manufacturing carbon fibre frames is reasonably well known, it’s perhaps fair to say there’s still an air of mystery around its exact details. Manufacturers are keen to keep the exact details under wraps for fear of it being copied by others.

US manufacturer Scott Bicycles, who it is reasonable to say has been one of the few leading developers of carbon fibre, borne out by the fact their frames are some of the lightest currently available, decided to remove a little of this air of mystery, and produced a short film that looks into the engineering of their carbon fibre process.

Anyway, have a watch of the video. It’s a little bit ‘Hollywood’ and the voice over is a overly dramatic, but see past that and there’s an interesting insight into their engineering and manufacturing process.

The process they use is essentially the same as most other manufacturers, and is the most common method of producing carbon frames. Layers of carbon fibre, up to 200 per frame, are laid over a removable core, which is then placed inside a mould. Heat during the compression cures the carbon. Sections of the frame are then bonded together to complete the finished frame.

17 user comments

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Impressive often wondered how Scott manufacture their carbon frames. Very 'hands on' especially the delicate small pieces at the start of the process.

posted by Roberj4 [162 posts]
4th March 2013 - 12:26

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I'd prefer my frame to be made in a grubby workshop by old grumpy men to the sound of Puccini - or is it Verdi?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zF3zd12KlY

_SiD_'s picture

posted by _SiD_ [178 posts]
4th March 2013 - 12:35

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Some of them were quite young and grumpy, good film.

posted by lolol [103 posts]
4th March 2013 - 17:53

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_SiD_ wrote:
I'd prefer my frame to be made in a grubby workshop by old grumpy men to the sound of Puccini - or is it Verdi?

Our team is actually sponsored by Sarto. They are cracking bikes and the workmanship is incredible. I think the two types, represented by Scott and Sarto, are both great and the refinements in the respective processes mean that either way you will get a top notch frame. Each to their own. I certainly wouldn't say no to either!

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posted by jamesfifield [89 posts]
4th March 2013 - 23:48

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...guys, Scott is mostly made by Giant either directly or by subcontracting to another factory and has been for about a decade at least. All of this "technology" has just about nothing to do with Scott.

For a good overview on who made your bike, look here:

http://inrng.com/2012/02/who-made-your-bike/

The rest is just marketing of the worst kind.

posted by mythbuster [31 posts]
5th March 2013 - 0:05

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So scott can't innovate because they don't own their manufacturing facility? don't tell Apple Thinking

scott would like you to think that they're solely responsible for the whole process, and you seem to be saying that they're barely involved at all, whereas the truth is somewhere in the middle. the factories do innovate, and so do the R&D facilities of the manufacturers.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
5th March 2013 - 0:18

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No man, of course they can innovate. The process of design and manufacture is a two step process.

What Scott do not do is what they showed in the video. That is the problem.

Besides, the manufacturing technologies ALWAYS belong to the factory, not to the brand that is using it...even in your example of Apple it is Foxconn that owns the manufacturing technologies and processes. Apple controls the designs.

For some reason bike brands have this need to own the manufacturing process too. The problem is that they do not. They have just about nothing to do with it.

posted by mythbuster [31 posts]
5th March 2013 - 0:25

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Mmmmmm...such... personal bikes. Lovingly 'hand-made'.

posted by medicvelo [8 posts]
5th March 2013 - 8:42

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Hmm, just read the innerng article, v.good. I am now wondering whether the carbon 'raw' bikes on EBay (eg Hylix, carbon zone ) are 'seconds' sneaked out of the factory or are pucker ?!.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [121 posts]
5th March 2013 - 9:11

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OldnSlo wrote:
Hmm, just read the innerng article, v.good. I am now wondering whether the carbon 'raw' bikes on EBay (eg Hylix, carbon zone ) are 'seconds' sneaked out of the factory or are pucker ?!.

it's difficult to be sure in any given instance, which is one of the reasons why it's a bit of a gamble

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
5th March 2013 - 10:12

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I really think people get too hung up on which factory a bike was made in. The client (Scott) still get to define the moulds, types of fibre, geometry, layup, tube shaping, thickness, stiffness, compliance, finish etc etc. The fact that Giant provide the manpower, tooling, scalability and a QA process just makes it cost-effective.

Just because the carbon isn't hand-rolled on the thighs of virgins doesn't prevent it from being a really good bike.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
5th March 2013 - 10:32

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The client has input in all of these things. But, they do not define the layup. They do not know how. This is not due to the client being a collective of posers, but because design for manufacture is different from optimal design. Only factories know how to manufacture the final product as that is their job.

The problem is when the brands come out of the woodwork and start making over produced and misleading marketing materials (Scott is not alone and is actually following a wave of similar vacuous releases from other brands) with direct or implied claims that they are actually in total control of production and engineering that gets their products made, when they actually aren't.

For anyone in the industry these types of materials are cringe-worthy, but for consumers it is worse as the intent of such materials is to justify a brand's technological superiority and thus increase sales.

It will be a refreshing day when all brands stop doing this and adopt a somewhat more ethical approach to marketing. There is NOTHING wrong with admitting that they do not actually weave the carbon themselves, or make the frames or do anything actually overly tangible but that their role is to specify, research, design, control, and deliver a desirable, working product. Most customers are in my mind OK with that...

posted by mythbuster [31 posts]
5th March 2013 - 11:20

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Surely the layup expertise depends on who the client recruits? If they took on a materials scientist specialising in CF I suspect they'd know a fair amount about how to achieve the required layup?

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
5th March 2013 - 11:58

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+1 to mythbuster's comments.

Also, the factories don't weave the carbon. They buy sheets of woven carbon from specialist manufacturers, e.g. Toray of Japan.

Like a lot of other things, bicycle manufacturing involves a long chain of manufacturing of materials and parts, supplied on to the next link. Often, these parts are made to generic specifications - the next link has no say in how they are made, they just get to choose from what's already available on the market.

posted by Paul J [425 posts]
5th March 2013 - 11:58

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that's not entirely true mythbuster. Bike brands have R&D dept that use computational studies of carbon fibre weave and layups (video shows this). So they can give direct input to the manufacturer of how they want the first prototype to be and if the QC and stress tests pass and they want to put it into full scale production then they can.

The manufacturer will obviously provide feedback from learned processes to common faults and problems when dealing with certain layups. So that the brands are not wasting too much time figuring out what went wrong.

If the brand design a completely new frame that the manufacturer doesn't have a mould then that is going to the biggest outlay for them; depending on how many frames they want to make per day and the curing time for the frames.

posted by toothache90 [22 posts]
5th March 2013 - 12:24

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The composites engineer that a client chooses to bring on board will act as a consulting engineer to the factory, at best.

No factory will ever allow external control over their manufacturing processes.

As I said, clients are not necessarily ignorant posers, but their role in the product delivery process is not how it is represented by their marketing materials.

With respect to carbon, actually many factories can prepare their own carbon cloth or even weave the shapes from yarn. This is normally done to save cost, not to improve performance. Primary producers such as Toray, Mitsubishi and Toho Tenax specialize in manufacturing the most consistent quality cloth they can. A random manufacturer, regardless of their size or claims to the contrary cannot achieve the same levels of quality.

...and then there is the complication with prepreg. Prepreg manufacture is almost a "dark art" and this is actually were most of the industrial secrets reside. Let's just say that making prepreg in house is not the best way to deliver the highest performance or quality products...

posted by mythbuster [31 posts]
5th March 2013 - 12:29

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I liked the Time carbon video better. They do weave their own CF tubes and they're put together in their own factory in France by middle-aged women: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66ffKebNPbs
I particularly like the bit where they tie on the CF tubes with CF thread!

posted by drmatthewhardy [222 posts]
5th March 2013 - 22:47

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