Perth’s Flying Machine studio have been evolving over the last few years, when first they were collaborating with the CSIRO (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation) on 3D printed titanium lugs to achieve frames with custom geometry.
This week, they announced a new development: their Big Tyre Road frame is the first of their “new range of full custom geometry, positive moulded monocoque bio-carbon frames”. That’s a loaded statement… Let’s find out more.
There’s been a big push over the last few years to offer a carbon frame in a fully customisable geometry. That’s easily achievable, but the challenge is to reduce the setup costs enough to make it feasible enough for a production basis.
Flying Machine seem to have found an edge. Once a customer has been sized up for a frame, a 3D model is created, from which a positive frame mould is CNC milled from high-density polystyrene — that funky plastic that can be used for everything from packing peanuts to CD and DVD cases.
The result is a polystyrene object in the shape of a bicycle frame, formed to the customer’s geometry, which is wrapped in Flying Machine’s own recipe of carbon fibre — “a combination of uni-directional and Harness-Satin weave pre-preg carbon fibre to meet the particular requirements of the rider”.
That’s a mouthful. But even the staunchest steel bicycle aficionado will be aware of the properties offered by carbon fibre to provide a custom feel to a frame, due to the way it can be laid up in different directions, making it stiffer here, more compliant there.
The carbon fibre is then heated, which compresses the material around the polystyrene, compressing it to form a tight wrap. It becomes a single piece, a unified unit, which is then sanded, cleaned up and painted in-house.
The Bio-epoxy resin used in the process is called Supersap CLR, made by Entropy Resins, and is free from hydrocarbons. It’s created from the waste material from paper pulp production, and apparently isn’t bad to work with, as it has no strong smell nor harmful vapours.
Compared to the monocoque frames offered by the big brands, the frames created by Flying Machine can be tailored to your exact dimensions, just as a bespoke steel frame can be. The polystyrene mould, still intact within the frame, gives it a more solid ride quality than a hollow carbon frame.
The BTR build combines a Di2 Ultegra rear mech with Alfine shifters, which is important as they’re the only single-sided option available, and necessary to run the Praxis narrow/wide single front chain ring. The forks are Lynskey CX Pro and the wheels run White Industries CLD thru-axle hubs, front and rear.
The tech-heads will get a kick out of reading more about the BTR on the Flying Machine webpage. It’s a nifty piece of kit, especially with that striking paint work, and is full of potential for future development. Stay tuned.