Ibis Exie Pajaro Manufacturing 41

Jul 27, 2021

Exie Manufacturing Tech

Hand­made in the USA

In 2014, we built a small car­bon fiber pro­to­type lab. Our goal was to expand our knowl­edge of dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­niques and to explore the pos­si­bil­i­ty of US man­u­fac­tur­ing. We began by exam­in­ing every step. We test­ed new mate­ri­als, man­drels, and tool­ing tech­nolo­gies with the goal of find­ing effi­cien­cies, process improve­ments, and becom­ing more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly.

After two years of exper­i­men­ta­tion, we devel­oped a for­mu­la that allowed us to cut the stan­dard 86 hours of total man­u­fac­tur­ing time down to 34. With those time effi­cien­cies, we could the­o­ret­i­cal­ly build frames in the Unit­ed States for near­ly the same price as our over­seas models.

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Team Pajaro.
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Every­thing we’ve learned and devel­oped here, will help us make bet­ter products.
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The all-new Ibis Exie. Hand­made in the USA.

To see if that was fea­si­ble, we began a pilot pro­duc­tion pro­gram with one size of one mod­el. That first bike, the size small Rip­ley LS, was a suc­cess; the frame was lighter, stiffer, and took less time to pro­duce than our ven­dor-pro­duced Rip­ley LS. It also taught us what we would need to scale. So we bought a build­ing and set to work cre­at­ing a factory.

For our first US-made bike, we decid­ed to focus on a cat­e­go­ry where every gram mat­ters. We built a World Cup cross-coun­try capa­ble race bike. The all-new Ibis Exie is designed to max­i­mize the ben­e­fits of the mold­ing and layup tech­niques we devel­oped when mak­ing the US-made Rip­ley LS.

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Find­ing effi­cien­cies, process improve­ments, and becom­ing more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly.
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We rethought the mold­ing process.

We revis­it­ed and refined every detail along the way and chal­lenged our­selves to hit even more chal­leng­ing weight and stiff­ness tar­gets. We also improved aspects of our orig­i­nal tool­ing, from how we heat the molds to the hinges and clamp­ing mechanism.

Here’s how we did it:

Cut­ting

Our over­seas fac­to­ries use auto­mat­ed mate­r­i­al cut­ters to cut gener­ic shapes in their layups. We took the process fur­ther, by devel­op­ing spe­cif­ic pat­terns for each frame size, reduc­ing the over­all num­ber of parts by 70%. This cuts our layup time in half, while also enabling weight sav­ings and improv­ing the strength of the final frame.

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We devel­oped spe­cif­ic pat­terns for each frame size.

Mold­ing

We rethought the mold­ing process, start­ing with the tools them­selves. Typ­i­cal car­bon fac­to­ries use steel tools weigh­ing sev­er­al hun­dred pounds and moved via crane or rollers. These tools are put in large heat­ed press­es and baked by con­duc­tive heat­ing through con­tact with the platens.

Our tools are alu­minum with a clear hard­coat anodized fin­ish. Using alu­minum instead of steel helps reduce ther­mal mass and weight, so the tools require less ener­gy to heat. Each tool has elec­tri­cal car­tridge heaters and sen­sors built in and can be pow­ered by a stan­dard 220V house­hold circuit.

The ener­gy effi­cien­cy of our self-heat­ed, low ther­mal mass tools allow us to use the sun to pow­er the entire facil­i­ty. The 282 pan­el solar sys­tem cur­rent­ly gen­er­ates 60% more pow­er than we use, which is fed back into the local grid reduc­ing the need for non-renew­able ener­gy gen­er­at­ed elsewhere.

The unique design of our tools also allows care­ful con­trol of the cure cycle. Our abil­i­ty to con­trol the ther­mal and pres­sure maps is key in achiev­ing our desired strength, weight, and sur­face fin­ish qual­i­ty. These spe­cif­ic set­tings are pro­grammed into a con­troller which keeps things run­ning with­in a cou­ple degrees of our tar­get­ed tem­per­a­tures and pres­sures. You sim­ply press Start” and the cycle runs through its pro­gram accu­rate­ly and consistently.

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Using alu­minum instead of steel helps reduce ther­mal mass and weight, so the tools require less ener­gy to heat.

Fin­ish­ing

We strive for the best out-of-the-tool fin­ish pos­si­ble. Our care­ful work dur­ing the layup and mold­ing process elim­i­nates extra work lat­er in the fin­ish­ing process. At a nor­mal car­bon facil­i­ty, the process of adding filler, primer, sand­ing, primer, clear coat, and decals requires at least a day of labor. Our pre­cise­ly designed car­bon pat­terns and care­ful layup pro­ce­dure allow our frames to be pulled out of the molds requir­ing min­i­mal fin­ish work. Our frames are then fin­ished with a thin, light­weight poly­mer coat­ing and decals, pro­vid­ing a tough fin­ish that shows off the beau­ti­ful layup work. This saves time and fur­ther reduces the weight com­pared to a stan­dard paint­ed frame.

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We strive for the best out-of-the-tool fin­ish possible.
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Our frames are pulled out of the molds requir­ing min­i­mal fin­ish work.

Con­clu­sion

Build­ing our own man­u­fac­tur­ing facil­i­ty wasn’t easy, but the knowl­edge we gained was invalu­able. By exam­in­ing every step, we were able to improve our knowl­edge, our designs, and our man­u­fac­tur­ing process. This abil­i­ty to rapid­ly build and test new frames has encour­aged exper­i­men­ta­tion and accel­er­at­ed our prod­uct devel­op­ment. Every­thing we’ve learned and devel­oped here, will help us make bet­ter prod­ucts — whether they’re pro­duced by one of our ven­dors or in our own fac­to­ry in the Unit­ed States.