Empire Cycles Uses SolidWorks to Develop New Lower-Cost Method for Producing High-Performance Mountain Bikes
A maverick U.K. cycle company used SolidWorks® CAD software to create a mountain bike that defies conventional design techniques and didn’t need endless prototyping to get to market.
SolidWorks helped two-year-old Empire Cycles incorporate automotive and aerospace manufacturing techniques into its high-performance Empire AP-1WR mountain bike.
At £3,065 for the frame only, the AP-1 is for serious riders who want to get down the mountain fast and smoothly, and who also like futuristic, unconventional styling.
It is made from three large cast components in a design that requires no welding or riveting, much like a vehicle or aircraft suspension. No welding and riveting make the AP-1 faster and cheaper to produce because Empire does not have to purchase and ship parts to attach to the frame. The cast components also make the AP-1 stronger and able to resist powerful shocks despite its relatively light weight. With the frame subject to no distortion or thermal shock from riveting and welding, testing the design was simpler because there were fewer spots where it could fail.
Empire Cycles co-founder Chris Williams said SolidWorks helped him overcome production challenges that led Empire’s first foundry to declare the design impossible to produce.
“One foundry told us that it was impossible to cast the swing arm – which is a hollow, rigid shell – at the four millimeters we wanted,” Williams said. “That turned out to be false. We moved to another foundry and explained what we were trying to achieve. They weren’t able to understand what I wanted them to do with the swing arm’s inner surface, so I did it myself in SolidWorks to show them. I could create cutters in SolidWorks that let me design very complex shapes and do many iterations quickly without wrecking the overall design.”
When the foundry was able to produce the cast parts – the swing arm, frame and seat post – Empire built a production model of the bike and gave it to a test rider “and he basically tried to destroy it,” Williams said. He performed preliminary analysis with SolidWorks Simulation Xpress, modified the 3D models and sent them to a specialist for more detailed analysis. This replaced the conventional prototyping process, where companies might create dozens of prototypes before going to production.
“It was a very risky strategy but it worked because SolidWorks enabled us to see everything we needed to see,” Williams said. “We could analyze the weight, see how everything fit together, and SolidWorks was brilliant for manipulating the assembly so we had a true idea for how everything would work in the physical world.”
Go to www.empire-cycles.com for more information.