Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative

Some great bikes being made in Ghana! Quite wonderful to see how the world is adapting to renewable resources and social enterprises. Good stuff.

Ghana's Eco-Friendly Bamboo Bikes

Meet the Ghanaian entrepreneur who's building bikes out of bamboo.

Posted by AJ+ on Tuesday, 19 January 2016

3D Printed Bamboo Bike?

A collection of 3D printed cable stops

So I’ve been bunkering down in the Melbourne winter in front of 3D CAD programs designing various parts for the next bamboo bike. My aim is to reduce the amount of manual labour in the manufacture of the bikes and increase their quality, but still allow for individual geometries and styles. There’s a guy on Instructables who’s made a Custom 3D printed carbon fibre and aluminium bike and a lot of what he’s done is the genesis of my ideas for how to go about making custom molds that could be used with bamboo. There’s also this guy who’s made an amazingly detailed frame using 3D printed stainless steel lugs and carbon fibre poles. The triangle cutouts in the lugs are no doubt to save weight – as with 3D printing the amount of material you use is the main cost, and there’s limits to how thin walls can be (~3mm). So thick and chunky but with lots of holes in it seems to be the way to go.

This all sounds well and good, but there’s some caveats. The material properties of 3D printed stainless steel are not necessarily the same as regular steel. It’s infused with brass as part of the process, which, along with the process used, makes it much more brittle than normal. Regular stainless steel has an elongation of around 23%. 3D printed steel only has 2.3%. That’s a huge difference. There’s other 3D printers (like the one the guy used in the video above) that claim different material properties that are closer to normal stainless, but by the looks they’re also very expensive.  I’m hoping the material technology will get better in the next few years so that this won’t be an issue.

So far I’ve modelled and produced some cable-stops which are specifically designed for use with bamboo or carbon fibre frames. Here’s a close up pic of one made from plastic:

A close up of a 3D printed cable stop. The roughness is due to the manufacturing process, which uses extremely thing layers of plastic built up over each other and welded together by a laser.

What sets it apart from a regular cable-stop is the curvature on the bottom of it is designed for thicker tubing and the tabs on either side have holes ready for wood screws so it can bolt right on. It’d probably be fitted with a dab of epoxy as well to help it stick properly.

I’ve designed it to be usable for both gear and brake cables, but I’ll have to do some strength testing on its use for the latter as there’s a lot more force going through a brake cable than a gear cable.

If you’d like some for your own project the cable-stops are available to buy directly from Shapeways, the 3D printer I’ve used. Plastic ones are $7 a pop plus postage. Stainless steel is a fair bit more.  I’ll soon be adding a double and triple stop for use along top-tubes.

I’ve also designed a head-tube badge and had it printed in both white and black.  I’ve coloured in the lettering on the white one to make it stand out, and I’ll probably do the same on the black (white lettering no doubt).

Two 3D printed head-tube badges made from “strong but flexible” plastic.

The next step is to start to model a set of lugs themselves. I want to be able to design them in such a way that the geometry can be changed easily and a new model produced from the changes in geometry semi-automatically. It’s a big ask, and there’s a lot of work involved, but stay tuned and it might just happen.

 

Daisy’s back from Portland!

Ok not really, but the kind chaps at the Bicycle Peddler liked Daisy so much they thought she’d look good with some more bamboo on her! So they supplied these beautifully crafted accessories from Portland Design Works so she could look her best, carry more, and keep those tyres pumped!

There’s a pannier rack with a bamboo deck, lock-on bamboo grips, a six-pack holding front basket with dry/cool bag and last but not least a beautiful bamboo handled pump – my favourite of the lot. The pump’s ultra-precise machining, ergonomic valve lever and magnetic handle latch are the sorts of touches that add up to something that just might make getting that inevitable puncture all the more bearable.

All this is being remarkably modelled by Ms Amy Cleggers (not her real name), who was keen to get frocked up and be shot with Daisy in the absence of Daisy’s real owner, Daisy. Are you following all that? Right. Good! Check out the pics!

Hot stuff no?

Ok what else has been happening? Well, The Panda was shown at the Design Made Trade festival, which was a fantastic event all round. It was great rubbing shoulders with other frame builders and showing Melbournites that bicycles can be made locally and compete with the international market. I’ll post some complete pics of The Panda soon on her page, I’ve left those teaser pics up there too long!

Also, The Samurai is back in the jig with a replacement seat tube all cut. Once I’ve got her all aligned she’ll be wrapped up in some snug carbon and finished off beautifully. With spring weather almost here the workshop’s a more hospitable place to work and play. Hopefully it’ll entice me more than this grim and grey winter weather.

On with the show!

 

It’s not always plain sailing

The Samurai, my fourth frame was going well until I discovered that the seat-tube had developed some cracks around both the bottom bracket and where the seat-post sleeve inserts into it.

Luckily I hadn’t yet carbon fibered up either of those joints so I’ve been able to cut out the offending tube and will replace it with one that’s hopefully not so prone to cracking.

The cause of the cracking is probably due to the consistent cold temperates in the workshop overnight and that without coatings of epoxy bamboo will naturally dry out and become brittle and crack. It’s also due to the steel seat-post sleeve insert changing temperatures at different rates to the bamboo, causing the bamboo to crack.

Interestingly both the cracks were in places that would have been covered with carbon fiber and they probably won’t have propagated any further, but I couldn’t take the risk of that not being the case and don’t want to let a mistake roll out the door.

Below are some pics of the cracked seat-tube both before and after I’ve cut it out. It was interesting to see the different levels of adhesion (or lack thereof) of the epoxy to the various materials. It’s mostly only mechanically bonded to both the steel and the bamboo, making it very important to roughen up the surfaces to ensure a good bond. The aluminium bottom bracket is painted in a specific etch primer (the white paint), but it doesn’t seem to have chemically adhered properly to it. I’ll have to investigate why!

The progressing Panda

I’ve been hard at work on the 3rd frame and it’s almost ready for tack gluing in the jig. The 4th frame is very similar to the Panda so I’m going to make them in parallel, which should hopefully cut down some of the labour time. Here’s some pics.

I’ve also had Daisy back in the shop and am in the process of sanding back the finish and redoing her with a UV protective varnish instead of epoxy resin. This should protect the frame for a lot longer and prevent fading and cracking.

 

Soaking in the new digs.

After a lovely few months in the Hope St workshop it was finally sold to be demolished for more Brunswick apartments (sigh), so out I went and into a new space just down the road. I’m tucked away behind a laundromat, sharing space with broken down washers and dryers. There’s old bikes hanging from the roof, a pot belly fire to keep me warm in winter and a small courtyard out the back that I’ll be able to do sanding in. Perfect.

With the new space set up I got stuck into preparing production of the next two frames (both to be super-sexy road bikes). Below you can see bamboo soaking in borax and boric acid, which is done as an anti-fungal and anti-insect treatment. It’ll soak in there for a week or so, then it’s dried out and ready to use in frames.

Bamboo Bike Frame Strength Test

Above is a video of my homemade frame testing apparatus. It’s far from scientific, but good enough to satisfy my curiosity as to whether or not the frame passes the AS/NZS 1927:1998 Frame & Fork Assembly test. The method described for the test is as follows:

Method

(a) Anchor the rear wheel axle attachment points.
(b) Apply a force of 890 N to the front axle attachment point towards and in line with the rear wheel axle and from the deflection reading compute the energy absorbed in joules.
(c) Should the energy absorption reading at 890N be less than 40 J increase the force until this figure is attained.
(d) Release the loading.
(e) Examine the test specimen for any signs of fracture or permanent deformation. The examination shall include the fork steering tube. The examination for fractures shall be done at ×5 magnification.
NOTE: This test applies equally to rigid and suspended frames. When testing a suspended frame the energy absorbed in reaching an applied force of 890 N can be expected to be substantially more than 40 J.

Theory

Based on my understanding of physics Joules are calculated by the formula: Work(Joules) = Force(N) x Distance(m). So to get the frame to absorb 40J of energy I have to make it move 45mm (40J = 890×0.045). So I set up my rig to shift the frame 45mm up from its resting position, then applied a force to the rear axle that pushed the frame forward by 45mm. The frame was blocked by the end of the rig thou so it couldn’t move, thus the force acts through the frame, causing the front forks to bend a lot!

Result

It seems to have passed the test. There was no cracking noises or breakages. I’ll pull apart the fork tonight and make sure the carbon steerer has survived and inspect the frame for cracks or deformations.

Over the finish line

After some 5 long months the first bike is finished!

I’ll write more up soon, but first impressions are it’s a sturdy smooth ride. 10.2kg with the current build on it, but could easily get under 10kg with some lighter wheels.

Many thanks to Huw, Scott and Tristram at Commuter Cycles for the constant good advice and for building it up for me. Brilliant job!

Here’s some pics of the final building and finished bike:

form over function

I’m not normally one for superflous veneers, but when given the opportunity to pimp my bamboo bike even more I just couldn’t resist.  With 2 hubs in tow (one new, one old), I measured the diameters between the flanges and got to work chamfering, splitting, gluing and sanding these bamboo veneers on. I’ve coated them in beeswax to protect them from the elements. I’ll need to reapply that every so often.