Austrian composites start-up Plastic Innovation just won a sustainable innovation prize for their new method to cheaply produce high-performance bicycles from injection molded composites. As e-bikes seek more technology integration, their new process opens new possibilities. And at the same time, the potential to drastically reduce the cost of an e-bike’s frame.
Plastic Innovation’s composite injection molded e-bikes
Mass-produced, injection molded bike production itself isn’t new. But using modern reinforced polymer construction Plastic Innovation promises higher performance and durability. Just over a year old as a company, they bring together a team with polymer engineering experience both in academia & industrial production. Together they have developed the Fahrrad der Zukunft or Bicycle of the Future concept to harness technology and bring sustainable bike production back to the heart of Europe.
The bike frame project gives bicycle designers much more design flexibility. The structural fiber reinforced thermoplastic polyamides provide more freedom of design, as seen in the auto industry. So, that means better integrated e-bike drive systems & batteries. Plus the ability to easily integrate controls, displays, lighting, and even features like racks & fenders.
Plastic Innovation says their concept relies on advanced tooling & automation to cut production time for a single frame to less than a minute. That means less labor costs and improved outputs. That enables OEMs to bring mass bike production back to Europe. An additional benefit is about half the CO2 produced to make a frame when compared to traditional metal construction. To do all of that Plastic Innovation have developed partnerships with German automotive component manufacturers. One more extra benefit is further reducing the environmental footprint of a bike frame’s production by cutting transport needs.
Bicycle of the Future concept
Even though they’ve talked of bikes in general, all the concept bikes shown by Plastic Innovation so far are e-bikes. That’s certainly indicative of target markets, where the flexibility of injection molding allows for plenty of functional integration. Beyond incorporating drive systems and accessories, the advanced reinforced polyamide construction allows bike makers to stick with component standards that will allow for a versatility of spec and help keep total e-bike costs & weights down.
Plastic Innovation is currently working with OEM bike makers. And, as we guess from the blacked out fork above, real product development appears to be in the works. Plus, they still are searching for more cycling industry partners though to get their injection molded bike frames to market soon, using existing German manufacturing partnerships they have developed through the automobile industry.