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igus develops first recyclable plastic bicycle frame

igus develops first recyclable plastic bicycle frame

News 30.06.2024

After RCYL, a bicycle made from 50 per cent recycled fishing nets, igus is setting the next milestone for sustainable mobility: the motion plastics specialist has developed the first bicycle frame made from recyclable plastic material for the German e-bike manufacturer Advanced Bikes, which is manufactured using injection moulding. Decades of expertise in plastics manufacturing and experience with the RCYL bike are channelled into the development of both the frame and new bicycle components made from high-performance plastics.

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The new bike frame is 3.3 kg, recyclable and moulded in a single piece. To ensure that it has sufficient strength, rigidity and low weight, igus uses a composite material consisting of high-performance plastics and carbon fibres (Source: igus)

In 2023, more e-bikes than traditional bikes were sold in Germany for the first time. One reason for this is the growing awareness of environmental concerns. The problem: 90 percent of today's bicycle frames are made of steel, aluminium or carbon-fibre and are produced using very energy-intensive processes, only to end up in huge bicycle landfills at the end of their service life. In order to drive forward the transformation to a circular economy, e-bike manufacturer Advanced Bikes is relying on igus for their future frame production. Together, the companies have now developed a sustainable composite plastic bicycle frame, which is to be used in the new Reco Urban trekking e-bike. "Advanced's aim was to produce an injection moulded composite frame with 100 per cent recyclable plastic," recalls Jan Philipp Hollmann, Head of Bike Components at igus. "As we have been developing and producing components such as plain bearings, rod ends, gears and spherical bearings for the bicycle industry for over 30 years, we immediately accepted the challenge of supporting Advanced with the design of the bicycle frame and taking on the development, tool making and production."

New frame protects the environment
To ensure that the frame has sufficient strength, rigidity and low weight, igus uses a composite material in granulate form, consisting of high-performance plastics and carbon fibres. In addition, igus produced a multi-part injection moulding tool for the complex geometry of the bicycle frame within weeks. The result: a 3.3 kg lightweight, single piece injection-moulded bicycle frame - without weld seams, corrosion-resistant, durable and externally tested. Production in Germany also enables short logistic distances and just-in-time production aligned with demand. igus is able to regranulate end-of-life frames via its own "chainge" recycling programme in order to re-use the material. "In future, we also want to have other recyclable bicycle components such as pannier racks, rims, handlebars and seat posts manufactured using injection moulding," explains Helge von Fugler, founder and Managing Director of Advanced. "This is the only way to make a fully recyclable e-bike a reality."

Components made from lubrication-free high-performance plastics
igus currently produces bicycle frames in two different processes at its headquarters in Cologne. In injection moulding, both modular and single-piece frames are produced. There are also frames that are manufactured using the rotomoulding process - for example for the company's own RCYL bike. But even for igus, it's not just about bicycle frames. The in-depth expertise in plastics processing and the new development experience are now also being channelled into new bicycle components - from wheels, cranks and handlebars to planetary gears. Large and small volume cost effective production is the reality - and "made in Cologne". The high-performance plastic components are also lighter, and free from all lubrication and corrosion. Users can therefore reach for the high-pressure washer without any problems: no lubricant can be rinsed out and nothing can rust.

Maximum safety due to many test trials
Before they are used, all components are extensively tested. 135 trillion test cycles and 15,000 tests take place annually in the 4,000 square metre igus test laboratory in Cologne. 250 square metres of this is for the bicycle test rigs alone, on which all components such as wheels, handlebars and cranks are tested. This also applies to the new Reco frame. Hollmann: "We will use computer tomography (high-tech imaging) to check the first injection-moulded bicycle frames for potential problems such as air pockets in the composite material and carry out all relevant frame tests in our test laboratory." Customers receive a 30-year guarantee from Advanced. For maximum safety, igus therefore relies on a large number of test procedures. "These are based on standardised tests, for example from the EFBE and TÜV," emphasises Hollmann. "We also carry out our own test procedures - for example in our climate chamber." With the data obtained, precise statements can be made about the service life of igus materials under different environmental conditions.

Everything from a single source: from design to the finished product
"With our bicycle components made of high-performance plastic, we are offering the bicycle industry access to a completely new technology," says Hollmann. "In this way, we also appeal to OEM manufacturers who want to bring their own ideas into reality with us." By using plastic, developers can completely rethink design and geometry. And with igus, you also get everything from a single source: from design to research and development, mould making, compounding, testing and production, right through to recycling. The just-in-time production line means that igus is able to deliver quickly and customers' storage capacities can be reduced. This makes the business more predictable and profitable as everything is produced to order.

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