thyssenkrupp’s Steelworks R&D team has won a Red Dot Award for a new automated technology shaping high-quality steel into complex shapes that are then machine welded to build premium lightweight bikes. Steelworks’ mission was to rethink how premium lightweight performance bikes are produced, and to develop a steel production process that could outperform both carbon & aluminum bikes.

Steelworks lightweight automated steel bike production

 

The German industrial Thyssenkrupp AG, who I know for making elevators, also happens to be one of the largest producers of premium steel sheet goods in the world as Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe. That explains why they are so heavily invested in developing new lightweight steel fabrication applications, and why the want to promote more EU manufacturing.

Thyssenkrupp Steelworks steel bike frame, ultra lightweight EU-made machine-welded formed premium steel road bicycle frame
c. thyssenkrupp Steelworks & Red Dot

Setting out to revolutionize how bike frames are manufactured is a pretty lofty goal. But Thyssenkrupp Steelworks claim their new sheet steel process maximizes frame stiffness on par with carbon, while maintaining steel’s signature comfortable ride.

How will Steelworks innovation revolutionize bike production?

Thyssenkrupp Steelworks steel bike frame, ultra lightweight EU-made machine-welded formed premium steel road bicycle frame

The new Steelworks bike starts with a technology similar to the stamping of steel used extensively in the automotive sector, crossed with the hydroforming that gives shape to aluminum tubing used in the cycling sector. With a single-sided mold, a sheet of high-quality, durable DP600 steel is placed over the mold and a pressure diaphragm deforms the sheet to match the shape of the mold.  Excess material is cut away to create one half of the shell that will become the frame, then precise laser welding join the two halves together. I remember a number of monocoque-style alloy mountain bikes back in the 1990’s that did something similar, but never in steel of at the level of detail these images suggest.

Thyssenkrupp Steelworks steel bike frame, ultra lightweight EU-made machine-welded formed premium steel road bicycle frame

By carefully designing the shape of the mold & its interaction with the diaphragm, Thyssenkrupp engineers are able to precisely control material placement, much like in a carbon layup apparently. Their thought is that they remove the impact of welds out of critical stress zones (like aluminum) and eliminate the occurrence of invisible impact damage (like carbon). The end result is that a machine manufactured steel bike can be built as light as aluminum, with the more beneficial properties of steel.

Tech details

Thyssenkrupp Steelworks steel bike frame, ultra lightweight EU-made machine-welded formed premium steel road bicycle frame

Unsurprisingly, crafting a high-end steel bike is more complicated than simply welding together two halves. Not unlike what Pole is doing by bonding CNC-machined elements together to create a similar sandwich, it all comes down to how you solve the details. And Steelworks look to have those details dialed – dropped seatstays, semi-integrated seat mast, 12mm thru-axle, flat mount disc brakes, internal cable routing, tapered headtube with internal  headset & a threaded bottom bracket…

Thyssenkrupp Steelworks steel bike frame, ultra lightweight EU-made machine-welded formed premium steel road bicycle frame

As of now, Steelworks remain rather tight-lipped on the full details of their bike development, but they do promise availability later this summer 2019 which suggest they are quite far along. And test bikes are being road tested in the real world already now. Maybe we’ll find out more at Eurobike…

Steelworks.bike & thyssenkrupp-steel.com

35 COMMENTS

    • You can’t do that. Ti is inferior material for bike frame (+30% elongation) and the steel what they use has tensile strength at least 5 times more than any weldable Ti.

      • Titanium has Much better durability over carbon, steel or aluminium. Corrosion and impact resistance are vastly Superior to anything else. All that for a 5 percent weight gain on complete bike!

        • In fact, welded Titanium is totally competitive on the Strength and rigidity level with carbon epoxy, as the two rival, Pratt and Whitney and GE Snecma have choosen either for the large intake rotor on their latest aircraft engines.

  1. “…steel bike can be built as light as aluminum, with the more beneficial properties of steel.”
    What are these “more beneficial properties” of steel? The propensity to rust? The triple density, requiring paper thin walls to be even remotely competitive in weight, making them extremely prone to denting and buckling?

  2. Wow, that video had almost zero content.

    How is this different from regular bladder hydroforming?

    Where are the bottle cage bosses? Hard to put them through the weld seam?

    But seriously, these will require molds even more expensive than for carbon fiber. At least they won’t require a lot of manual labor for layup, but I think they will still need to sell a lot to make the economies of scale anywhere near reasonable for a price I’d like.

    And what’s preventing them or others from using the same process for any other sheet metal?

  3. My credit card just flew out of my wallet-went to grab it, slipped and blew my ACL. So I’m sitting here feeling smug about how bada$$ I will feel on that bike even though I had to skip the whole surgery thingy because of cost.

  4. Soon you will be able to purchase a slick new steel ride with that hot molded carbon look, but at 2x… maybe 3x…. hack, maybe 5x the price!

  5. … and the whole, classic, steel look is gone. I would buy CF bike if I would like it to look like CF.
    No hard feeling but I will give it a miss…
    Cheers!
    I.

  6. Here’s a benefit; steels’ specific strength and stiffness are high so smaller cross sections with thicker walls can be used resulting in lower aero drag.

  7. I buckled the down tube on my Pegoretti Marcelo just under the head tube when I hit a massive pot hole on a descent. The dent formed a crack after a few more weeks of light riding and I had to retire the frame. The down tubes of a Marcelo used thin wall tubing but are tig welded to the head tube. If there is no tig welding fatigue to the tube joints I don’t see metal fatigue being an issue.

  8. DP600 yield and tensile is based on the work hardening character thus the Dual Phase term. It sounds similar to Reynolds 953 with martenistic structure for high ductility so pretty high tec enough for a bike frame. Also there is work hardening element which I assume happens in the forming process.

    Tooling is likely a cost issue like carbon and no way to easily change the geometry like welded tubes. Maybe some smaller adjustments are possible. The structure would save alot of weight over tubular because the formed shape is inherently stronger.

    There is some mention of precise material placement, yet does that mean variable thickness or describing just the hydroform process? And what thickness(es) are they working with?

    One should ask, why not is anyone doing a hydro-form ALUMINUM frame like this? Probably because of the tooling costs and lack of geometry flexibility so this is big limitation of forming unless larger quantities are produced yet it’s going to be a nitch product initially at least.

    Note hydroformed tubes and substructures, not two halves. I’m sure someone thought of this earlier and realized the tooling costs. It would really have to compete in price to aluminum and that is really a general way to saying so. And aluminum frames are super low cost. Weight to cost comparison to what else is out there will make or break it. It will not come close to composites in performance I’m guessing, yet there are many questions still.

COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.