Big changes appear to be in order for domestic (U.S.) carbon fiber manufacturing. Recently, HIA Velo moved all of Guru’s production assets to Little Rock, Arkansas, with plans to launch their own line of bikes and private label manufacture carbon bikes for others. Now, Lemond Cycles appears to be rebooting, and not just to make carbon bikes, but to change the way they’re made altogether.

Based on the press release, reprinted after the break, they’ve partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy’s ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) to create a more efficient carbon fiber production process that yields a high end product at a fraction of the cost of current materials. And while they’re teasing a new road bike made from the upgraded strands, they’re also looking far beyond the bicycle industry. Think lighter vehicles and less wasteful carbon fiber production. Check out the PR below…

lemond-cycles-2017-carbon-road-bike-teaser-1

PRESS RELEASE (VIA LEMOND.CC) – OAK RIDGE, Tenn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond is partnering with carbon fiber manufacturing pioneer Connie Jackson and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to bring the most significant development in carbon fiber production in over 50 years to the global markets.

LeMond Composites, a new company offering solutions for high-volume, low-cost carbon fiber, has secured a licensing agreement with U.S. Department of Energy’s ORNL. The agreement will make the Oak Ridge-based LeMond Composites the first company to offer this new industry-disrupting carbon fiber to the transportation, renewable energy, and infrastructure markets.

“We can provide the advantages of our carbon fiber to many industries by improving strength, stiffness, and weight reduction. If you imagine replacing steel, aluminum, and fiberglass with our carbon fiber, you begin to understand the scope of the potential market,” said Connie Jackson, CEO of LeMond Composites. “Our process will have global applications and we are ready to move forward with scaling the technology.”

A breakthrough process invented by Jackson and a research team at ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF) will reduce production costs by more than 50% relative to the lowest cost Industrial grade carbon fiber. Incredibly this new carbon fiber has the mechanical properties of carbon fiber costing three times as much. Until now, manufacturing carbon fiber was an extremely energy-intensive process. This new method reduces energy consumed during production by up to 60%.

Jackson and several of her ORNL teammates joined LeMond Composites in 2016.

“We have assembled the only team in the world that has executed this proven technology which uniquely positions us to deliver a successful outcome for our customers and stakeholders,” said Greg LeMond. “From experience, I know that having the right team is a distinct business advantage.”

Light, stiff and strong, carbon fiber is the perfect material for advanced composites in a variety of applications. The biggest obstacle to its widespread use has been the high cost of carbon fiber. This new process will allow high-volume, cost-sensitive industries around the world to reap the benefits of carbon fiber composites at a fraction of the cost while incorporating chemistry geared toward recyclability.

“The development of this new process demonstrates the value of coupling basic and applied research, which is a hallmark of ORNL, and it underscores the Department of Energy’s commitment to addressing our nation’s most pressing energy challenges,” said Thom Mason, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director. “The Department’s sustained investments in scientific research and development and in specialized facilities such as CFTF are enabling a variety of applications that will lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and position U.S. industry for global success.”

ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility began operations in 2012, supported by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing and Vehicle Technologies offices, to demonstrate the possibility of low-cost carbon fiber at a semi-production scale.

Growing demand from the automotive industry is due in large part to the global push to increase the fuel economy of nearly every vehicle produced. In the USA, the demand is being driven by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. These standards demand a fleet-wide average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025. The single best way to improve fuel economy is to reduce the weight of the cars and their component parts. ORNL and Jackson’s remarkable breakthrough technology puts CAFE standards within reach, ensuring cost-effective weight reduction through the use of high quality carbon fiber without sacrificing the strength and safety of the steel it replaces.

“We understand the growing demand from the automotive industry and we are currently in negotiations with several of the world’s leading automotive brands and their suppliers,” said LeMond.

For the wind power industry, carbon fiber can be used to make turbine blades lighter and stiffer, thereby increasing the efficiency of the system. Previously, carbon fiber was too expensive for maximum utilization in this market.

Additional sectors, including shipping, air travel and marine, could see significant energy savings through the use of carbon fiber in the light weighting of their containers, planes, and ships.

Carbon fiber composites can also be used to build, reinforce, or repair bridges, tunnels, commercial and residential structures.

“As a result of the affordability of this carbon fiber we believe that world-wide mass adoption will be inevitable. We are positioning ourselves to grow and meet this demand by locating our company in Tennessee, a state that through Governor Haslam and Commissioner Boyd’s forward-thinking programs like Tennessee Promise, will provide a steady stream of quality employees for our company,” said LeMond. ”Our close proximity to ORNL adds a value beyond measure and we are looking forward to future collaborations with them. Additionally, with the input of the University of Tennessee, The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), and the emerging composites corridor, I believe the Knoxville area will become the world hub for carbon fiber in the future. On a personal note, the bike riding in this area is incredible.”

LeMond Composites plans to expand its campus by building its first carbon fiber production line at their recently purchased facility at 103 Palladium Way in Oak Ridge. The facility is strategically located immediately adjacent to ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.

The first commercially available product will be ready in Q1 of 2018.

About LeMond Composites Founded in 2016, LeMond Composites is focused on the manufacture of high-volume, low-cost carbon fiber composites. With global applications in transportation, renewable energy, and infrastructure, low cost carbon fiber composites will be a key component in the future of efficient energy use. LeMond Composites is located in Oak Ridge Tennessee at 103 Palladium Way.

Lemond.cc

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TimB
TimB
5 years ago

Ooooh this sounds nice! Lemond back in bikes

Colin M
Colin M
5 years ago

Ok so you can make the fiber cheaper. What about the resin?

Alex from Hermes Sport
Reply to  Colin M

with Oak Ridge’s involvement, my bets are on some sort of plutonium-infused resin to reduce cost.

Colin
Colin
5 years ago

Saves you having to buy a set of lights if your bike already glows in the dark

TimB
TimB
5 years ago
Reply to  Colin M

resin is less than 10% the cost of the carbon fibre material. Resin cost reduces in geometrically as you increase the volume purchased.Carbon fibre material cost increase per unit weight is more linear. Comparing the ass of fibre to the mass of resin in a bike frame, the cost driver is the fibre cost not the resin.

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

Liking Lemond making bikes. Hope it works. Hell of a good guy and deserves better than what fate and Lance did to him.
But I’m unconvinced on the carbon “partnership” hype. The high end carbon in S-works bikes, the R5CA, SuperSix Evo HiMod etc. probably costs around $200 for the actual carbon material.
The costs in things like epoxy (perhaps 30-35 percent of the composite frame’s weight) engineering, molds, design, marketing, paint, labor etc. would remain unchanged by even the most startling advance in carbon manufacture.
Let’s just say you miraculously got the cost of carbon down 80 percent. That would trim $160 from the cost of a bike.
And bikes would be the least of your market anyway. Aerospace would beat a path to your door.

Cedrick J Gousse
Cedrick J Gousse
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim

I guess it depends what they mean by “carbon fiber” if they are using that as a catchall term for a process to make carbon fiber goods, that could potentially mean a gigantic savings. If it’s just on raw materials, you’re right, its a drop in the bucket. Time will tell..

myke2241
myke2241
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Lemond frames were being made by Time. I’m pretty sure this a good move state side but Time is king when it c

Stu
Stu
5 years ago

Good to see Greg back.

What Lance (sorry I meant Trek….) did to him…..

myke2241
myke2241
5 years ago
Reply to  Stu

He never left

Haromania
5 years ago

Interesting LeMond doesn’t have anything to say about todays Tour riders going faster than ever. Weird how he only cared about it for 7 years.

Robin
Robin
5 years ago
Reply to  Haromania

Weird how you make a comment about dopign in a story about bike frames and materials.

Colin M
Colin M
5 years ago

@Haromania – Nice try on the trolling. LeMond was openly making statements about the possibility of electric motors on bikes in the Giro and Tour just last year. Go back to your bridge now.

Flatbiller
Flatbiller
5 years ago

Can you still shout “Merika!” with your American-made carbon fiber frame bike even though every other component on it is made in Not-USA?

I just don’t get the (deleted) people get; nothing is made where it says it’s made from.

Antipodean_eleven
5 years ago
Reply to  Flatbiller

-rant mode on-

Look, it’s simple – some people care about provenance. I know I do.

We make everything we do locally and I do mean locally – 10 minutes away from where I type this. We don’t bang on about it but we are proud of it and many customers come to us and say how great it is to buy a local product, even customers elsewhere express appreciation of the fact we make where we do – ie. not in Asia somewhere.

Maybe it’s a pride thing, or maybe it’s the idea that people understand that what they are paying for is what they get. What do I mean by that? Simple, when someone buys something from us, they know that the machinist who sewed it up was paid ‘real’ money in a quality environment with all the protections they would expect for themselves. This is opposed to buying something where you are probably right in thinking that the person sewing it was paid 10-20 dollars a day max and given very little else – maybe food and board in the factory dorm.

I love my Apple products but I don’t like the fact that where my phone is made, staff sleep at their stations because the workload is so high and if they can’t do it, they are put ‘out on the street’. ‘Designed in Cupertino’, there’s a reason they put that first and foremost…

I’ve worked with Taiwanese factories and suppliers, and while they are worlds apart from what goes on on mainland China etc. (ie. I have absolutely no issues working with them) I though did see product, for big name brands, being made in ways, and in conditions, that had me thinking ‘time to leave’.

There’s nothing wrong with having pride or caring about where what you buy comes from, and while yes, Made-in-Merica is a gong banged on quite a bit, sometimes for nothing more than PR value it seems, we need more of it – in the US and elsewhere.

And of course there’s the irony that in America, you will man a stand at a trade show and a good 70% of people looking at the bikes and frames hanging in your booth will ask “is it made in the US?” but now, especially here on BR, people are now complaining that people are saying “we make our ‘stuff’ in America”…. WTF? make your minds up people.

-rant mode off-

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
5 years ago
Reply to  Flatbiller

You can get American made frames, hubs, rims, handlebars, stems, seatposts, brakes, spokes, cranks, bottle cages, bottles, and saddle bags. That’s the majority of the mass of a bicycle, maybe over 12lbs for 15lb bike.

TimB
TimB
5 years ago
Reply to  Flatbiller

the point the article is not conveying clearly is that the labour cost in the US s ow on par with the labour cost in China so its actually becoming economically viable to product goods in the USA again if you select a state with attractive enugh incentives to promote jobs in manufacturing.
The carbon fibre tech is just the strawberry on the icing

JBikes
JBikes
5 years ago
Reply to  Flatbiller

So if everything is not made in the USA, it doesn’t matter if anything is made there? Sure, that’s rational.

ascarlarkinyar
ascarlarkinyar
5 years ago

Lol….really…lol

So Americans steal Tiawan carbon tech and call it a “new” process….lol

BTW I’ve been making carbon fiber products for 15 years now. Up on all the tech. This is not new stuff, just borrowed….lol

It is a “better” process, but not all that much. With higher wages in the states and the inability to get the raw materials cheap as tiawain, there will not be much final price reduction. Only way price comes down is to cut out the middle man.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
5 years ago
Reply to  ascarlarkinyar

I don’t think we’re there yet but its coming. There will be a time when we can injection mold carbon bikes that are actually good. Someone will figure out a way for fibers to be layed without much of any human labor, in a way that’s going to be almost as good as laying by hand(maybe better) and surely many times less expensive in terms of labor. There are injection molded parts now, I know its not the same as they don’t need the really long fibers but its coming. Maybe even printed carbon frames.

Antipodean_eleven
5 years ago
Reply to  Veganpotter

That would require a pretty major jump in production tech. The ‘sock’/bladder process is as close as we have as far as I know for carbon and then there is the labour input in the making of the sock.

GFRP’s are sort of what you are talking about I am guessing, where the fibre strands are mixed in with the injected plastics. As you say, the strands are all short, pretty much a ‘chopped’ fibre. Getting long strands in there and controlling them directionally would seem impossible but as they say, it’s only impossible until it’s not.

ascarlarkinyar
ascarlarkinyar
5 years ago
Reply to  Veganpotter

More than likely a completely different , stronger, lighter composite will imerge. More like a foam that can be injected.

Eric Hancock (@eric_d_hancock)
Reply to  ascarlarkinyar

I don’t want to buy any carbon products from an adult that uses that many lols.

dan
dan
5 years ago

Classic!

Rohan
Rohan
5 years ago

It all sounds really nice, but what about the recycling of carbon fibre. I know they recently came up with a new method of recycling of carbon fibre, but only with a special resin and fibres. I don’t need the future population to be stuck with a landfill filled with carbon fibre crap we cannot get rid off. I am all for Carbon fibre bikes and parts but not at the cost of the environment.

Jon MacKinnon
5 years ago
Reply to  Rohan

It’s in the press release:

“This new process will allow high-volume, cost-sensitive industries around the world to reap the benefits of carbon fiber composites at a fraction of the cost while incorporating chemistry geared toward recyclability.”

M David Eades
5 years ago

I find it hard to believe the savings will be passed on to the consumer and not used to generate higher profits. You know… because the bike industry and manufacturing in general always sells the lightest, strongest, stiffest and newest high performance products for less than whatever its replacing right?