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

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Afonso Cândido
Afonso Cândido
2 years ago

If they use the same technology in titanium and I would sell my wife’s kidney to buy one…

Mecanico do paladar
Mecanico do paladar
2 years ago

Already sold my wife…. Any ideas left?

Ves Mandaric
2 years ago

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.

Jerome Roy
Jerome Roy
2 years ago
Reply to  Ves Mandaric

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!

Jerome Roy
Jerome Roy
2 years ago
Reply to  Jerome Roy

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.

Greg
Greg
2 years ago

“…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?

atakua
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Steel fatigue limit?

Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benedict
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

3X the modulus of aluminum.

jasonmiles31
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

If they try and match aluminum frame rate with oversized tubing, the walls will have to be crazy thin. I agree denting and buckling will be big concerns.

Dominic
Dominic
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Better surface hardness, which means longer lasting bb threads, more accurate dropout fit, more headset replacability, more precise brake mounting surfaces.

Depending on the alloy, a steel frame is more accomodating of being repaired as it’s less likely to need post weld heat treatment to retain pre damage strength.

Mark
Mark
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic

I’m not sure if I’d want the headset seats and bottom bracket shell to be as thin as the “tubes.” Other companies have had problems with thin wall head tubes ovalizing.

I presume that they braze in reinforcements, especially given the welded seam going through the head tube and shape of the shell.

Eric
Eric
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Bicycles sure seem to make you angry, Greg.

roadstain
2 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Here Here!!!!

jclaa
jclaa
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

magnetic?

AJ
AJ
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

yes magnetic. that is magnetic.

OldMan
OldMan
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Stiffness

Dinger
Dinger
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Aerodynamic features and disc brakes have diminished the importance of “competitive” weight and proven that some weights are worth carrying, if there is a benefit that comes along with it. I can see some opportunities. Aerodynamic shapes that are smaller for a given stiffness. Higher fatigue resistance allowing for better ride quality among them. Hopefully it works out, more choices are usually better.

Mark
Mark
2 years ago

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?

Bmx
Bmx
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark

[deleted]

Mark
Mark
2 years ago
Reply to  Bmx

[deleted]

Hamjam
Hamjam
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark

[deleted]

Cheese
Cheese
2 years ago
Reply to  Hamjam

[deleted]

paleh0rse
paleh0rse
2 years ago

Are they branding these frames themselves, or are they looking for brand partners?

onrhodes
2 years ago

I’m always a bit skeptical of the term “revolutionize” but this is pretty cool!

Double ZZ
Double ZZ
2 years ago

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.

DingDang
DingDang
2 years ago
Reply to  Double ZZ

That comment wins the internet for today. Thank you DZZ.

Fred Gravelly
Fred Gravelly
2 years ago

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!

jednobiegowiec
jednobiegowiec
2 years ago

… 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.

Star
Star
2 years ago

I always wanted a Cervelo Renaissance or Super Produgy

Andre SwissTex
Andre SwissTex
2 years ago

I have a hunch that the German engineers have figured all those things out.

babylou
babylou
2 years ago

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.

Dex
Dex
2 years ago

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.

mojo au gogo
mojo au gogo
2 years ago

disallowing comments concerning the company’s history is to enforce forgetting history…

voodoobike
2 years ago

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.