As a small start-up company, Streamline Cycling manufactures composite wheel rims to enhance the aerodynamic performance of bikes. Set up by Daniel Cain, the founder of Streamline Cycling, the Lasswade based company turned to National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) and Quickgrind to help accelerate the growth and performance of the business. Now, Streamline Cycling is being supported by NMIS through an SME voucher funded by the European funded ‘Machining 4.0’ project where NMIS is the UK partner.
Discussing the foundation of the Scottish business, company owner Daniel Cain says: “We make the ‘Air System’, which is a product that comprises of a base rim that comes complete with a hub and spokes that can be fitted quickly and easily with aerodynamic covers to bicycles. There are two options at the moment, one of which is a 64mm depth cover - this is the depth from the wheel rim inwards, and we also have a full disc that goes onto the rear of a bicycle. Essentially, what these products are doing is adding aerodynamics without having to buy a whole new set of wheels, as wheels can be very expensive.”
“By adding the discs to the wheels, the main benefit is aerodynamic gains. Cyclists are enthusiastic about the aerodynamics of a bicycle and achieving the minimum power input for the maximum speed. By adding these covers, riders can either put in less power for the same speed or go faster with the same power input. The 64mm version adds a little bit of speed, but if it is too windy you would not want to ride with these as you may get blown around. It is the same with the full disc, you can have these on the rear wheel, and they will add a ton of speed. There are two products, and the main product is the air system which is more for racers, triathletes and time trialists. There is another option which just features the rear covers that can fit onto any rear wheel, so anyone can fit the covers and save a lot of money compared to fitting a fixed disk.”
The company built its own 3-axis CNC machine tool router for the manufacture of mould tools from tooling boards and the trimming of carbon fibre parts. Following this, Daniel had a number of online calls with Kareema Hilton, the Lightweight Machining Theme Lead at NMIS and Mark Aspinall from Quickgrind, an industry-leading manufacturer of cutting tools.
Looking at the manufacturing process, Daniel adds: “I realised quickly that I needed to make a mould to make these carbon fibre parts. The first step was to build a CNC and at the end of that, I had a lot of questions. The carbon fibre is laid into the moulds that I have made and then a vacuum system is applied, and the parts go into an oven for an hour and when they come out, they are trimmed with a CNC router. The router trimmed the outside of the parts and the inside, it also cuts out the attachments as well.”
Referring to the project, Mark from Quickgrind says: “Streamline Cycling invited me to Edinburgh to look at the workshop and I was pleasantly surprised to see the company was curing its carbon fibre products using its own Autoclave. We studied the routing machine and fixturing and discussed some improvements with regards to workholding and subsequently the most suitable cutting tool solution and the ideal cutting geometry based on the spindle power & speed, simultaneously taking into account cost considerations that are critical for small business owners.”
Daniel is using Autodesk Fusion 360 CAM for programming his router and we discussed how to use different cutting data, tool paths and entry into cut methods to achieve the best tool life and quality of machined surface when trimming and machining holes.
Throughout this project, Streamline Cycling has worked with NMIS and Quickgrind and referring to the evolution of the relationship, Daniel adds: “I met Kareema at NMIS, and she put me in touch with Mark at Quickgrind - both of them were super helpful, especially as I had a thousand questions around building my routing machine. I had a lot of questions from Mark at Quickgrind regarding the tooling, and he helped me with some tools that got me going. He came along and looked at the CNC and gave me some suggestions for improvements that I could make, he helped with the tool paths and the speeds and feeds.”
Looking at the specific problems with composite machining that Quickgrind helped to resolve, Daniel adds: “My main problem initially was the workholding solution. I started with a rogue solution of just holding the part while it was being machined. Quickgrind gave me some suggestions such as a vacuum workholding system to hold the part in place. The second issue was the tools. What I was finding with the tools that I was using was that I would have a lot of fraying of the material as I was cutting. The Quickgrind tools and the tool paths resolved that issue straight away. For the 64mm product, the toolpaths are quite complicated - Quickgrind helped you to work out what was the best machining strategy to speed up the process, improve quality and minimise any bench finishing. There is a balance between how fast we can make the products and also the aesthetic finish, as it is a consumer product.”
Utilising Autodesk Fusion 360 CAM for programming the router, Streamline Cycling was informed by the Quickgrind experts on how to apply different cutting data. This included tool paths and entry into the cut to achieve the best possible tool life whilst improving the quality of the machined surface when trimming and machining holes.
For the machining of the mould tools from tooling board, Streamline Cycling used the 2-flute Alligator range of bullnose and ballnose cutting tools from 3 to 12mm diameter from Quickgrind. For the trimming of the carbon fibre components, Streamline Cycling uses a 3mm version of Quickgrind's application-specific routing tools. This has been designed for the machining of carbon fibre and glass fibre-reinforced polymers.
“From Quickgrind’s perspective, they will have seen a lot of this type of machining before, so they were 100% on it from a tooling perspective with regards to what tools are best suited for this type of job. The tool path around the edge isn’t quite as complicated, but some of the ideas from Mark at Quickgrind helped to extend tool life, such as moving the Z-axis height of the tool when cutting around the perimeter of the rims to prolong the tool life,” adds Daniel.
“Overall, the experience of working with Quickgrind and NMIS has been excellent. They didn’t need to help me, as I am a super small company - it’s just me manufacturing these parts. So, for them to reach out, provide tools and offer assistance to help me make parts faster, speed up the process and improve tool life has been fantastic,” concludes Daniel.