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Complexity, Part Consolidation Awarded Again

Dec. 30, 2011
Three castings forming a racing bike frame earned the U.K.s top award for casting design
The cast metal frame of Empire Cycles’ downhill racing bicycle, in action.
Constantine Theoharis of WH Rowe Ltd shows the castings that earned top design honors, as well as the U.K.’s Cast Metals Federation’s Component of the Year 2011 Award.

A three-part cast aluminum frame for a downhill racing bicycle earned the U.K.’s Cast Metals Federation’s Component of the Year Award for 2011. The casting was designed and produced by W.H. Rowe, a Southampton company that operates a sand-casting foundry and gravity diecasting foundry, with various additional services for finishing and adding value to cast parts.

Two other castings were named as award finalists by the CMF: an aluminum 16V engine block for the Bugatti Veyron, manufactured by Grainger & Worrall; and a copper spiral tuyere, a 215-kg component used to inject gases or alloys in blast furnace ironmaking, made by Peel Jones Copper Products Ltd.

Another award winner was Precision Disc Castings, which earned the Company Achievement Award in CMF’s Cast Metals Industry Awards for 2011. PDC supplies approximately 3.5 million castings per year for the EU disk-brake aftermarket, and also manufactures brake disc castings for the motorsport industry. According to CMF, PDC supplies over 90% of the gray-iron brake discs used by racecar and high-performance sports car builders.

CMF’s 2011 Supplier of the Year Award went to Avon Metals, a recycling firm, for its performance and contribution to the U.K. cast metals sector.

W.H. Rowe’s winning design replaced 12 parts in the Empire Cycles racing bike, parts that had been produced by processes including stamping, forming, annealing and bending, plus 15 welds.

“These are highly stressed components due to the high dynamic loading of the frame,” explained Constantine Theoharis of WH Rowe. “We knew that, using the sand casting process, we could produce components that would not only withstand the stresses but would also save our customer considerable time and money particularly in the tooling process where the start up costs are particularly high.”

Empire Cycles determined that the whole bicycle would be manufactured without any welding, thereby removing the need for special jigs. Only a small tool box would be required to assemble wheels, headset, gear mechanism, suspension components, etc., and the rider should be able to infinitely adjust the frame to his or her own preference without specialist tools. A number of challenges had to be overcome, such as the need to maintain casting thickness as small as possible in order to keep weight the same or lower than equivalent welded fabrications.

Another challenge was to maintain control of the metallurgy in order to achieve the greatest possible strength and stiffness without making the castings too brittle, which was achieved by carefully selecting the alloys and designing the heat treatment for the castings. It resulted in a “rugged industrial” appearance without any specialized finishing processes.

“This is an excellent set of castings that not only take the process into the bicycle frame market, but also saved the customer money and produced a very stylish and rugged bike,” stated John Parker, Chief Executive of the Cast Metals Federation, which organizes the annual awards.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)