Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How much does it cost to produce a carbon-fiber bicycle frame

  1. Mar 5, 2017 #1
    I'm planning to create my own bicycle in the university.It will have carbon fiber frame and as you know, there are some companies which can produce what you've designed in CAD software but I've no idea how much does it cost me to make them to produce a carbon fiber bicycle frame.

    Do you have any experience?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2017 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I don't have any experience with this, but my understanding is that building a carbon fiber frame requires having a mold. So if you have a unique frame design, I think you will have to pay a charge for designing and building the mold, which is probably substantial.
  4. Mar 5, 2017 #3
    Yes I know that and I've taken into account. I just need an approximate charge.
  5. Mar 5, 2017 #4
    You just cannot simplify it that much. Getting precise estimates is a complex Industrial Engineering calculation.

    For each sub-component in the assembly, Labor cost = (time to produce component including all setups & processes) X (labor rate for that component)
    Labor rates include salary + benefits costs.
    Sum for all components.

    Then add costs for all tools required to make all sub-components.
    Then add any costs for running any of the machinery & equipment during the fab times.

    Add costs of materials for all sub-components.

    Other things that you SHOULD add but it gets too complex, like cost to store the parts from time of purchase until time of use, or keeping the lights on in the building. Usually this turns into a big estimate fudge factor for "overhead costs".

    Then costs to do the assembly.
    Then costs to finish the assembly: trim, repair, rework, painting, whatever.

    Or you could SWAG it and hope for the best. I see the cost of a NASHBAR carbon fiber frame sells for ~$600. That's probably the selling cost for frames produced in a production run to satisfy a market need. SWAG the "actual" per piece cost at about 66% of that (maybe). Or if you decided to custom-fabricate ONE frame, then SWAG the cost as 200%-300% (or even more) of that cost.
  6. Mar 5, 2017 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The tooling cost to build a new mold might be 10's or 100's of thousands of dollars, but when spread over a large production run can be negligible in the cost of the final frame. So, mastermechanic, what we are saying is that there is just no way to know. You need to contact the manufacturer and ask them.
  7. Mar 5, 2017 #6
    Okay got you! Thank you for your answers.
  8. Mar 5, 2017 #7
    In your conversations try to shop out a relatively high end fabrication shop. When you discuss the issue talk also with them of the cost analysis. There are several methods of production. The lowest cost generally is rolled mat, it is also on the generally weaker end of the spectrum. On the other end is oriented fiber machine placed single fiber, this is generally very strong and quite expensive. As often is the case it is up to you as the engineer to determine where your cost threshold lies.
    Another possibility depends on your university. I was part of a cooperative project when I was in school. Someone else was designing a vehicle, I adopted as my project the main propulsion components. Does your school have composites program?
  9. Mar 6, 2017 #8
    There are some courses in curriculum like "Mechanics and Materials" and "Material Science and Technology".Also there is a Nanotechnology Center in the university which is named "UNAM". I guess thats why we have biology course in 3rd year.
  10. Mar 6, 2017 #9
    I think the biggest problem most people had with carbon fiber fabrication was access to an autoclave but they aren't necessary anymore. Down the street is a guy who builds boats and he is using a lost Styrofoam technique from West Systems for making parts. He picked up a used bench top 4 axis CNC router which he uses for making forms. The forms get wrapped in the fabric and resin and then put in a vacuum bag. It takes longer but the parts cure without an autoclave, A solvent is used for removing the foam. The foam doesn't matter to him so he usually leaves it alone. Don't know if this would work for you or not but it makes carbon fiber a lot more accessible to people then what it was. I scanned a brochure he had and it had an example of making an intake plenum for an engine in it. Surprised me but why not?

    Just looked this up on making a mast head with the stuff:

  11. Mar 7, 2017 #10
    As someone has mentioned, you need a mold. However, how you plan to make the carbon parts will affect your mold design. Also, do you plan to have just one piece, or will you be joining them?

    You can make carbon fiber tubes pretty easily. If you're hand-laying up woven fabric, at this point the mandrel can be a piece of properly prepared pipe if it's the dimensions you want. You may not get a great outer finish, but sometimes you can clear coat the outside to make it look nice if you're lucky. You can wind or braid carbon tow onto a pipe as well. For real thin layers you may not even need an autoclave, but that depends on a lot of things. Long story short, for just the "mandrel" it's pretty cheap this way. You'd have to assemble those parts though.

    If for some reason you're looking to make one big piece, you can use foams that are CNC machined to match a CAD file of, say, half the frame. The cost of this is up to the shop you use, but even just raw materials like high density tooling foams can get expensive. I'll leave it to you to look them up. After the labor to machine it, and if you're having them produce the frame itself too, all said and done I'd guess you'll easily be in the thousands of dollars when you're done for one frame.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted