UK Students Produce Folding Composite Bike Prototype

30 August 2005

Students involved in a joint project between South East Derbyshire College and Nottingham Trent University have produced a carbon/glass fibre folding bicycle using the college’s composite centre.

The joint project was orchestrated by the tutors at South East Derbyshire College’s purpose-built Composites training centre and a group of Mechanical Engineering students from Nottingham Trent University. The project was part-funded by Polymer Sector Developments (PSD) as part of an initiative to enhance training opportunities in the composites industry.

The five students were set the task of constructing a folding bike with a budget of 80 GBP. Some of the students opted to construct the bike from traditional aluminium materials with the addition of hinges, but one group opted to utilise the centres composite materials and facilities and construct the frame from a one-piece carbon/glass fibre construction.

Composites Centre Manager Martin Taylor-Wilde explained: “Thanks to funding from the East Midlands Development Agency through Polymer Sector Development, our facilities replicate the best available in the industry. The Nottingham Trent University students were set the task of constructing a folding bike that could be ridden for 20 miles a day. They wanted to use composites materials, as they are lightweight and stronger that more traditional materials such as steel so contacted us for our help”

The students used a 280g twill carbon fibre weave supplied by Amber composites (part of their E722 multi pre-preg range) and opted to produce a carbon/glass fibre construction, partly due to financial constraints but also because a fully carbon frame would have produced a stiffer frame that would have been unsuitable for everyday commuting. Usin2 ply carbon fibre with 4 ply glass, they cut the shape from a 2 metre long box-shaped section in one piece which was then cured in the college’s autoclave.

Students were also able to use CAD software supplied by Solid Works.


South East Derbyshire College’s new facility for composites training has been set up at SEDC’s £1.7m Technology Centre at the Vocational Academy in Ilkeston, Derbyshire following £137,500 of funding from Polymer Sector Developments (PSD) which has made a major contribution towards the College’s aim to become a Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) in composites training. £750,000 has also been invested by the college in the new facility which replicates the best available in the industry and features a range of new equipment, including Autoclave vacuum and freezing facilities and a Curing Oven.

The grant awarded to SEDC is part of a wider initiative from PSD which is boosting training across the region. Backed by £1.5m of funding from the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA), PSD has been established to oversee the provision of new Vocational/Educational Technology Advancement Centres for the polymer sector in the East Midlands.

Martin Taylor-Wilde adds that “Having successfully completed this initial project, we hope that this will pave the way for a wider relationship with the Mechanical Engineering Faculty at the University of Nottingham, similar to the joint work we are already doing with the University of Derby.”

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