Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Chances are, if you’ve been to Trek and taken the tour, you’ve probably seen this door – and it’s probably been locked. Like any bike company, due to product cycles being well ahead of current model years, keeping what’s coming secret is key. While the door clearly says no photos, we were allowed to ignore that this particular visit. The past few times that I’ve visited Trek, I haven’t even seen what’s inside though, this time was different. Want to see what’s behind the dark curtain?

Check out the secretive Product Development room, Race Team Shop, and less secretive Testing rooms after the break!

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Behind the locked door with the opaque glass you will find Trek’s incredibly well equipped product development and prototype room. Engineers have nearly every machine imaginable at their disposal to turn out the latest prototypes. Before we were allowed in, Jim had to do a quick sweep of the room to make sure there wasn’t anything we weren’t supposed to see once inside. Check out the Triple tandem on the wall.

 

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

The Prototype room is a full service build shop, from machining the parts and tubes, to welding them up and making a complete bike. Various tubes including aero tube shapes sit waiting for their next build next to a tool that we assume is used for reaming or milling the insides of tubes. Behind is a milled out prototype DH bike, possibly for the Trek VRX or Diesel?

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Full welding stations with frame jigs sit at the ready for their next project. Underneath, a giant lathe.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

In addition to all the manual vertical mills, horizontal mills, and lathes, there is an entire wing devoted to CNC machining and other machining tasks. Above are examples of their machining capabilities with various parts machined for random projects over time. While we were there the CNC machine was being used to make tooling for use on another machine.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Quite possibly one of the most impressive, and likely most expensive, machines in the room was Trek’s giant 3d printer. The Objet 500 is one of the highest end 3d printers you can buy, and it’s capable of printing an object made of up to 14 different materials at once, with over 100 materials to choose from. As you can see, multiple parts are able to be printed at once on the same tray without them being connected. 3d printers have come a long way since I got to play with the resin/glue printers in college that could only print rough, single material models. We lifted the specs from Objet’s site below:

  • Multi-material models – eliminating the need to design, print and glue separate model elements together
  • Different parts. Different materials. Same tray – saves time and serves multiple requirements simultaneously
  • Outstanding 16-micron, high-resolution print layer accuracy
  • 600 DPI X & Y resolution
  • Thin walls down to 0.6mm (0.024″)
  • Large-size build tray of 500 x 400 x 200mm
  • High throughput – Up to 20mm per hour per strip
  • Reliability and robustness – at least 72 hours of non-stop build capacity
  • High speed – simultaneously print multiple items of different materials.
  • Choice of over 100 materials

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

One of the amazing abilities of the printer is the ability to print muti-part objects that are connected as soon as you remove them from the printer. The chain above is exactly how it came from the printer minus some support material that is removed after printing. All of the links and pins move and rotate just like a real chain. Thanks to the incredible accuracy of the printer, complex designs like the hub and all of its internals can be printed as well.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Due to the ability to print with multiple materials as mentioned, things like this lock on grip can be printed in one go. The plastic forms the lock on sleeve, and a rubber material is then printed around it forming a nearly perfect grip. It seems the sky really is the limit with this printer – and it certainly helps with product development.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Once a product has left the Development lab and entered into production, testing takes place either here in Trek’s Wisconsin test lab, or at the factory on the same test equipment. Trek designs, builds, and tests all testing equipment in Waterloo then installs the same machines in their factories over seas. Obviously, US made carbon frames and carbon parts are tested here. All of Trek’s own bikes are tested on their own equipment.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek employs a variety of tests for the product’s ultimate strength, fatigue, and stiffness. Trek tests all parts to and past CEN and ISO standards, though ISO is apparently trying to be standardized across the globe. One interesting fact about the test facility, is that all of the testing results can be viewed remotely from any location in real time. It’s taken around 5-6 years for Trek to get their testing facility to this point.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek also believes they have the only UCI certified impact sled for wheel testing in the US. Trek has full in house wheel testing abilities with multiple test rigs going at one time.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

This wheel was undergoing testing with the computer monitor showing the stresses experienced by the wheel.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek even has a salt spray booth, so if you’ve heard us mention hours in a salt corrosion test, this is what that’s referring to. There were apparently some secret road brakes that I couldn’t see inside undergoing testing as we went by.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

After successful testing, product then makes its way to the Trek Race Shop, where the latest and greatest is built up and shipped out to pro racers across the globe. Framed jerseys of past champions are an indication of what comes out of this shop. This is another area that is usually off limits, and our photography was very limited. That rack of bikes in the background is the latest batch of bikes going out to pros – though we couldn’t get any close ups.

 

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

The Race Shop has its own machining capabilities, though far less than the Product Development room.  

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Here, engineering geniuses like Ray can cook up their own special projects like this retro-tastic, belt drive, Trek 8900-but-not-really.

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Like many other projects Ray has created like the first carbon, belt drive district, special parts were machined to allow for custom touches like split seat stays. Who remembers the paint jobs that this custom 8900 pays tribute to?

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

Ray’s creations aren’t just limited to bikes either – with custom tools and parts sitting around the shop as well.  The tool at the top is a combination chain whip (cog based), pedal wrench, BB wrench, and 1/4″ driver, all in an alloy package to keep things light and packable. When you have the ability to make your own tools you can decide if durability, or weight and compactness are more important.

Ray also found himself without the right belt drive cog before a race, so he whipped up a custom one with a machined plastic carrier and metal dowel pins. The design also served to keep the belt in place.

Finally, who hasn’t fumbled with the tiny Shimano Hollowtech II thumb wheel? Why not just bolt it to a Park 3 way? Brilliant.

 

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

The race shop is really a bike mechanic’s dream – everything you could possibly imagine to work on or build bikes, with plenty of space to do it in. And unlike a lot of shops, the lighting was bright, so you can see what you’re doing (the one I worked at was like a dungeon). Things were a bit spread out as Ray had a ton of bikes to get out, with very little time to do it in – but he still took the time to show us around. Thanks!

Trek Factory Tour Part 2: Prototyping, Testing, and Product Development

While Trek has quite the history of putting out new bikes and carbon technology, not everything makes it out of the building. Remember the Trek Aero DH wind tunnel tests? That bike now sits in the Mountain Bike Design offices as wall art. After all of the design, prototyping, and testing, it was determined that there just wasn’t enough aero benefit to justify the increased weight of all the aero bits on the bike. So don’t expect any aero carbon DH wheels any time soon.

Check back for part 3 where we get an insanely in depth tour of Trek’s US carbon bike production from Trek’s Head Manufacturing Engineer, Jim Colegrove!

Make sure to check out parts 1 and 3 if you haven’t already!

Part 1

Part 3

 

Comments

cymacyma - 03/12/13 - 5:54pm

Looks like modern garage factoring system :D

Diesel - 03/12/13 - 6:08pm

I’m digging the retro 8900; definitely a throwback!

Sark - 03/12/13 - 6:15pm

Looks rather boring

gravity - 03/12/13 - 6:53pm

Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance.

Now shut up.

Robert - 03/12/13 - 7:21pm

take a look at the green bike with the blue rocker link hanging from the ceiling…. that was supposed to be the 2013 roscoe… i guess it never made it in to production.

Matt - 03/12/13 - 7:52pm

Pretty cool to see the behind the scenes.

Justin - 03/12/13 - 9:28pm

Nice! This is why Bike Rumor is rad!

Sardinian Rider - 03/13/13 - 5:43am

Howdy Lance,how’s going ??

Tell you what..pretty cool facility and amazing testing machines. I bet Trek opened itself up so much just to renew it’s image again after Lance. Amazing bikes but I’ll never buy one,they are to Lancey.

Pete - 03/13/13 - 5:50am

I just bought an objet connex 500. Good machine.

Harvey - 03/13/13 - 8:49am

Am I the only one to find they have a machine called the ‘Cadex’ amusing?

carl - 03/13/13 - 8:54am

That Black and Blue full fendered cruiser ROCKS!

anonymouse - 03/13/13 - 9:15am

Trek is making some pretty great bikes nowadays. The new Domane is the smoothest road bike I have ridden. The DRCV shocks are awesome, and Trek’s mountain bikes don’t suck anymore- they are actually as good or better than anything else out there. Now if we could get a Fox 34 on the Remedy and mtn bikes spec’d with Tubeless Ready tires that’d be great. If you are going to force me to buy new tires for a brand new bike, I’m gonna put Specialized tires on it!

m - 03/13/13 - 9:53am

@ Harvey: “Cadex”, as in Giants first carbon frame? seeing as 90% of their line is built by Giant, it is quite apropos.

King County - 03/13/13 - 10:08am

I hate Trek’s business practices, but seeing their facility was super cool!

Zap? - 03/13/13 - 10:26am

Apologize to Greg LeMond and I’ll buy your products again Trek! I love Trek and that’s all I have bought for nearly 20 years, but I won’t buy again until they simply say that they are sorry for how they treated Greg.

Also, I rode an 8700 for 5 years, but mine was dark gray and purple.

J-Ride - 03/13/13 - 1:27pm

Considering the intelligence level of a lot of the people posting on here, no Harvey, you probably are not.

However, for those who are even slightly educated in these types of things, when looking at pictures of a test lab, this would be the first thought in my mind:

http://www.cadexinc.com/

Slow Joe Crow - 03/13/13 - 1:33pm

I think it’s significant that the art-deco streamliner is branded Gary Fisher and appears to have a mount for a cocktail shaker.

Sylic - 03/13/13 - 9:32pm

All y’all haters gonna hate. There are MANY champions that ride/have ridden Treks – not just LA.

TREK is NOT built by Giant, although Giant manufactures 99% of ALL bicycle brands that comes from Taiwan. Trek uses it’s proprietary OCLV in the U.S. AND overseas.

Go ride.

medlink - 03/17/13 - 2:44pm

Had a Trek Reynolds 531 in the good old days
Now they dug their grave by getting in bed with Lance and Bont
I see alot of dentists riding Treks

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