Tech Speak: Talking TeXtreme Spread Tow Carbon With Oxeon and Felt

Tech Speak: Talking TeXtreme Spread Tow Carbon With Oxeon and Felt

Often, if you want to see the pinnacle of carbon fiber design, you need simply look toward Formula 1. Teams invest millions to build the fastest, lightest, most aerodynamic cars which are able to withstand speeds of 200+ mph and remain strong enough to protect the driver in a crash. Over the past few years all of the championships have been won using Oxeon’s TeXtreme spread tow carbon fabric, though F1 is a small part of Oxeon’s success.

2013 saw the introduction of TeXtreme to the bicycle industry with Felt’s first use of the incredible fabric in the launch of their FRD line. Since then, Felt has introduced 4 new models that also get the special checkerboard look, which prompted us to sit down with David Kolosek of Oxeon to get a better understanding of what sets TeXtreme apart from “everyday” carbon.

Oxeon weaves us a story after the break.

Felt Textreme Mountain bikes 2014 (10)

Bikerumor: What is Oxeon’s and TeXtreme’s history in carbon fiber?

Oxeon: Oxeon is 10 years old now, the company is based in Sweden, and two of the original founders are still with the company and they were students at the university in Gothenburg, Sweden. They were part of the entrepreneurialship program where they the students with the ideas were paired with professors who helped take the ideas to market. Originally, the company didn’t start out as carbon fiber based, but more of a weaving process and here we are 10 years later with the weaving process.

If you look at the supply chain of carbon fiber products if you will, in the beginning you have the fiber manufacturers who actually make the carbon fiber. The fiber is then moved to a converter – someone who actually does something with that fiber. We’re a converter. We take what’s called a bobbin, which looks essentially like a bobbin of thread, which they call “tows”. A Tow is essentially a carbon fiber yarn, and those yarns have anywhere from a 1000 to 30,000 little filaments inside. Each little hair in carbon fiber is a filament. So we take yarns that typically have 12,000, 15,000 filaments in them, and we spread them.

TeXtreme Technology - comparison of Spread Tow and regular tow

We have a process that takes that yarn and makes it into a tape like you have here (above left). Compared to a traditional unidirectional carbon, our carbon tape is able to be produced much thinner than the unidirectional carbon. They might both be made from 15k filament, but we’re able to spread it over a wider area, so we have a lighter weight for the same given surface area. We then take these tapes and we weave them into fabrics. This is called a TeXtreme fabric, TeXtreme is the brand name of our carbon fiber fabric.

Compared to a plain weave, every where you see the white space on a traditional weave carbon is resin. When the carbon fiber goes up and comes back down that’s called a crimp. When it changes direction, it causes a gap to the fiber going 90 degrees the opposite direction. In order for it to be flat, that piece has to be filled with resin – it’s why when you look at a traditional sheet of single layer carbon your can see light through it. When you hold ours up to the light, there is barely any light that shines through. That’s because for the same area, the same size, you have a lot less resin that is needed with our spread tow carbon compared to standard carbon which results in a much lighter weight. You’ll have more carbon fiber per area than with a traditional weave, and keeping those fibers as straight as possible improves the strength. Because our design has shallower and fewer crimps, we’re able to build in the same directional strength with less carbon.

Felt Textreme Mountain bikes 2014 (9)

Bikerumor: Could you build a whole bike out of TeXtreme?

Oxeon: You could, but you probably don’t want to because there are going to be areas where you only want more stiffness or strength in one direction, not another.

Bikerumor: Is there more than one version of TeXtreme fabric?

Felt Bikes Mountain Road 2014 (50)Oxeon: Yes, TeXtreme can be produced with HS, IM and HM carbon, along with many other high performance fabrics. Also, there is what you call 0/90°, where one carbon is running in 0 degrees and the other is running at 90° to it. That’s going to give you strength lengthwise, and in the circumference, but what you give up is torsional strength. So the way that engineers overcome that is they rotate it so it’s +/- 45°, you have one running at 45° going one way, and the other at 45° the other way. That gives you the torsional strength. If you built it entirely out of +/- 45° you wouldn’t be able to twist it, you would have great torsional strength, but you would be able to bend it. So good design is a combination of the two for proper stiffness and strength all around.

Bikerumor: So some areas of the bike may have a layer of 0/90° and then a layer of +/- 45° on top?

Oxeon: Correct, depending on where that area of the bike is there may be +/- 45°, there may be 0/90°, or it may just call for unidirectional carbon. The number of plies may vary, there may be as many as 4 plies, plies being a layer, there might be as high as 8 plies, depending on where it is in the whole make up of the frame.

Bikerumor: How does TeXtreme improve bicycle design?

Oxeon: What’s great about the product for designers like Jeff at Felt, a lot of what he’s looking for with the FRD bikes is feel, comfort, and ride quality. Because of the weight savings that he can accomplish through the use of TeXtreme in certain areas, he’s able to take some of that weight saved, and redistribute material into areas that stand to improve the overall ride quality of the bike.

Textreme close up

Bikerumor: When you look closely at you Spread Tow fabric, what are the swirls you see on the carbon filaments?

Oxeon: Those swirls are a patented, proprietary element which act as a binder agent. We take that binder and we put it on the tapes which helps to keep all the fibers together, which in turn helps keep the fabric together. That means in the factory when they’re building the frames, the fabric is much easier to work with. If it didn’t have this binder, it would want to come apart. If you’ve ever gotten a snag in a sweater, if you could imagine it would sort of be the same thing with the carbon if the binder wasn’t there to keep all of the individual filaments in place during manufacturing.

Felt Bikes Mountain Road 2014 (30)

Bikerumor: Is Felt the only bike company using your carbon for frames? (The answer to this question has changed since the time of the interview – Kemo bikes has introduced a frame using TeXtreme, and it wasn’t a frame but Shimano PRO athletes raced on a TeXtreme equipped Disc wheel in the Tour de France.)PRO-TeXtreme®-disc-wheel

Oxeon: At the moment, yes, Felt is the only bicycle company using TeXtreme. We do not have an exclusive with them, but Felt was one of the early adopters and they’ve been great to work with. Last year they had one model, and this year they have 5 models now. This sends a great message to the industry about our product, and at retail gives them something truly unique in carbon technology.

There is also the unique look to the carbon, though the cosmetic is really just an added bonus, with the most important aspect being the performance of the fabric and what the fabric does.

Bikerumor: Does spread tow carbon fabric open the possibilities for future frame design?

Oxeon: Sure. We certainly think so due to the fact that since our carbon allows quite a bit of weight to be removed from certain sections of the bike while still retaining the strength, it really allows you to tailor the frame design to individual styles of riders to make a better performing bike.

Felt Textreme Mountain bikes 2014 (1)

Comments

pile-on - 10/30/13 - 11:45am

[deleted]

Andrew - 10/30/13 - 12:04pm

The article makes it a bit confusing, but 0/90 and 45/45 are the same fabric, yes?

Tom - 10/30/13 - 12:14pm

Depends on how you cut it, andrew.

Tyrone - 10/30/13 - 12:14pm

@Andrew – yes, just laid down on a different axis. Take a square piece of paper and hold it on opposite edges and bend it (that’s 0-90) then grab it by diagonal corners and bend it (that +/-45). You’ll have to imagine there are woven strands running parallel to the 4 edges.

K11 - 10/30/13 - 1:00pm

i wonder where these felt frames are manufactured? is it sweden? to protect it from being copied.

kurti_sc - 10/30/13 - 1:07pm

The Felt bikes look pretty nice with this fiber. But I gotta say, the Nie Brothers are known for thier clever wrapping and patterns at tube joints. They could probably add another dimension of – oh man, that is sweet lookin – to thier frames with this material.
Will this technology be licensed to other producers (er, converters) or how would that work in the bike industry? Would we see Enve carbon with this material, for example?

PMRocha - 10/30/13 - 1:15pm

Berria Bikes, a Spanish-suice company also launched a road frame with TeXtreme! The Berria Belador Team for 2014.Its impressive this carbon

JasonK - 10/30/13 - 1:37pm

This is somewhat interesting, but not as ground-breaking as the article makes it out to be. 0/90 weaves are almost always cosmetic layers; if it’s strength/stiffness you’re after, you’d do better with two separate unidirectional layers at 0 degrees and 90 degrees.

What Textreme offers is a cosmetic layer with a higher fiber:resin ratio than standard 0/90 weaves. It’s lighter than a standard weave, but not as light as two separate plies.

This is good and laudable, but one shouldn’t forget that a part fabricated exclusively from 0/90 fibers is something of a failure from a design perspective. Mechanical engineers who work with carbon fiber (FWIW, I’m one) call this “black aluminum,” and it’s a derogatory term. Parts made this way typically have a strength-to-weight ratio quite similar to parts made out of aluminum, but they are much more expensive to make and buy. Worse–at least to me–it’s an indication that the designer didn’t take advantage of the unique material properties of carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber is anisotropic, which means it’s stronger and stiffer in one direction than another. It works best in places where the stresses are also anisotropic, like rims and frames. This is why carbon fiber stems aren’t typically the lightest ones: the stresses on a stem are semi-isotropic. That is, stems are stressed in bending (in two axes) and torsion in roughly equal amounts. In contrast, a tubular rim is stressed almost exclusively in circumferential bending.

Large stresses in one direction suit a material that is strongest and stiffest in one direction. If your stresses are essentially isotropic, there’s no advantage to going to an anisotropic material.

In these terms, 0/90 weaves are pseudo-isotropic. They’re very pretty, and sometimes structurally useful, but rarely the optimum arrangement. To be fair to Oxeon, the amount of marketing spin in this interview is pretty reasonable. There is some spin, but they don’t make any outrageous or demonstrably false claims.

Andrew - 10/30/13 - 1:56pm

@Tyrone, thanks for the confirmation. On rereading the article I actually noticed the bit where they discuss turning it…whoops!

1Pro - 10/30/13 - 2:02pm

1k spread (Oxeon) has been used in the industry for a tad longer than say ’13…

oh, if the advantages over typical weave are so great(and it is) than orienting UD as you need is even better. so what is the point?

1Pro - 10/30/13 - 2:04pm

sorry, meant then not than…

Rivet - 10/30/13 - 3:16pm

You see textreme in Formula 1 but it’s used in low stress applications like body panel and such.

Dr. Badtouch - 10/30/13 - 3:40pm

@JasonK – Well stated.

Black aluminum, hahaha. Haven’t heard that one before.

Rob - 10/30/13 - 5:47pm

The third figure down is a joke. Traditional woven carbon is nowhere near that distorted! It’s too stiff to bend like that.

This smells like a lot of marketing junk to me. Anyone remember carbon nano tubes in your forks?!

1Pro - 10/30/13 - 7:30pm

Rob sorry but you are wrong. when a symmetrical tow bundle is woven there is significantly more crimp in each over/under than i the case of the “spread tow” of the same K count. don’t get me wrong, i think what they are trying to do is better addressed with the use of UD material. however spread tow does have clear merit over tradition woven broad goods. but… apple to apples? no. if you look at the FAW of say a traditional 3k PW its around 300gsm but a 3k spread such as this is probably less than 100gsm(correct me) therefore if using it structurally, you’d need more plies. carbon is carbon and you need what you need regardless of how its “spread”.

if it is purely for cosmetics then it is clearly better than a traditional 3k PW.

mike - 10/31/13 - 12:48am

Logic presented in this article tells exactly why textreme is inferior to plain old ud, which looks better than anything woven anyway imo.

Argh - 10/31/13 - 3:34am

But main question – can you easely win TDF, Giro? Is there any significant advantage? I think – no.. Only grams/stiffnes.. that’s all.. pure marketing.

Bekks - 10/31/13 - 8:26am

@JasonK – I think you missed a couple things. Strength to weight may be similar for Al and carbon, but stiffness multiplied by the polar moment (EI) to weight is much better for carbon. I agree that you could theoretically design the best frame with strictly UD, but the manufacturability of that makes it unrealistic. Even Formula 1 and Space X use a lot of woven fabric because it is so much easier to use rather than UD.
@Rob – Just wait, you’ll hear a lot more about carbon nanotubes before long.
@Argh – Saving grams and improving stiffness is not at all marketing, it is performance. We build a 150 kg car and always look to save grams. They are building a 10 kg bike and saving grams.
@1Pro – Your numbers 300 gsm to 100 gsm are a little exaggerated, but I could believe 2 to 1. You would certainly need more plies, but you don’t quite need to match gsm’s because of the improved properties with less crimping. This again means more manufacturing time and I think it has a part to play in why TeXtreme is not used as much for primary structures (F1).

mAEssiv - 10/31/13 - 12:13pm

As a homebuilder/hobbyist, what I like best about this is that binder agent, looks like it would be way easier to get clean cuts without frayed edges vs. typical woven cloth. Would be great to use in small amounts over UD for a nice smooth finish. Too bad, cause I don’t expect to get my sticky mitts on their cloth anytime soon.

JasonK - 10/31/13 - 2:02pm

Bekks, I’m not sure I follow. Plenty of wonderful frames are made exclusively with unidirectional fiber; I rode one this morning. In what way is manufacturing UD frames unrealistic, and how have so many manufacturers (e.g., Cervelo, Parlee, Canyon, etc.) managed to get around this supposedly insurmountable obstacle?

1Pro - 10/31/13 - 2:50pm

exaggerated? i dont think so. a symmetrical 3k bundle is less than 2mm diam when compacted. spread that 3k tow to a 10mm+ width and the thickness(directly correlates to FAW) will be less than 1/3rd. i work with this crap 50 hrs a week. i’m not assuming anything or playing armchair composites guy.

Rob - 10/31/13 - 3:52pm

Bekks,

I’m a research scientist at the University of Bristol, in their advanced composites centre. ACCIS. I have been working with composite for six years and my specialty is particulate modification. I can tell you, with no hesitation, and with numerous studies to back my view, that nano tubes are very unlikely to ever offer increased performance in composites. If anything they often reduce fracture toughness while significantly increasing cost.

1pro, I have seen too many SEMs of cured woven carbon to tell you that the depicted warping in that picture is very exadurated.

PeterFal - 10/31/13 - 8:42pm

I don’t see any structural advantage using this checkered product.

The best layup uses a select number of layers of a given gsm (grams/sq meter) in the designed layup direction. Unidirectional is used almost exclusively because the fibers are never crimped, but lay flat, yielding the best strength. A woven fabric, while the easiest to layup because is forms easily to a mold and doesn’t fall apart, is always the least strength to weight because each crimp is mm apart as the illustration shows. The checkered pattern has been around for years and is just a cosmetic layer.

Using this product as the cometic layer requires a compromise in structural strength because you place for the best cosmetic effect, not structural. But is is not all cometic, you get something out of it.

Where this product may hold a negligible advantage is that they are able to make this product very thin by using the swirling binder filaments to help hold it together during the layup. So the cometic layer is very thin. But, the article does not say what the gsm is. My guess is 150gsm which is paper thin. Working with something thinner is too difficult and not necessary.

Thats it.

bekks - 10/31/13 - 11:44pm

I shouldn’t have jumped into this discussion as I don’t know anything about bikes; I came to the article from the TeXtreme side of things.
@JasonK – I looked up a couple of the bikes you mentioned and it seems that they are making very good use of UD. I’m impressed and I would be quite curious to see their manufacturing process.
@1Pro – You had a “correct me” after your statement about the gsm’s, so I did. I agree with your math assuming it is a 3k tow spread to 10 mm, but that is not the case. Maybe it is possible to spread a 3k that thin, but TeXtreme does not do it and that leads me to believe that no one else does. They are spreading probably a 15k tow to 10 mm, which is about 100 gsm. Your 300 gsm for a 3k PW seems heavy to me, we’re both talking about dry fabric right?

1Pro - 11/01/13 - 12:22am

bekks, thanks for pointing out what they actual weave. we were both right and then some.

High Strength carbon fabrics:
From 12k – 64 gsm, 80 gsm, 160 gsm and 240 gsm
From 15k – 100 gsm and 200gsm
From 24k – 160 gsm and 320 gsm
From Heavy tows – 200 gsm and up

Intermediate modulus carbon fabrics:
From 18k – 76 gsm and 152 gsm
From 24k – 82 gsm and 164 gsm

High modulus carbon fabrics:
From 12k – 60 gsm and 130 gsm

Jurgen Pran - 11/01/13 - 7:12am

This is not the only Spread Tow option in the market right now.

Dave Kolosek - 11/01/13 - 12:30pm

Hi, I’m Dave Kolosek and I am Oxeon’s North American Sales Manager for the Sporting Goods category. I, along with our Technical Services Manager, Jim Glaser, had the opportunity to speak with Zach of bikerumor.com regarding the technology behind our TeXtreme® carbon fiber fabric during Felt’s rollout to the press of their 2014 line. We appreciate Zach’s article and after reviewing the reader comments, I’d like to add some clarification to help address some of readers’ questions.

“The article makes it a bit confusing, but 0°/90° and 45°/45° are the same fabric, yes?” Yes and No…our fabric comes on rolls that measure 1 meter wide by 100 meters long. A majority of these rolls are made at 0°/90° orientation where the 0° tapes run parallel to the length of the roll and the 90° tapes run parallel to the width of the material. Typically, this 0°/90° can be cut and rotated 45° during manufacturing to create a 45°/45° (more commonly referred to as ±45) orientation. While it’s not readily used in bike frame construction, we also have the ability to manufacture a 1m x 100m roll of fabric where the tape orientation is at a ±45 orientation for the entire roll. This option is ideal for a product which is very long, such as a ski.

“What TeXtreme® offers is a cosmetic layer with a higher fiber: resin ratio than standard 0/90 weaves. It’s lighter than a standard weave, but not as light as two separate plies.” – While it is true that TeXtreme® is not as light as two separate UD plies, TeXtreme® comes in lower fiber areal weights (FAW) than typical commercially available unidirectional carbon fiber plies (UD). In many cases, designers have found that they can often replace four plies of UD with one layer of TeXtreme® thereby allowing the designer greater flexibility in tailoring the laminate to meet the needs of their application. Additionally, independent testing has shown that TeXtreme® has less than .01% knock down in stiffness over a cross ply of UD – or in layman’s terms, TeXtreme® is essentially as stiff as one ply of 0° and one ply of 90°. It is also worth mentioning that woven fabrics provide a number of benefits over UD such as impact resistance and its ability to drape over curved surfaces. Also, we feel that we are on the right path with our spreading and weaving technologies as recent research at Airbus and Boeing have clearly shown that thin plies (lower FAW) are able to improve the laminate’s ability to handle the strains which initiate cracks within the laminate.

“The checkered pattern has been around for years and is just a cosmetic layer.” The “cosmetic look” of TeXtreme® is a direct result of our technology of weaving tapes to create the fabric. At this time, we use a plain weave setup to create a checkerboard-like fabric and we also use a “twill” weave setup which creates more of a step-like look. Each of these setups has their own unique benefits and therefore, we recommend a particular weave to our customers based upon the goals for their specific application. With that said, I think the fact that Formula 1® and NASCAR® teams, along with the ORACLE TEAM USA America’s Cup boat all chose to use TeXtreme® over other carbon fiber options, lends credence to the benefits of TeXtreme®. These teams are on a constant search for new materials which will give them an advantage over their competitors. Contrastly, the consumer products market seeks a balance between technology and aesthetics in order to create a marketing story to support the sale of the products.

Happy Riding!

JasonK - 11/01/13 - 1:48pm

These are fair points…I appreciate the Oxeon’s direct engagement with our questions and comments. Cheers.

1Pro - 11/01/13 - 1:54pm

then you’all need to learn bicycles cause +/-45 is where its at relative to 0 as tube axis.

“While it’s not readily used in bike frame construction”

compositepro - 11/01/13 - 4:58pm

I think the fact that Formula 1® and NASCAR® teams, along with the ORACLE TEAM USA America’s Cup boat all chose to use TeXtreme® over other carbon fiber options, lends credence to the benefits of TeXtreme

surely if it was such an advantage and there is no exclusivity there with felt would more than one bicycle company bringing a frame to market not lend credence to the textreme product, I know others are looking at it through european/taiwan channels

Citing F1 is a bit of PR glorification on your part ,i worked inside F1 for long enough to see where we specify textreme

1Pro - 11/01/13 - 10:46pm

cosmetics compositepro?

bekks - 11/02/13 - 12:27am

I don’t think you could accuse F1 teams of using any cosmetic carbon. It doesn’t seem to be on the primary structure though.

JonB - 11/02/13 - 10:01pm

Great to see Oxeon coming in and answering questions.

I’ll concur on the impact performance of woven over UD carbon fiber – I was working on tubular composite applications with high impact loading on very small contact areas, and we saw significant improvements in using an outer woven layer over two +45/-45 UD tapes, especially for repeated impacts. For a downtube application, I’d definitely be testing a woven outer layer, and not just for appearance.

Dave Kolosek - 11/03/13 - 2:13pm

@JonB – we’ve also seen instances that using TeXtreme as the inner most layer can futher improve impact strength. and/or improve manufacturing methods with regards to moulds and internal mandrels or bladders.

@compositepro… in addition to Felt’s 2014 offering, TeXtreme can also be found in Shimano’s disc wheel that was ridden by Team Sky and other Shimano teams throughout this year’s Tour de France and other 2013 races. Campy’s Fulcrum disc wheel is also using TeXtreme. You’ll potentially see it used in future brands as well. Unlike professional motorsports which can implement new materials into their cars within a couple of weeks, consumer products have a number of factors to consider (product lifecycles, product line management, retail and wholesale margins, factory minimums etc) before adding new materials, designs or models. For instance, I was meeting with a bike brand last week which told me that their 2014 and 2015 linea had already been decided and therefore, 2016 would be the first product year in which they could consider incorporating TeXtreme. Outside of cycling, you can find TeXtreme in Bauer’s hockey stick line and in the recently introduced in the new british built e-Go ultralite aircraft.

http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/update/2013-10-30/first-british-plane-to-be-built-in-years-makes-maiden-flight-over-norfolk/

compositepro - 11/04/13 - 3:21pm

Hey Dave

Im not saying its a bad product it has its uses and also its advocates and detractors, (disclaimer other tow spread fabrics are available)

I’m well aware as to the product lifecycle of the bicycle frame, my meetings with bicycle companies tend to be how do we fix this or what is the newest technology and am well aware of companies looking and asking outside the tech liason in taiwan representing Oxeon as to its capabilities

I suppose I’m lucky in that yes we do get to run with a ball in F1 and try things in days as opposed to months and with that the bicycle industry has been slow to adapt what we would define as modern technology, however we set up a UK bicycle tech shop recently to aleviate this tiny wrinkle between whats possible how fast it can be achieved and how much people think it costs, already we have discussed things with claudio villalobos and companies which produce things the bike world maybe hasn’t noticed yet.

As for the little plane again 20 years ago we were building the Rutan Vari eze very similar and i had already seen the textreme being implemented very early on in the design process of that aircraft

all the best with it

Dave Kolosek - 11/04/13 - 8:08pm

Composite Pro – no offence taken…I’ve enjoyed the exchange

Cheers

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