Posted by Editoress on 01/23/13
Canadian Cyclist was the only Canadian publication invited to attend a factory tour last fall in Taiwan, hosted by TAITRA, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council. TAITRA administers the Taipei Cycle show, the third largest bike industry show in the world (after Eurobike and Interbike), and the largest for manufacturers (Eurobike and Interbike are mainly for retailers). Here is one of our factory visits - to read the overview to our visit and access all the articles, go to the main page Here
One of the most interesting factory visits was to Gigantex, a carbon fibre components manufacturer. They produce carbon wheelsets under their own brand Equinox, but also provide OEM production for numerous brand names. They were circumspect about providing names of their clients, but SRAM, Mavic, Look and others have used them for components such as cranks, while Planet X and Cole are brands that use them for wheels (there are definitely others). 90% of production is for OEM clients.
Gigantex is more than just an assembly plant for carbon products; one of the highlights of the tour was seeing a $3 million dollar unit that is used to create unidirectional carbon sheets from narrow strips of carbon fibre material. According to general manager Steve Lee, the machine is only run five days per month, creating a month's supply of carbon sheets that are used in the layup of component production. Mr Lee admitted that the economic downturn has hurt the demand for carbon products, saying that Gigantex was down 20% in revenue for 2012.
Founded in 1998, Gigantex began carbon rim production in 2004 (the first in Taiwan) and by 2010 had two plants in Taiwan and one in the Czech Republic. Currently they produce 5000 wheels per month, well down from their capacity of 30,000 wheels per month. Wheels account for 50% of production, followed by cranks at 30%. The rest of production is made up of handlebars, seatposts, seat stays, forks, and a few frames (mainly under their own Equinox brand name).
Most cyclists would be surprised at how labour intensive carbon manufacturing is, with workers hand laying up sheets of carbon material with pre -reg around forms. At this point, items have no rigidity to them; it isn't until they are cured that they approach final form. After this, they also have to be sanded and polished, receive decals and usually be clear coated before they approach the final version you see on a bike.
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