Carbon Component Finish Outsourcing

by Glenn Reeves on July 11, 2012

finishing bicycle carbon rim

Carbon rims being inspected. Any tiny flaws are then fixed.

Sabinna headed out to a components service supplier recently.  Customers were waiting on frame orders. The frames were ready but not the forks. So the new order of forks needed to  be processed and then painted asap. It was a case of  having to give them a bit of a prod to move the production through the queue.

Actually, I recall  a painter, Teddy, over on the southside that handles a lot of big name contracts. It was getting near Chinese New Year a while back and so close to the time that the whole line shuts down for nine days as it was that year. Naturally the paint line was choc-a-block with frames plus all the orders that were piling up at the front of the warehouse.

What do you do in this situation? Well let’s see how all this looks from the painter’s point of view. You find that you are getting lots of visits from customers. They rock along with a bottle of wine, or maybe a top-of-the-line selection of pastries. Bingo. Bonanza.

Depending on how many people play this game, you can find it hard to get a seat and offer your salutations and “Good Fortune in the New Year”. The owner’s wife is run off her feet into the bargain preparing tea for guests and getting a tad on the cranky side despite herself–always the exemplary hostess.

Rolling up to Teddy’s office just the once won’t do it though. It’s by putting in an appearance every day that magical things can happen. Not really all that much to do with the gifts mind you.  The turning up every day gig is really what’ll do it. Anyhow the production was moved through double time.

Now, this time it’s not near to New Year. But, same principle. Turn up and inquire as to ‘how things are going’, eventually getting round to the issue of ‘time is of the essence’ wink wink, nudge nudge.

Before we get into particular workshop that is the subject of today’s post, here is a little bit of background for readers who are may not be quite clear on the nature of the bicycle component manufacturing industry in Taiwan. (You might want check out this post on the subject as well)

What you have is hundreds of workshops in a hierarchy that tops out with the big brands such as Focus, Bianchi or De Rosa etc. It’s a very broad base of a steep-sided pyramid as you scale-up in enterprise size.

The big brands don’t make their own forks. They contract one of the large companies in Taiwan to take care of most of it taking place in China of course. (Fritz Jou for example).  Such a company may well do some processing in its own workshop. A lot, if not most, will be outsourced down the line, and some of these suppliers will outsource particular processes themselves, and further along again, sideways rather than “down” at this level though.

One very important set of processes for carbon forks is the finish. The factory that lays up the carbon and bakes it will send the rough product to be ‘finished. Generalizing, the rough edges are taken off and any imperfections smoothed over. It also involves, as part of a multi-stage process,  filling any slight depressions or pinholes with a special compound being one crucial stage.

This particular workshop is one of many that does this processing. It has been around for over 30 years. The most junior worker here has been around not less than 6 years. Most staff have been doing their thing here for over 20 years. They are extremely skilled at what they do and its pretty hard to get a replacement.

carbon fork processing

Forks waiting for the final touches

Here a batch of forks are waiting to be worked.

bicycle carbon component finish

Getting a finer and finer finish takes patience and skill

It’s a matter of careful observation, working over what needs extra attention. This is really important since you don’t want the painter rejecting items off the line because they have not been prepared properly. Or worse, the painted item comes out of the clear coat with pinholes or bubbles.

FSA crank carbon component

FSA have a range of cranks done here. Edison eases his way through the stack as he gives them the treatment.

fsa crank processing

Bianchi forks

Bianchi forks ready to be boxed up

If all goes well, then a successful paint job will result. When it comes to the paint job, there’s an awful lot riding on this workshop’s conscientious attention to detail.

Forks painted polished
Forks painted, polished, packaged

Boxed up and ready to go.

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