Plastic Innovation of Austria is hoping to resurrect the 1980s idea of injection-molded cycle frames. Such frames used to snap, made by companies which flopped in more ways than one.
"The business model of Plastic Innovation GmbH combines two major innovations," claims the company. "The implementation of the bicycle industry's new method of manufacturing frames using injection molding together with the innovative business model of rethinking bicycle design."
In fact, injection moulding has a long history in bicycle manufacturing. One of the first was made from injection-molded Lexan in 1973. The Original Plastic Bike Inc had been founded in 1971, and took out magazine adverts, but it sold very few, if any, of its proposed products.
The most famous plastic bicycle (if we discount carbon composite bicycle frames, that is) was the Itera bicycle of Sweden. This was born from a massive 1978 grant from the Swedish National Board for Technical Development. By 1980 a rideable bicycle – of sorts – was demonstrated by the Itera Development Center AB, and in the following year the first mass-produced Itera bikes were shown to prospective retailers and to the press.
However, many of the frames and plastic components snapped in use, most of the parts were proprietary and therefore difficult replace, and the Itera was said to be uncomfortable to ride. Nevertheless, it's estimated that in the four years the Itera was made 30,000 units were sold around the world.
The benefits of an injection-molded cycle frame are obvious – manufacturing is swift (just pop them out of mold every minute or so), and they won't rust. Complex shapes can also be achieved.
So, if Plastic Innovation GmbH has truly figured out a way to mass-produce rideable, long-lasting, non-floppy injection-molded cycle frames it would be on to a winner. As reported by Cycling Industry News, the company has already won an award: its “bicycle of the future” concept bagged an Austrian Greenstart gong.
The company's website is yet to be populated. However, from the awards information it appears that the company is seeking to mainly license its technology rather than make its own products. "The awareness of the new design options must first be created at the OEMs," says a company blurb.
"Our services accompany the customer from the design to the manufacturing process in the sense of integral planning with the aim of placing the product on the market in the best possible way."
Graphics in the video above show that Plastic Innovation has been working wih Peugeot to produce CAD drawings of its proposed frames, which could be made from recycled plastics.
Itera pic by Racerbyce