MSC+AMADE - The Perfect Collaboration

Amade-MSC Collab – The perfect Marriage.

Translation from SOLOBICI 254

MSC has long since changed the ways they are presenting their bikes and components to the public. Knowing the difficulties in facing the big national and international brands in our industry and the efforts of keeping up the pace with the presentations and new products, MSC have chosen to make their own guidelines, carve their own path and invent their own rules.

With this new philosophy MSC have decided to invest 100% in the midrange and high-end bicycle sector, this specific type of customer is looking for a high-quality, high technology, and also something very unique. As a result of this new philosophy, several seasons ago the Gavà based company stopped low-end bicycles and stopped constantly renewing its catalog every few months. This has allowed MSC engineers to focus on more ambitious projects, increasing durability, both in it’s development and create a product that lasts and presents well for many years. In short, MSC can develop models that can be run for several seasons without having to have them renewed every 10months. The bike models are only updated which offer a technical advantage rather than just a new sticker pack or paint scheme.

Clearly, MSC has also committed much more in developing its line of apparel and accessories, every day it is growing and growing at a brutal pace, and that has MSC placed as one of the leading companies in the sector.

Aeronautics and bikes

To focus on the high-end market on both bikes and accessories, MSC needed to add high-value to their accomplishments to make the end consumer see a product that was not only beautiful but very durable. Furthermore, since most of these products are made exclusively, ie Carbon Molds, MSC designers and engineers decided that they must have a laboratory specializing in this type of material,  not only having extensive knowledge in the manufacturing processes for better understanding with the factory in Taiwan, but also assist in the design, development and testing for quality and durability.

The decision initiated by Marcel Gras, MSC engineer who studied at the University of Girona, contacted AMADE (Analysis and Advanced Materials for Structural Design) which sparked this collaboration. A laboratory attached to the university complex has Montilivi Campus, which conducts research for many years in oriented design with composite materials, the numerical simulation of the mechanical and structural design and machine design. That is, they develop much of its work with composite materials like carbon and major aerospace companies in the world, and to note AMADE is working on obtaining Nadcap certificate (maximum), which gives the PRI, an organization global composite aircraft manufacturers Airbus, Boeing and GE Aviation, among others, and that only three Spanish laboratories currently hold.

A meeting prior to the development of the study determines the place where to put the small gauges (sensors), which is one of the most delicate points of the process. Later this becomes a dynamic test and the results, after which it may be established that point works near the limit.

MSC Blast – The New Step

Eager to explore new fields and apply their knowledge, there was no hesitation for AMADE to start working closely with MSC, which has led to the first MSC-AMADE collaboration developed bicycle.

The AMADE studies were performed over several months and have focused on finding the points at which the Blast Bici is approaching the limits of structural strength in times of extreme stress, ie those that exceed the margin of error that all manufacturers design into their bikes and components.

To perform these analyses, the engineers placed a special strain gauges (AMADE sensors), eight in total, at points of maximum stress on the frame of the Blast. The highly sensitive sensors were placed at specific points which are susceptible to cracks, impacts, degradation or are subjected to forces of nonlinear torque, either by weight or by deformation.

10 minutes with... Marc Gascons i Tarrés (to the right of the picture) | Sebas Romero

The importance of the sensors

Much of the time spent in the testing labs was dedicated to designing specific sensors for the Blast, since by its working-deformation generates a voltage level which in turn is reinterpreted in numbers-needed to be in direct contact with the carbon fibers, so all paint and varnish had to be completely removed. In fact the whole carbon surface is stripped back to expose the first layer of carbon. A very difficult and time consuming task, as any item that is used to attach the sensor to the first layer of carbon may even distort the data. A delicate and time consuming process but the results have been worthwhile.

Another problem that had to overcome was the transmission of the data that generated all the sensors to the host computer and the environment where they performed. At the end we chose to use a wireless transmitter located in a fully padded box with a thick layer of foam, which is anchored to the seat post and resides under the rear part of the saddle and design a tightly controlled tour on the campus of the university.

The truth is that we expect a path up the mountain with rocks, curves, jumps, etc.., But as lead Engineer Marc Gascons explained, director of the Engineering Department would be impossible to manage all data you provide uneven ground steadily as in this first phase will require a controlled points of force and torque and a tour completely repetitive to make comparisons. A baseline set of variables was required to be the benchmark for future testing. Believe it or not, the data offered by the gauges are much more reliable in a more regular than in the mountain itself.

The result

One objective of this study was to know what forces undergo certain points of the bike, but at the same time, to know how to they interact with each other, how the deformation or excessive rigidity of a particular part of the structure affects the rest of the elements.

Following this extensive testing procedure, the new Blast passed with high marks, as only the area of the weakness was the brake caliper arch on the rear rocker arm. The reading was very close to the limit under extremely hard braking; as a result of this there have been modifications to the final production models to reinforce this area and a change layup of fibres.

What can make a mark as AMADE to MSC?

We specialize in composite materials and their characterization; we conduct calculations and forecasts of structural failure.

Based on research projects we generate public and private knowledge that subsequently transmit the industry both nationally and internationally. Working with a lab like this is an added value not only give the result, but we understand, interpret and extrapolate it to the customer, ie we have as travel companions when developing products.

Is AMADE considered an elite laboratory?

To work in aeronautics at the highest level requires more certificates like ISO 2001 and 17025, but there are known Nadcap accreditation, which is the ultimate in aviation and have only three Spanish laboratories. During this year we want to get that certification, and we believe we are on the right track. When you get the the same certification like rest of the companies in this sector you know that you meet the quality requirements for the aircraft industry, which is very, very demanding. Let's say you become a most trusted laboratory at the highest level.

In a case like this where you work on a project already started, what kind of benefit you can provide?

Since the bike is made, the purpose is to transfer the knowledge we have in this group after our analysis to MSC and add value to the product to make it better, more competitive, and so on. More important than the work done on a particular product is to transfer our knowledge to their engineers, as both are more efficient in interacting with suppliers, which is important when it comes to materials like carbon.

Why can’t the evidence in the mountains or on a lab "torture" be  performed routinely?

The dynamic tests are more effective than those made on a test-rig, because there you have a very controlled, very perfect, you know the burden you enter a very specific line. In contrast, in the mountains is a total mess, a chaos, the forces come from all sides, etc.. Doing it in a more controlled environment away from us a bit of reality, but allows us to draw conclusions and data more easily. We try to approach the reality knowing that reality is a mess. What we have done today is to find a controlled environment to be aware of what happened at the time, we create a benchmark for future testing. A half lab tested environment and a half real-time environment test.

What conclusions can you draw on a day like today?

We will know how to deform the point where the sensor is located. This data is extrapolated and we know how far the limit is the material is for a specific area. We can slightly modify the carbon layup or alter the design to minimise weight and optimise strength. For example, the sensor located on the brake has already detected which is near the limit of the material, and therefore recommend a review of the laminate.

Why is it so critical positioning sensor?

The correct sensor location accounts for 40% of the test. When we tested a tube or a separate sheet, the positioning is relatively unimportant because we assume that it will behave equally throughout its length. But on a bike several critical points needs to be heavily examined. For example, after this first trial, and pending the final outcome, you may perform a series of modifications to take more data and better support the study.

How difficult was the process of installing sensor gauges?

The installation of the gauges was not a simple task of sticking on a sensor and collecting data, the gauges are extremely delicate. We had an engineer working full time for six weeks concentrating on the position and shape to accurately and effective “hook” into the carbon fibres. It was a very laborious process but worth the effort.

How different was your work comparable to the work in F1 or MotoGP?

Yes, it is comparable to the telemetry in behaviour of the chassis just like what the big teams are doing in F1 and MotoGP.