Building A Better Bike Frame

Building a bike requires an incredibly difficult process of welding and metal working. But does it have to?


Since project launch our team at Huge Design has been extremely interested in the art and culture around custom bike fabrication. We quickly got our hands dirty and immersed ourselves in the process of frame building. We observed the techniques that go into the builds and soon realized that these experienced builders were masters of an art form that began almost 200 years ago. As cyclists ourselves, we knew that any major changes to the concept of “The Bicycle” would need significant purpose to be deemed worthy within the cycling community. And as industrial designers we had the confidence that whatever design we brought to the table would both show respect to the art of frame building and introduce improvements to the build process at the right time and place.

Art meets technology

By leveraging our knowledge of 3-D tools and advanced fabrication techniques, we believe our ultimate utility bike will represent the future of bicycle production. Typically, a frame builder is required to mount various sizes of tubing to a complicated jig in order to obtain perfect frame geometry before welding. Then he or she must execute many difficult welds at each joint. This is followed by a brazening process where the builder blends each weld together to create a perfectly smooth surface. Our frame is constructed around three major lugs which eliminate these time consuming steps and improve the workflow of the custom bike builder.

3-D Printing–With Metal

We worked with Fineline Prototyping to create our revolutionary lugs using a high-tech 3-D metal printing process called Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). Here a thin layer of metallic powder is laid across a large printer bed followed by a high-powered laser which “draws” the form of the model we created in CAD. The laser welds the powder together only where it is needed and after multiple layers of printing, our solid parts are pulled out of the metal dust. Once we handed these parts off to our builders, production time was significantly reduced. Bike tubing plugs directly into the predetermined slots, automatically aligning themselves and eliminating the need for custom jigs. Then our builders perform simple circular welds which do not require any tedious brazening. The final frame maintains the form of a traditional bike but reveals the advanced technology that went into its production.

Huge Design has enjoyed learning the build trade from 4130 Cycle Works and collaborating with the engineers at Lime Lab to make the concept a reality. These final weeks will be busy, but we are looking forward to showing off the final results of our collaboration. Stay tuned!


About the author

Dan is an industrial designer at the San Francisco-based design firm HUGE Design.