Sleek Designs from Santa Cruz Bicycles

A heavy 85 pound stack of weights comes crashing down on the mountain bike frame. It seems sure to break the bike as it just bounces on the carbon frame, but it does not. An employee picks up another of the expensive carbon fiber bike frames and swings it like a baseball bat into a steel post. The frame bounces off the post without a dent. Other manufacturers “stress test” their bicycles, but this is a bit insane.

Santa Cruz Bicycles is not your traditional bike maker, and its passion and design approach are transforming the industry and influencing others.

The transformation of American manufacturing is wide ranging. Some talk about changes heralding in a new industrial revolution, a new face of manufacturing. While it includes new machinery, such as the 3D printers we read about nearly every day, unlike the industrial revolution in the 1800’s, this new era is led by designers – more the craftsman, rather than the engineer, aided by advances in software technology. Santa Cruz Bicycles (SCB) exemplifies this new paradigm shift.

The carbon fiber frame is what sets Santa Cruz at the top of the bike world – it’s extremely lightweight and incredibly durable. A combination of high-tech material and technical prowess, built in a proprietary way explained on their website:

“By laying up and curing the front triangle all at the same time, and not assembling pieces together, we’re able to decrease the amount of material used by eliminating overlapping joints that have to be bonded or wrapped with carbon. Less material means fewer grams. This method is extremely expensive to do, since each size has to have a lot of dedicated tooling, nothing is shared between each size.”

Sounds like a traditional high-end craftsman working with the world’s highest tech materials, just quite a bit faster than the old world. A new design can be computer drafted, and a prototype built and tested in a matter of weeks.

The technology that makes the operation hum is in big part thanks to the soup to nuts design software that lets Santa Cruz Bicycles iterate their designs, add in new parts from partner manufacturers based on detailed specs, and generally keep the innovations spinning faster than the competition.

While exploring the new face of manufacturing, you can find companies of all kinds using technology to upgrade a manufacturing process to fit their ideas, but let’s be clear, the future isn’t so much about tech alone. Add into the mix two other important qualities: ingenuity and passion. Luckily, SCB has them in spades and that’s why Outside magazine rated them as one of the best places to work in 2013.

See the full article from Forbes.

Related Articles:

Santa Cruz Brings Bike Design to Kids

Santa Cruz Brings Bike Design to Kids

Image courtesy of Santa Cruz Bicycles

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