Welcome to Taiwan. We're diving deep inside the Banshee Bikes factory to take a closer look at how a frame is made. Jay MacNeil is here to play tour guide.
To begin, Banshee's engineer, Keith Scott, submits his 3D models and 2D technical drawings created using powerful CAD programs. All designs come to the factory floor as 1:1 scale technical drawings for every frame size and sub-assembly.
The prototype process allows Banshee to test and refine their designs. Jay is holding a first generation Prime 29er, which saw several changes prior to production.
Here's an early version of Banshee's modular dropout system, which provide an easy way to make geometry adjustments and hub size changes. The design was improved prior to production, and now uses "flip chips."
An initial mock-up is made and laid on top of the 1:1 drawing to assure proper spacing, alignment, and overall compliance with the intended design.
When production is approved, all hydroformed tubes need to be mitred and seat tubes and stays need to be bent from raw stock to exact specifications. This process is also completed by hand.
Finished tubes are put through a series of cleaning baths to remove any contamination prior to welding and brazing. Final brazing of cable guides is a two person process.
A separate jig must be custom made for each welded component of a frame. A suspension frame will require at least two for each size, while more complicated designs may require several more.
With all frame parts cut, bent, forged, hydroformed, machined, and cleaned, initial tack welding can finally begin.
With the tubes tack welded in place, a worker uses custom made tools to check for alignment and a good old fashioned mallet to make corrections before heat treatment.
Frames and swingarms in various stages of completion hand all around the factory. The fabrication process is labor intensive: tack weld, align, full weld, align, T4 heat treat, align, T6 heat treat, align... lather, rinse, repeat.
This swingarm is the process of getting its final weld. Banshee uses 7005 aluminum which is a harder material than 6061. This means there's less flexibility to move it around after a weld has been made, so it requires more precision to work with.
Years of welding experience come together on every frame.
Additional alignment checks are made prior to and after each heat treatment process.
This batch of frames awaits the T6 heat treatment, which greatly improves the strength of the alloy.
While frames are being welded and treated, CNC machines are running full time machining smaller components. This was the only process not done by hand.
This huge tumbler is used to finish sharp edges of aluminum components at various stages in the production process.
Scrap aluminum is collected and reused. Waste not, want not.
Completed swingarms await paint and final assembly.
Bearing installation and assembly is also completed entirely by hand with arbour presses. This assures that minor flaws can be addressed and quality controls are maintained. Jay keeps an eye on the entire process, start to finish.
An in-house fatigue test lab is used to test prototype and production frames, ensuring they'll stand up to abuse on the trail.
The test lab is pretty impressive. The tests themselves cover a wide variety of use and abuse scenarios.
A 3D scanner is used to create a digital rendering of the finished frame and compares it to the original computer design. This allows the engineers to see how close their real world design resembles the ideal computer model.
The modular dropouts are boxed and included with frame shipments. These allow riders to choose between 26-inch or 650B wheel sizes, as well as various hub options.
From drawings to reality... Stay tuned for the unveiling of another all-new 2013 model from Banshee Bikes in the near future. It's a good one!