Century old bicycle technology may provide a stronger and lighter chassis for the Caterham Seven

Caterham has teamed up CAE consultant Simpact and bicycle tube-makers Renolds Technology to build a new lightweight frame for the Caterham Seven. It almost seems like a backward step in technology, but this new frame is actually made using the same butted tube technology used to build bicycles – a process that was patented by Renolds Technology back in 1897. According to the trio, the new frame design shaves 10 percent of the weight from the Seven’s chassis, and up to 50 percent of mass from some parts without any sacrifice to the chassis’ torsional stiffness or strength.

A prototype Caterham Seven debuted at the Niche Vehicle Network Symposium earlier this month, and from the look of things, the technology is almost ready to shift into production models. Caterham says optioning for this new lightweight frame on future Seven models should cost between £1,000 and £2,000. At current exchange rates, that would mean a premium somewhere between $1,444 and $2,889.

The CTO of Caterham Cars, Simon Lambert, said, "Caterham and Reynolds are two proudly British brands, and there is a real synergy between customers of Caterham and cycling enthusiasts, so it’s even better that the technology that has made this possible has come from the two-wheeled world."

According to Caterham, the technology can even be adopted by other companies that are currently using space frames. For now, the British automaker will continue to develop the prototype that debuted earlier this month, with a view to launch a production model using the new frame technology in “due course.”

Continue reading for the full story.

0Why it matters0

Caterham Will Use Bicycle Technology To Cut Weight
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Sure, Caterham still has some testing a development to do on this new frame technology, but should it prove to be as strong as, or stronger the current frame, this could be a revolutionary advancement. Considering the Caterham Seven is already lightweight as it is, dropping another 10 percent off of the overall weight will have significant advantages across the board. Less fuel will be needed, which means there will be a reduction of emissions output from each vehicle equipped with the new lightweight frame.

On top of that, performance figures should increase as well. The sprint to 60 mph could drop, and overall speed should go up a peg or two, and you really can’t complain about that. That said, I’m still skeptical at this point and will have to see proof that this frame is as strong or stronger than the current technology in use before I believe it. Until then, we’ll be watching the development of this new technology, so stay tuned for future updates.

02016 Caterham Seven 620S0

2016 Caterham Seven 620S
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Read our full review on the 2016 Caterham Seven 620S here.

Press Release

A trio of British companies has produced the world’s first car chassis using butted tubing technology taken from bicycle production.

Caterham Will Use Bicycle Technology To Cut Weight
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Famous bicycle tube-makers Reynolds Technology, high-quality Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) consultancy Simpact and sportscar maker Caterham Cars shaved more than 10% off the weight of the already lightweight chassis of the iconic Caterham Seven.

The research and development project unveiled a prototype Seven using the new technology and processes at the Niche Vehicle Network Symposium on Wednesday, March 16.

Caterham believes that an ultra-lightweight Seven using the new technology would cost between £1,000 and £2,000 as an option on the standard vehicle but could be taken up by as much as a fifth of future Caterham customers.

Reynolds, which first patented the process for making butted tubes in 1897, provided the tubing technology for the initiative and had to develop new tooling and processes. Meanwhile, Simpact Engineering conducted the virtual analysis and testing to derive the specification and positioning of butted tubing and Caterham built the first prototype car.

Butted tubes are thicker at the ends than in the middle, meaning that frames can be both strong and lightweight. By using low-cost mild steel rather than more ‘exotic’ alloys, the project made large mass reductions of up to 50% on some parts without losing any of the chassis’ torsional stiffness or strength.

Simon Lambert, CTO of Caterham Cars, said: “Caterham has made its name as a purveyor of lightweight sportscars but we believe more can always be done to reduce weight and, therefore, emissions.

“Caterham and Reynolds are two proudly British brands and there is a real synergy between customers of Caterham and cycling enthusiasts, so it’s even better that the technology that has made this possible has come from the two-wheeled world.”

Caterham Will Use Bicycle Technology To Cut Weight
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Tim Williams, director of SImpact Engineering, said: “The CAE models built and developed by Simpact provided a rapid and accurate assessment of design investigations and proved to be the only practical way to deliver the lightweight design in such a short period of time.”

Keith Noronha, Reynolds MD, said: “We have had to expand our capabilities to meet the technical challenges seen during the course of this collaborative project, and are delighted to see specifically-engineered butted tube now in use on the iconic Caterham Seven.”

Caterham will continue to develop the existing prototype vehicle, with a view to launching a production version in due course. The research and processes can also be adopted by other companies using spaceframes.

Grant support for the engineering and development project was provided by the Niche Vehicle Network, which offers innovation support to the UK’s vibrant niche and specialist vehicle manufacturing sector. The Network’s activities are funded by Innovate UK - the UK’s innovation agency, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

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