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At the production level, every single carbon fiber frame bearing the Alchemy badge begins with our state-of-the-art CNC plotter. The plotter uses leading-edge cutting technology to create a proprietary blend of unidirectional shaped carbon fiber sheets for each tube and junction.
Every element at this stage is specific and unique to each frame and is at the very heart of Alchemy’s carbon offerings. Each layer and shape purposely designed and engineered to meet individual rider demands and requirements.
TUBE AND JOINT PRODUCTION AND MOLDING
From the plotter, the shaped carbon fiber sheets head to an array of custom CNC-machined molds, every one independently constructed to meet the design requirements for individual carbon fiber tubes. Custom bladders (made here in our Denver production studio) are placed within the carbon sheets and pressure is incrementally and painstakingly increased.
This molding process dictates the shape of the tube and the bladder holds the shape during the baking process. Extreme high pressures (and our demanding process of achieving them) keep all possible exterior imperfections of the frame tube at bay.
Once the pressure reaches the designated psi, our molds head to the heat press and the next stage of production. Carefully placed in the press, each individual component is cured to over 250 degrees. Each element is then removed from the press and subjected to quality control before moving to the next stage of production.
Assembled from scratch, shaped, formed, cured and then subjected to quality control, the tubes are then mitered, placed in a frame jig, and tacked together with high strength epoxy. Epoxy is a preliminary process used simply to tack the tubes together. It plays no role in the frame’s strength.
layup – the soul of the frame.
From the frame jig, the frame heads into layup. Each tube intersection is wrapped with remaining unidirectional carbon sheet shapes (again fabricated by our in-house plotter) uniquely produced for each frame. The layup procedure adds functional strength and the unique ride quality of each frame. Also of note is the cosmetic appeal to the final finished product. A great deal of the strength of our frames is achieved here with carbon pieces being strategically placed around the joints and carbon filler (a notorious deadener of ride quality) all but eliminated.
Hand laid carbon by one of Alchemy’s craftsmen.
Frames are then bagged and vacuumed. Vacuum bagging co-molds the new structural elements and seamlessly joins the additional carbon added to the tube intersections during the layup process. Frames are then once again placed in an oven, this time for 3 hours. This final baking stage allows the newly wrapped carbon fiber to properly adhere and cure.
Once the final curing process is completed, small parts such as cable stops and water bottle bosses are added. After this step and additional detailing each frame heads to our Ethic Paint Works facility where a clear coat is applied, cured, and the frame is sanded by hand.
Two extra layers of clear coat are then applied, each followed by additional hand-sanding. This time-consuming procedure levels the frame and properly preps it for final paint. Fillers such as Bondo or epoxy are never used for this. Clear coat adds minimal weight, but adds significant cosmetic appeal for which Alchemy is well-known.
Custom paint job from Ethic paint works.
Color is then applied with fine sanding taking place between each layer of color. This laborious process of blending layer upon layer of color results in rich, complex and nuanced color schemes. A final coat of clear properly spotlights the attention to detail and complexity of each colorway.
Epoxy is only used at the junction for holding the frame together – it is never used as a filler or cosmetic augmentation.
Many companies “ghost out” their carbon fiber, painting it matte black in order to hide imperfections. Alchemy prefers to showcase the carbon fibers within our frames. We believe that the carbon itself is a fundamental component of the craftsmanship and art inherent within each. As such, it should (and does) bear close scrutiny.
The large companies utilize epoxy, bondo, or add a cosmetic layer of carbon fiber at the intersection and therefore do not create true “tube-tube” carbon frames. Or, more often, they use lugged modules plugged together with epoxy. These methods of construction are both fast, cheap, and jeopardize the quality and integrity of the frame. The difference to the consumer is a noticeable downgrade in ride quality.