It all started with a fan blade...
And not just any fan blade, but a monocrystalline blade destined to join 19 others in a $42 million Rolls Royce Trent 1000 jet engine. We are fortunate to be located in Indianapolis, home of Rolls Royce jet engine North America located just down the road from SILCA.
Here I would learn about the amazing laser welding technology that had been developed to fabricate and repair titanium jet engine components, and I have to say that I sort of fell head over heels in love with this fascinating technology.
Why Laser Weld Titanium Cages?
For starters, laser welding offers more than 10 times tighter process control than we could achieve with a human welder, and this improvement in process control allows us to weld ever thinner walled tubing with ever higher certainty of achieving a perfectly perfect weld with essentially no Heat Affected Zone.
Why Thinner Walls?
With thinner walls, we can make the cage from larger diameter tubing, in this case, 6.35mm diameter 3/2.5 Ti tubing which is used for aircraft hydraulics. This tubing has 0.35mm wall thickness.. that’s the equivalent of 4 sheets of white copier paper!! For the seam-weld on the Ti sicuro cage, the laser can control the penetration depth of the weld to 0.005mm which allows us to perform the mythical Double-Pass weld.
What is Double Pass Welding?
Made famous in the bicycle industry by Moots and Eriksen, as the name implies, the Double-Pass weld involves welding each joint 2 times. The first pass is a deep penetrating weld to ensure the weld is penetrates and connects 100% of the material in the joint. The second pass welds a larger surface area of the substrate and builds a smooth (and beautiful) fillet of material between the two surfaces which also serves to reduce stress concentrations in the joint under heavy loading.
The downside of Double-Pass welding is that it requires exceptional skill and is only achievable by the finest of welders without adding too much heat to the weld which can embrittle the material. This is what’s known as the Heat Affected Zone or the HAZ.
Why No HAZ?
With titanium laser welding, there is virtually NO HAZ! Each pulse of the laser lasts 4 milliseconds, in which time the titanium hit by the laser pulse reaches 4000 degrees F and turns to nearly the viscosity of water, flowing together in a wave and then nearly instantly solidifying. The extreme process control allows us to run a first pass of some 60 pulses at full penetration depth ensuring the strongest possible weld, then overwelding with another 60 pulses of wider, lower penetration weld bead to create the smoothest possible transition from tubing to weld which reduces stress concentrators and makes for a more beautiful weld.
Similarly, the laser enables the most perfectly perfect welds between the 1.1mm thick mounting plate and the 0.35mm wall tubing. Each weld is done in 2 passes, first penetrating the full 0.35mm deep into the tubing (without blowout!) and a second pass building a smooth fillet of weld between the plate and weld for optimal strength and beauty.
Perhaps most amazing is that the welding process introduces so little heat into the part that you can touch the part right after welding as it isn’t even hot!! By eliminating more than 98% of the heat which would be put into the part by traditional welding methods, we can guarantee welds of the absolute highest strength and durability which is why we are able to extend our Lifetime PLUS 25 year SILCA Shield warranty to the Sicuro Ti cages.
Why SILCA Shield?
SILCA Shield is the strongest warranty coverage in all of cycling. It covers the buyer for life against manufacturing or materials defects PLUS covers fatigue and usage based failures for 25 years, which are the hidden pitfalls of the standard ‘Lifetime Warranty’.
Now that we have a world class technology to create the SICURO Titanium Bottle Cage, we needed to design a product that we wanted to ride. Our number one focus was bottle security. Lightweight is great, style is fantastic, adjustability is crucial but nothing really matters about a bottle cage if it ejects the bottle mid-ride.
The question came, how do you test bottle security? We got to work designing a test machine that was essentially a giant paint shaker. This was crucial to make sure that even over the roughest surfaces, our riders won't lose their bottles.
Once we were confident that the bottles would stay in place, we needed to make sure that the design was robust. We then built another test rig that would insert and remove bottles to the cages and they passed over 10,000 insertions and removals without any signs of failure.
Lastly we optimized the already classic aesthetic for weight to make sure we were making the lightest cage possible once we hit all of our other goals. This brings us to a sub-30g cage that will last a lifetime, hold bottles in the harshest conditions, and look great on any bike. What more could you ask for from a Titanium Bottle Cage?
The Next Generation
As with most technology, we get better as we go. A value deep at SILCA's core is the relentless pursuit of perfection. This means that just because we landed on a product that we thought was perfection at the time, we never stop experimenting and innovating.
Ultimately we found that we could make some improvements in strength to weight in the base plate design and we could fix the only real flaw in our Titanium Bottle Cages. That is that some people don't want a Titanium colored bottle cage. This led us to investing in a special oven, paint booth, and annodizing set up. We now offer what we think is the closest thing to perfection in the bottle cage space in a variety of colors to match a larger number of bikes. We offer a black cerakote which is an extremely durable ceramic coating, a limited run of other cerakote colors such as Ruby Red, Monster Blue, Copper, and many more to come.
The colors that get the most attention are the anodized cages that we offer in Rainbow, Bourbon, Aqua, Royal Purple, and more. The interesting part about anodizing titanium is that no die is required like with aluminum. You simply introduce very specific voltages to the material and it will change its color to the desired color. We are thrilled to be on this new generation of our Titanium Cage journey and we love to hear from you, what colors would you like to see next?