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In the universe of professional and Olympic cycling, drag is certainly a drag. But now through the use of the latest handheld 3D scanning technology combined with cutting-edge CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis, CAD expertise, and design thinking, Vorteq, a UK-based company, in partnership with the engineers at WX-R, have created a bike that slices through the air and is already making waves throughout the cycling industry.
The Vorteq WX-R track bike (image courtesy of Vorteq)
While up to 80% of air resistance, or drag, that a cyclist has to deal with is due to their body, and the remaining 20% or so comes from their bike, those numbers aren’t etched in stone. Let’s say that a rider’s body is already as aerodynamic as possible, for example by wearing a Vorteq skinsuit, which reduces their CdA (drag coefficient x area) dramatically compared to regular cycling clothing. The next logical step in the quest for marginal gains is to focus on streamlining the bike itself. By doing so, the savings in time and energy can be striking.
For example, over the course of a 5-hour triathlon cycling stage, the difference between having an aerodynamic bike versus a regular racing bike can mean surging across the finish line minutes sooner. But what about a bike that’s even faster, one that can break away from even the strongest pack?
The WX-R Vorteq track fork (image courtesy of Vorteq)
For decades now, racing bike manufacturers have strived to make their machines the best on the asphalt, yet for the most part they’ve modeled their designs after those of competitors. Occasionally wind tunnels and CFD testing have been used along the way. However, one crucial aspect has mostly been ignored: the human facet of the velocity equation. The riders themselves, their bikes, as well as specifically how they ride them, together represent a veritable encyclopedia of data just waiting to be read.
Using their many years of CFD expertise gained via working with Formula 1 and motorsports, solving the toughest engineering challenges and delivering supercharged solutions for their clients, the design engineers at Vorteq, a TotalSim company, turned their sights on the goal of creating the world’s fastest track bike.
The Vorteq Tokyo Edition handlebar (image courtesy of Vorteq)
The first phase of the project required digitally capturing a series of professional racing bikes in high-resolution 3D. Following the scanning, the 3D models of the bikes would be used for cutting-edge CFD analysis combined with the latest wind tunnel testing and research, including analyzing the kinesiological riding habits of the cyclists (the owners of the bikes) themselves, and after this, to bring together everything for creating the ultimate aero track bike, the Vorteq WX-R.
When it came to searching for a professional handheld 3D scanner that could meet all their requirements for unquestionable accuracy, speed of capture, and wireless capabilities, only one scanner was left in the running: the Artec Leo, an award-winning, cable-free 3D scanner designed for capturing medium-sized objects in breathtaking color. Recommended and supplied to Vorteq by Artec 3D Ambassador Central Scanning, the Artec Leo can entirely capture a professional racing bike in under one minute.
The Artec Leo
In the words of Central Scanning’s Alex Chung, “TotalSim, Vorteq’s parent company, were the first in the UK to receive the flagship Artec Leo back in Jan 2019, and with it they’ve gone from strength to strength. Having already been experienced Artec users, Vorteq quickly leveraged the increased speed, portability and maneuverability of the Artec Leo to make it a game changer in their skinsuit design workflow, where they use it for 3D capturing cyclists on their bikes in-situ. And now with the Vorteq WX-R project, they’ve done it again, this time taking full advantage of Leo’s unmatched synergy of scanning power and flexibility to help create a racing bike that is truly remarkable. Central Scanning are proud to support TotalSim and Vorteq as partners in innovation.”
3D scanning a rider and bike in the SSEH wind tunnel with Artec Leo
Vorteq metrology engineer Sam Quilter explained how they performed the scanning, “With our Leo, we scanned a range of bikes to get precise digital models, and then compared them in our CFD system to see what the drag differences were, followed by making structural adjustments and modifications to the 3D models to enhance performance. That way, we were able to extract the best from multiple bikes and bring them together into one design, which we moved forward with.”
Quilter continued, “At the same time, while we were going through the design process, we analyzed the riders of these bikes in the wind tunnel at Silverstone (SSEH), to understand exactly how they put down power and how this influences the entire bike. There was a huge amount of highly-valuable data gained in doing so, and that was a crucial factor in the ongoing bike design.”
“To give you one example of how 3D scanning helped even during this middle stage of development, we put each rider’s bike into a mounted rig and then applied various levels of load to the crank area, adding in some warp to the frame, to see how much flex and bend were taking place. This was done all the way up to peak power generation, to recreate the physics of torque going through the pedals, through the crank, and out into the wheel axles. We then used our Artec Space Spider 3D scanner to precisely capture the bike’s frame during this, and from those scans we generated deviation plots showing exactly how and where the frames were flexing.”
“There was substantial deviation, because all the frames we were scanning were carbon fiber. And there will be a certain amount of flex when you’re putting that much power down. We wanted to quantify this, because we know from the riders’ feedback that they love their bikes, as well as their levels of flex and responsiveness. Yet too much flex will sap some of the energy away from the rider, since that’s power taken away from the wheels and dissipating into the frame. We also needed to understand where the flex was taking place.”
The Vorteq Tokyo fixed position saddle mount (image courtesy of Vorteq)
Quilter and the team at Vorteq created their own workflow for processing scans from Artec Leo. It looks like this, “We import the scans into the post-processing software, Artec Studio, which in the case of a bike scan, is unquestionably fast. Then we check to make sure everything looks good and is all there. This is never a problem, but it’s always smart to make at least a cursory glance. Following this, we may use the Eraser tool here or there to remove whatever unwanted data exists in the scan. Then we do a Global Registration with the default settings, as these work flawlessly for us.
Quilter continued, “From this point, we’ll do a Sharp Fusion, since we’re working with components and rigid structures, whereas when we’re processing a body scan for a skinsuit, considering the organic anatomical surfaces of the human body, a Smooth Fusion is most appropriate. In contrast, Sharp Fusion retains all the complex geometrical detail we need for the bike model. Then we export it as an OBJ file into Geomagic Wrap, where we carry out a few additional design steps prior to sending the resulting 3D model over to our custom CFD system.”
The Vorteq Tokyo 4 Spoke front wheel (image courtesy of Vorteq)
Following the research and development phase, to bring their creation to life, Vorteq partnered with British bike manufacturer Worx, a company that has made their own track bikes in the past, but nothing like the Vorteq WX-R.
The Vorteq WX-R has already been racing in competitions, and is scheduled to take part in the Tokyo Olympics. Its full outing at the UCI Track world championships contributed to two medals, 3 lifetime bests, 2 national records, and a new Asian record.
Azizulhasni Awang sprinting to victory on a Vorteq WX-R at the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin (photo courtesy of Vorteq)
In addition to creating the world’s fastest skinsuits and track bike, Vorteq also offers an array of cycling-related 3D scanning services with their Artec Leo and Space Spider scanners, whether in-house at their UK office or anywhere around the world.
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