The universal challenges faced by bike manufacturer Trek in creating a new-generation racing bike apply to many companies today: Create products that are sturdy yet use lightweight materials, spot design defects earlier in the design phase, and reduce time from sketch to physical prototype. Trek used Dell Precision Workstations with NVIDIA graphics to get the job done.
To create this cutting-edge bike, Trek designers employed SolidWorks 3D CAD software powered by Dell Precision Workstations with NVIDIA Quadro GPUs. The result is the fastest downhill bike on the market – designed, prototyped, and production-ready in about half the average time. Trek’s previous generation, the Session 88, featured an aluminum frame and was the fastest downhill bike when it was introduced in 2008. The Trek team had to figure out how to use advanced materials and patented technology to create a product that picked up where the Session 88 left off.
Using carbon fiber would allow Trek to achieve many of its goals; however, carbon fiber bikes are much more complicated to design and build than aluminum bikes. Sheets of carbon “fabric” have to be laid by hand into open-back steel molds according to a precise layout schedule. The molds are closed and pressure is applied to create each part. Designing the exacting layout, as well as determining the specs and complicated surfacing for carbon bikes, is a sophisticated process.
To overcome this, Trek used SolidWorks on Dell Precision Mobile Workstations with NVIDIA Quadro graphics. According to Michael Hammond, senior industrial designer who leads the design team for Trek’s Mountain Bike division, “We knew we had a lot to handle in creating such a complicated product, and had little time to do it. So we wanted to be able to get to as many design iterations as we could and not get bogged down.”
Once they had the initial parameters for the new bike, it took the Trek team only four months to go from first sketch to physical prototype, with about 20 concepts tested and simulated. Before using the Dell workstations with NVIDIA Quadro GPUs to design their products, they took twice as long to get to the prototype stage and could only test a handful of concepts during the same timeframe.
Previously, the Trek team needed to do full frame model printouts (SLA prototypes) four or more times per project to see the level of surface detail required to perfect everything before building the prototype. Each printout cost upwards of $2,000 and took at least a week to complete. Now they can skip the printouts and directly save those costs.