You may take it for granted (what with all the cars in your neighborhood), but a large percentage of the Netherlands population (27% to be exact) heavily rely on bikes for their day-to-day commute. So it’s pretty sad when you realize most bicycles in the country are manufactured overseas— effectively increasing their cost. Due to the high labor costs needed to make a bicycle out of steel or aluminum tubing, not many Dutch companies want to invest in such a risky business.
Enter Mokumono Bicycles, a bicycle company founded by brothers Bob & Tom Schiller in an effort to bring bike manufacturing closer to home. Taking notes from car production techniques such as automatic welding and sheet forming, these two brothers came up with a new manufacturing process wherein two 7000-grade aluminum sheets are pressed and laser welded together.
Unlike traditional hydroforming and hand welding techniques, this process simplifies the production using two formed halves connected around a head tube, seat tube, and drop-outs. This makes automatic laser welding possible and reduces the need for post-processing since less heat is used on the frames.
So how did these frames start out? As many iterations of cardboard bicycles.
Bob’s first prototype was made from cardboard in order for him to get an idea of how the frame would look. Once he had the design down, 3D printing was used to make the next two prototypes out of steel frames. The final prototype was handmade using aluminum and is the basis for their bikes today. What may be a surprise to know is that CNC machined production models were sourced through 3D Hubs, reducing both production costs and time. As explained to 3D Hubs:
I was having a tough time getting a price for the parts I needed. When I did get a price it was really expensive and the lead times were months. After using 3D Hubs for 3D printing and seeing they added CNC machining I decided to check it out. Immediately I could see prices and the lead time, this was perfect for me. I didn’t have to waste my time on finding and managing a supplier, I could just submit my order and get my parts all on one platform.
The end result is the Delta, which has sharp lines accentuating the points where the two aluminum sheets are welded together. Through the rear triangle of the bike was difficult to press together, the brothers opted to create floating rear trays to get past this obstacle.
Thanks to their unique production process, parts for their bikes are sourced from neighboring Dutch companies without significant costs. Assembly is handled by Mokomono themselves, giving bikes to locals which aren’t priced on par with a motor vehicle.
Check out the brothers’ full collection of laser-welded bikes over at the official Makumono website.