In today’s world of motorsport, it is not the one second advantage that you are looking for but the fractions of seconds so as to get pole position or generating the speed needed during the race to perhaps pass another driver where it was once thought impossible. Any help that will allow you to accelerate, brake and turn better is going to put you in front of your opposition and ultimately earn the OEM manufacturer, the team and the driver more recognition and of course more money. With so much technology around these days it is literally fractions of seconds that are going to give you an advantage.
Gary Turner, the founder of Blackstone Tek, knew this from an early age when he was racing in Europe with Ducati. His bike lacked the horsepower of others but a fellow rider on a similar bike used carbon fiber wheels and he was at least a second per lap faster. That was the key for Gary to return to South Africa and through his knowledge of carbon fiber, his experience of racing on motorcycles and his competitive nature to be the best he has become one of the leading designers and manufacturers of carbon fiber wheels for motorcycles. Add rims for motor cars to the résumé as some of Italy’s leading luxury vehicle manufacturers now have wheels and hubs fitted that were manufactured in Blackstone Tek’s 5 000m² facility in Northlands Business Park, North Riding, Gauteng.
Some of the OEM bikes that now have Blackstone Tek rims fitted include Aprilia, Benelli, Bimota, BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, MV Agusta, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha
Some of the OEM bikes that now have Blackstone Tek rims fitted include Aprilia, Benelli, Bimota, BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, MV Agusta, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha. Iconic motorcycle brands and ones that produce ultra-exclusive motorcycles such as Norton, Motus, Vuhl, Confederate Motor Company and Arch Motorcycles – names that make motorcycling enthusiasts drool – are now sold with BST carbon fiber wheels as the specified original wheels.
Blackstone Tek’s history began in 2000 when Turner returned to South Africa and discovered that crucial technology that Aerotek, the aeronautical division of CSIR, South Africa’s government-run technological R&D operation, had developed for carbon wheels was still available and that he was free to adopt it in developing his prototype BST wheels.
In 2001 he met business partner Terry Annecke who was looking for something new in her life. Terry had worked internationally in executive positions for two of the world’s most influential companies – IBM and Microsoft.
“That has formed the basis of what Blackstone Tek (BST) is today,” said Turner.
Blackstone Tek have recently invested in a new Hyundai Wia twin spindle dual turret LM 1800TTSY multi-axis turning center, supplied by Spectrum Machine Tools
“I wanted to make a monocoque design, but hadn’t yet worked out the technique of doing the hollow spokes. Eventually I came up with the silicone idea, and then we had to get it all to work. One good thing is that composites as an engineering material offer you far more flexibility on what you want to do than any of the metals. It’s very difficult to forge or cast a piece of metal in your garage. But up to a certain point you can do a lot of experiments with laminates or composites in your home workshop, and that’s basically what I did to come up with the silicone idea.”
Gary developed a technique whereby the wheels were assembled from pre-cut carbon sheets, moulded in two halves using special silicone inserts to keep the spokes hollow and then baked in big “oven bags” for four to five hours at 125 degrees C. The oven is also pressurised to 6 bar.
Blackstone Tek machines all of its hubs from billet aluminium
A new contract – processing aluminium billet into hubs for a European OEM
The sheets of carbon fiber are imported from the UK. To maintain the integrity of the materials the sheets are packed in dry ice for the trip. BST keep the sheets of carbon fiber in a huge cold room at a constant -20 degrees C. In order to keep the particular resins happy the sheets are warmed to 0 degrees C daily. Each wheel is made from around 130 to 180 carbon components, laser cut for each application. The hubs are machined in-house from billet aluminium. The latest wheels are 100% carbon and can shave between 40 to 60% off the weight of a normal mag wheel. This equates to the equivalent of a 5hp gain on your typical super bike. The handling improvement is huge! Turn in is improved and braking significantly better. All this without compromising the bike in any way, as with engine modifications. Bikes with less power benefit even more because they have to get their wheels turning and the weight of the rims is a major factor as the engine tries to get them rolling. The same applies to braking. Cyclists understand the benefits of light wheels because they are the engine!
“CNC machining plays a big part in the manufacturing process. Besides rough and final machining on the rims of the carbon wheels and the manufacturing of all our own moulds, as I have mentioned before, we also manufacture a number of components that go into the final production of the wheels. This includes the hubs, fasteners, internal bearings, spacers, sleeves, seals, components for air valves, sprockets and sprocket carriers,” explained Turner.
“Most of these components are either made in aluminium or stainless steel and the majority are machined from billet which arrives cut to size.”
More hubs that have been machined at Blackstone Tek
“We also design and manufacture all our own jigs and fixtures either used on the CNC machines, in the layup and prototyping rooms, in the ovens and autoclave and in the other areas of manufacture. We like to be self-sufficient.”
New Hyundai Wia twin spindle dual turret LM 1800TTSY multi-axis turning center
“Our manufacturing area is also closely monitored and the one area where we manufacture components on a Victor CNC milling machine and our new Hyundai Wia twin spindle dual turret LM 1800TTSY multi-axis turning center is also atmospherically controlled in a clean room.”
“This engineering division is able to do prototyping, simulation, validation / verification, documentation and design using SolidWorks. We use Anysys software for the FEA. On the inspection side we have a fully CNC operated CMM machine that is also housed in a temperature-controlled room. We carry out batch inspection on at least 10% of the components and another 10% of the final product.”
Finshed rims: Virtually 100% of Blackstone Tek’s product is exported, with most of them sold by aftermarket specialists in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia as well as now being specified by globally well-known original equipment manufacturer motorcycle brands
“We have specifically purchased a new Hyundai Wia twin spindle dual turret LM 1800TT multi-axis turning center to process aluminium billet into hubs for a European OEM. It is a new order and we are going to have to work 24/7 for this order. Whereas before the operations had to be done on two machines, on the Hyundai Wia it will be done from start to finish including transferring the component over and machining the other side of the component.”
“The twin spindle and twin turret multitasking CNC Turning center and an additional Y-axis, supplied by Spectrum Machine Tools, is capable of machining complex components and besides carrying out turning operations can also perform milling and grinding operations.”
Blackstone Tek manufactures carbon fiber single-sided swingarms, including designing and making the complicated tool to wrap the carbon sheeting around it
“The components – aluminium hubs – that we will machine on this machine are not big in length or weight so have plenty of capacity for future development. It is the flexibility of the machine that we like.”
“Also new on the floor is a Zimmerman 5-axis machine that we have imported from Europe. It is not new but in perfect working order. We don’t sit still here at BST. We are always looking at new projects and this is one of the reasons I am travelling to the US shortly.”
“We are looking at producing bigger moulds for the automotive OEM market and then manufacturing product in carbon fiber. There are plenty of opportunities that we can see.”
The Zimmermann 5-axis machine has been purchased to manufacture bigger moulds for the automotive OEM market
BST are recognised as world leaders in motorcycle carbon fiber applications. Apart from Ducati, for whom they build wheels and swing arms, KTM RC8 fuel tanks and all the Confederate Wraith suspension components are built by them too. They are building supercar wheels too, for cars like the Ariel Atom. The German authorities have approved BST for road use too. This is testimony to the strength and durability built into this incredible product.
The fact that virtually 100% of Blackstone Tek’s product is exported, with most of them sold by aftermarket specialists in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia as well as now being specified by globally well-known original equipment manufacturer motorcycle brands, is a credit to the company and once again an indication that a South African company can compete in a highly competitive market.
For further details contact Blackstone Tek on TEL: 011 704 0026 or visit www.blackstonetek.com