One look at the JIVR’s sleek, smooth body is enough to know that it is the product of a unique design and manufacturing process.
Everything about JIVR rests, literally and figuratively, on a distinctive frame fashioned and produced at the intersection of minimum weight and maximum strength. To meet the challenge of bringing it to life on the production end of things, this meant developing our own equipment, processes and even a new welding technique.
It starts with aerospace-grade aluminium. We use a cold rolling process that ensures a uniform thickness throughout, which for JIVR is just 2mm, and enhances the strength of the metal through a process called strain hardening. This minimal thickness helps to keep the JIVR as light as possible while providing the tensile and compressive strength required for performance and durability.
The thin sheet is then moved to a machine that uses three hundred tonnes of force strength to press the aluminium into a mould that gives the JIVR’s body the outlines of its characteristic profile. When the left and right pieces of the frame are removed from the press, some alterations are made to the interior side to make them ready to safely encase the JIVR’s internal components, like the drivetrain and electronic elements.
Combining the two pieces of metal was an early challenge in the development of the JIVR. The issue we had to overcome was how to complete two welds on the same piece of aluminium without compromising its strength and rigidity. If we used the conventional method of welding one side and then the other, the first weld would change the temperature throughout the metal and slightly bend it. This simply wasn’t an option for the precision demanded by a folding, electric bike.
To get the design we wanted while fully preserving the metal’s full structural integrity, we had to come up with a way to execute both welds almost simultaneously, before the heat from one weld compromised even a fraction of the metal’s properties. Proving that necessity really is the mother of invention, we came up with a uniform welding technique that allowed us to make both the top and bottom welds at nearly the same time, thus avoiding the problem of variable temperatures in different parts of the metal.
Before we could do that, however, we had to build our own welding jig, which is a kind of brace that holds the frame in place during the process. Similar to a carpenter’s clamp, the jig stabilizes metal against the forces of pressure and heat so the weld can be done precisely. The unique curves and lines of JIVR’s profile meant that no standard jig would do, so we designed one that could accommodate the contours that make our bike stand out.
The uniform welding method and custom jig are crucial to the process.
After the weld is made, the completed piece is then left in the welding jig to air cool until it’s ready to be carefully moved to another station in the workshop for sanding and finishing. All signs of the weld—that slightly raised seam between the two pieces of aluminium—are polished away with a special material similar to the sandpaper you might use with wood. When finished, you can run your fingertips along the surface and have no idea that you’re touching what used to be two separate pieces of metal.
When we’re satisfied that the weld has disappeared using the touch test, the frame is ready to be prepped for powder coating, better known as painting, but we’re going to save that part of the process for a more detailed description in another blog post.
We hope this look at the care and craftsmanship that goes into our work has given you some insight into the process. Keep an eye on the blog for more behind-the-scenes looks into what it takes to make a JIVR!