ShapeTex™ innovative saddle

Principal Investigator(s): Dr Shpend Gerguri


Funded by: Brookes Research Excellence Award

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“Embroidered” composite material has produced an innovative bicycle saddle using ShapeTex™ Manufacturing Technology that is lighter and load bearing.

  • Computer aided modelling produced designs to optimise fibre orientation to maximise shell strength and inform laminate design.
  • A two-part press tool was designed taking into account the complex geometrical features of the saddle.
  • A non-woven fabric blend of recycled short carbon and nylon fibres was stitched onto a 2D preform.
  • The finalised preform was moulded under high pressure and temperature.
  • Composite filament saddle rails were bonded to the shell using adhesives and subjected to load bearing trials.

Lateral view of the ShapeTex innovative saddle


Dr Shpend Gerguri

Reader in Engineering Design

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The process uses carbon fibre and nylon commingled yarns that are embroidered onto a nylon carrier film to produce a net-shaped preform.

This can then be press moulded in less than 5 minutes under high pressure and at high temperatures to produce the saddle.

A prototype, developed through an industrial collaboration with Witney-based Shape Machining Limited, is just one third the weight of an equivalent conventional saddle.

As part of the process, the team modelled a variety of designs to arrive at the optimum shape and fibre orientations with the aim of maximising strength and informing laminate design. Mechanical properties were determined by simple pull-tests of unidirectional carbon fibres specimens that were manufactured using the ShapeTex™ process.

Technical diagram showing high transmissibility and ride quality

The mould design also presented challenges given the complex geometrical features of the saddle shape, including curved surfaces, cutouts and net edges.

The saddle rails - 3D printed as a more cost effective option for prototyping - were bonded to the saddle using an acrylic adhesive most compatible with the composite material. This was then mounted on a frame and tested by a small number of different riders, retaining its structural integrity throughout.

Though limited in scope, the functional testing demonstrates the potential of this manufacturing technology for load bearing applications.