PINGTUNG CITY, Taiwan (BRAIN) — It’s one of those companies that operates slightly under the industry radar—an OE vendor producing carbon frames, stems, wheels, handlebars and other items for well-known consumer brands.
But Bobby Yin politely asks that those company names remain confidential. “We do not want to embarrass our partners,” Yin explained as he described his company’s newest venture.
Yin, along with Lynn Huang, is quietly touting the potential of a new product to help disperse heat buildup as brake pads bite into carbon fiber clincher rims. It’s a special coating derived from the semiconductor industry that’s baked onto the rim’s exterior.
All this may sound a bit dodgy except that Awise Fiber Tech is a subsidiary of UMC, otherwise known as United Microelectronics Corp. (NYSE: UMC). Founded in 1980 as a spinoff of a government-sponsored program, UMC is Taiwan’s first semiconductor company. It’s the No. 3 chip maker in the world with headquarters in Hsinshu Science Park—so that should give it some street cred.
Manufacturing chips, or integrated circuit wafers made of silicon, is a complex task. A problem in designing them is how to control heat buildup in computers, cell phones or other digital devices. Heat, in part, is what slows these devices down. Manage heat and everything runs faster. As a result, UMC and others have developed coatings to help ease that issue.
Yin points out that Awise engineers have been experimenting with some of the materials and techniques used by its parent company, UMC, to devise a coating to manage heat buildup on carbon rims as well as carbon brake rotors. Awise, a 15-year-old company, has a long history in carbon fiber production in Taiwan.
But Yin admits that persuading carbon wheel makers to try the coating is an uphill battle. Still, Yin said Shimano and several other companies have tested the coating and Kenda team riders have been using rims with the technology.
Essentially, Awise has developed a three-step process to deposit layers of micro-thin material where brake pads contact a rim’s edge. The first layer helps release heat as brake pads start to bite; the second layer blocks the heat from re-entering the rim; and the third layer helps dissipate it.
The initial product, however, left a copper-like finish around the edge of the rim—an aesthetic issue that wheel suppliers found unacceptable. Yin held up a rim and pointed out the problem. But that’s been solved. A new formulation, finalized in December, melds the coating into the rim.
“It is a big breakthrough since many people didn’t like the look of the original feature. They like the look of the original carbon,” Yin said.
Awise engineers have noted, along with others, that a key problem with carbon clinchers has been poor heat dissipation. Under heavy and sustained braking, heat can surpass 300 degrees—deforming the rim, blowing the tire off, or both.
According to Yin, companies have experimented with ceramic coatings, but it’s costly. And Awise’s coating process also increases manufacturing costs, but far less so than ceramics. “The beautiful thing is with this technology, if you want to use regular OE brake pads with carbon rims, then you could,” he said. Nonetheless, the process—so far—offers no cost savings during the manufacturing process.
The coating also makes no difference in braking performance when wet. “Under wet or dry conditions the performance is similar,” he said. As for the fast-moving trend toward disc brakes, Yin said there always will be demand for rims using conventional brakes.
“We want to help solve the problems with clinchers. We have lots of resources with our R&D team and we want to concentrate on wheels by adding more innovation to the product,” Yin added.