Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

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chocjohn9
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Location: Sunny Belgium

Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby chocjohn9 » 31 Jan 2015, 1:24pm

There's a brand here (Belgium) called "Granville". They are quite well regarded. Not the best but certainly better than average. I was reading recently that they introduced a Ti range and the frames were made in China. They sold well until they all started to crack. The refund and exchange policy almost busted them. Since, they have sourced all of their Ti from the USA and there have been no issues since.

I see on the bottom of lovely, comfortable and perfect-in-every-way Van Nicholas Yukon that the frame is "Made in China". Should I be worried? Are there different types of Chinese Ti? Are the properties so different between Chinese and USA sourced Ti? Is it a big difference? I know that the old Airborne brand - now VN - did go bust, but was it because of this? :oops:

Valbrona
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby Valbrona » 31 Jan 2015, 2:22pm

I have seen too many stories of cracked ti frames on the internet to ever recommend one, regardless of source. I think failure rates of ti frames are disproportionally high.

In nearly every case of a cracked ti frame it will have been poor construction and nowt wrong with the material.
I should coco.

Keezx
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Location: The Netherlands

Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby Keezx » 31 Jan 2015, 8:10pm

I heve never seen any statistic relevant figures of Ti frames, production locations and failures.
2 years ago I decided that ist was time (getting 60) for a titanium frame and decided the China custom route.
Frame + delivery+ tax costed me 680€, still very happy with it.
Any material/construction can fail, the Chinese have made crap in the past , but the last couple of years they are certainly capable of producing good titanium frames.
About the Google finds of cracked frames: a lot of them concern American stuff too......

If I was in the market now for a titanium frame , this looks very interesting as you have warranty in the UK:
http://cielorossobikes.com/cielo-rosso- ... -601-p.asp
,

nodrog
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Location: Redditch

Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby nodrog » 31 Jan 2015, 11:06pm

My Chinese made Van Nic Yukon frame developed a crack in it's down tube just above the bottom bracket after just a years use in 2008.
It was exchanged quickly and without problem as per their lifetime warranty.
The replacement frame is still in heavy use without problem.
I would happily buy another Ti frame but expect a life time warranty, as per Van Nicholas, which I see a lot of manufacturers no longer offer.

andrewk
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Location: SW London

Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby andrewk » 1 Feb 2015, 1:31am

Titanium is difficult to weld and requires great skill. If not done right the welds or tubes will crack.
That leaves the bicycle buyer wanting a Ti framed bike with two realistic options: either go with one of the exotic very expensive Swiss or German brands who have their frames made in Russia (the Russians are masters at working with titanium) or buy a far cheaper Asian made Ti frame bike from a big brand (eg Van Nic) who provide a lifetime frame guarantee and are a sufficiently large business to be likely to still be trading in a decade or two's time.
Trying the bargain route of choosing an Asian Ti frame from a small trading company is risky and probably a false economy, even if a lifetime frame guarantee is offered will the company still be around to honour it?

Brucey
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby Brucey » 1 Feb 2015, 9:35am

Well believe it or not there is more than one place knocking these out in every country that makes Ti frames, so they are not all the same.

I've seen examples of 'bad Ti frames' from all possible countries of origin. It is often bad welding practice that causes the problems but it can equally well be bad material or bad fabrication of the tubes themselves. Ti tubes (especially tapered ones as used in some chainstays etc) are often seam-welded and this isn't often carried out by the framebuilder.

Asides from contamination problems arising from inadequate cleaning, any gas-shielded welding process has within it the potential to produce heaps of scrap Ti instead of heaps of nice welded Ti fabrications; the slightest flaw in the gas shield (front or back) will almost instantly screw up any nearby Ti that is very hot. All this takes is a pinprick leak in a gas line (yup, the Bernoulli effect means you can entrain air, i.e. suck it in, even at a nominal overpressure) or the welder to sneeze at the wrong time or something and that is it, the frame is knacked.

In the aerospace sector this (and a few other reasons) led to the adoption of other welding technologies such as EB (Electron Beam) welding whereby there wasn't any real possibility of oxygen/nitrogen pickup because the process is carried out in a vacuum, and if the vacuum isn't good enough, the machine won't even work. Today they are so good at it that many aero engines have EB welded Ti rotor assemblies. These assemblies can have undressed weld beads etc (which can be a source of trouble in some applications) but these are proven to last the life of the engine (between major overhauls). Modern aero engines can stay 'on the wing' for about 30000 hours flying time (during which time other parts may be renewed, inspected etc) and only after this time are engines removed and subjected to a complete overhaul. In many (but not all) cases the materials used for aero engines come out of the same factories as the tubes meant for bike frames.

So when you are buying a Ti bike frame things like 'aerospace certified tubing' (which certification?) and the highest levels of process QA are good things, and things like obviously heavily manipulated and/or seam welded tubes (in less expensive frames especially) are a source of concern, on the 'more to go wrong' principle.

Past that you need to look at the warranty; what it says (what it really says), how easy it will be to implement the warranty, and how likely the company is to be still trading when you need it. In the last few years most of the major Ti frame manufacturers have effectively 'downgraded' their warranties so that they are more limited in extent and/or time period; true 'lifetime warranties' are unusual these days, and some that are described thus are actually nothing of the sort when you read the small print.

The VN warranty should be OK in principle, but those with longer memories will recall that 'Airborne' previously operated from similar premises and was run by some of the same people. VN were born out of 'Airborne' ashes to the extent that VN were honouring Airborne warranties for a while, but AFAICT they packed that in pretty quickly, presumably because it got a bit expensive.

FWIW I like Ti frames (and I own several) but I'm not sure I shall ever buy another one; I can get the ride quality I want out of steel, and the weight advantage of Ti isn't so great that it is important for most of the riding I do these days.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

pwa
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby pwa » 1 Feb 2015, 11:36am

Just to add to what Brucey says, the main reason I chose titanium for my last frame was that I wanted a steel-like feel but without having to worry about paint / rust issues. If cost had not been an issue I would have preferred one of the new stainless steel tube sets. So far (2 years in) my Spa (presumably Chinese) is a lovely ride and has no cracks. I'm hoping (tell me if I'm wrong) that any manufacturing problems will probably make themselves known in the first year or two, and having got through that period I can say I've probably got a good one. The welds look very neat, if that means anything, and there is nothing to indicate poor quality control.

chocjohn9
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Location: Sunny Belgium

Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby chocjohn9 » 1 Feb 2015, 11:55am

Thanks for all the comments.
I'm not going to stay up all night, every night over this. The warranty seems to be reasonable good and VN have built up good reputation for replacing cracked frames, so I'll relax. They are now part of the Accell Group, which is enormous, having Koga, Ghost and Raleigh - to name a few - in it. Plus, I kind of hope that they learnt their lessons with Airborne and those same mistakes were not carried over into VN. That would be really stupid...

I bought Ti in the first place because I already had quite a few steel machines and I wanted a go on something slightly different and exotic. It is a lovely object and rides beautifully. Should something go wrong, I will ask for a replacement, take the frame to a UK steel builder and ask them to copy it. It really does fit me perfectly, then I'll sell the then new, unused, Ti frame and I'll still be happy.... that's the plan! What could possibly go wrong :D

chocjohn9
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Joined: 20 Mar 2012, 10:07pm
Location: Sunny Belgium

Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby chocjohn9 » 1 Feb 2015, 12:13pm

Thanks for all the comments.
I'm not going to stay up all night, every night over this. The warranty seems to be reasonable good and VN have built up good reputation for replacing cracked frames, so I'll relax. They are now part of the Accell Group, which is enormous, having Koga, Ghost and Raleigh - to name a few - in it. Plus, I kind of hope that they learnt their lessons with Airborne and those same mistakes were not carried over into VN. That would be really stupid...

I bought Ti in the first place because I already had quite a few steel machines and I wanted a go on something slightly different and exotic. It is a lovely object and rides beautifully. Should something go wrong, I will ask for a replacement, take the frame to a UK steel builder and ask them to copy it. It really does fit me perfectly, then I'll sell the then new, unused, Ti frame and I'll still be happy.... that's the plan! What could possibly go wrong ? :D

Keezx
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Location: The Netherlands

Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby Keezx » 1 Feb 2015, 3:20pm

Why should it crack?
By far the vast majority doesn't.

samsbike
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby samsbike » 1 Feb 2015, 4:28pm

+1 to all the above.
Burls, in the UK, currently do Russian built ti frames.

I think a site called 'spannerworks' or something describes individuals ordering ti frames from China, again some issues but then again some have got great bikes.

A bit horses for courses.

I would love to know how Spa ensure QC with their ti supplier, just out of interest.

Tonyf33
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby Tonyf33 » 1 Feb 2015, 5:18pm

My 1996-7 Raleigh Ti (IMI made tubes) is still going strong, it was originally owned by a Cat1 rider whom used it for training purposes before I got my hands on it. Now it's just a leisure bike for lazy days in warm weather :) Weight wise, my 62cm traditional diamond frame is 1625g naked, Bob Jackson's quote circa 1500g for a 56cm 853 so probably very similar. Newer compact ti frames can be quite light but for the sake of a few hundred grams the difference isn't worth worrying about one way or the other.
Buying second hand can have many pitfalls but sometimes it can be a way of getting something very nice for not a lot of money even compared to a cheap chinese job.

If I was after another frame I'd consider Columbus spirit amongst others as well as 853/953 & Ti

RRSODL
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby RRSODL » 1 Feb 2015, 5:36pm

Valbrona wrote:I have seen too many stories of cracked ti frames on the internet to ever recommend one, regardless of source. I think failure rates of ti frames are disproportionally high.

In nearly every case of a cracked ti frame it will have been poor construction and nowt wrong with the material.


You don't seem to own a TI frame and yet you are quite happy to volunteer your negative opinion based on what you read on internet.

I own a Van Nicholas frame and I haven't had a problem in 2 years. I understand there used to be an issue with Ti frames years ago but that seems to be in the pass.

As somebody already mentioned, welding titanium is quite a difficult job, I'm sure the technique has been perfected by now.

I also recommend a frame with a lifetime warranty, just in case.

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531colin
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby 531colin » 1 Feb 2015, 6:17pm

samsbike wrote:................I would love to know how Spa ensure QC with their ti supplier, just out of interest.


You can't, and they don't.
Any faulty frames are the responsibility of the manufacturer who also pays for the shipping.....failures are not in their interest, they do the QC. You can't build a business making products that fail.
Early frames had the second eyelet on the rear dropout welded on, then the weld was ground back on the faces of the dropout. This looks very neat, but it isn't the most robust way of doing it. Several of these eyelets failed, and now they are made all in one with the dropout.
You can't manipulate Ti like you can steel, so the stays have plugs welded in the end to close off the tube and provide a robust lump to weld the dropout to. One of the manufacturers is a bit of a neatness freak, and they grind back that weld too. ....I have seen just one frame where the whole depth of weld penetration was ground off at one point, so you could literally "see the join" for some of the diameter.
Apart from that, I recall one cracked chainstay, and one cracked seat tube....I'm sure there have been more than that by now, but they ain't failing in droves.

chocjohn9 wrote:There's a brand here (Belgium) called "Granville". They are quite well regarded. Not the best but certainly better than average. I was reading recently that they introduced a Ti range and the frames were made in China. They sold well until they all started to crack. The refund and exchange policy almost busted them. Since, they have sourced all of their Ti from the USA and there have been no issues since.

I see on the bottom of lovely, comfortable and perfect-in-every-way Van Nicholas Yukon that the frame is "Made in China". Should I be worried? Are there different types of Chinese Ti? Are the properties so different between Chinese and USA sourced Ti? Is it a big difference? I know that the old Airborne brand - now VN - did go bust, but was it because of this? :oops:

This doesn't ring true. In business you just wouldn't negotiate a contract with a third-party supplier, where you undertake to cover the replacement costs of faulty goods manufactured by your supplier.....that's just bonanza time for the supplier, they can do what they like, no comeback on them at all.

Brucey
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Re: Chinese vs USA sourced Ti

Postby Brucey » 1 Feb 2015, 7:42pm

A few notes regarding Ti and welding of Ti:

Of the many different Ti grades and many different methods of welding Titanium, pretty much all bike frames are made via TIG welding using a mixture of CP (commercial purity) Ti and 3Al,2.5V Ti alloys. A few have 6Al,4V Ti alloy dropouts but 6,4 Ti tubing per se is rare and expensive.

Because of the cold war, and differences in Ti ore composition as well as available alloying elements, the Russians developed a whole range of Ti alloys that work in a different way to 'western' grades and some Russian-made frames are made in these unusual Ti grades to this very day. They are alloyed with different elements that similarly variously strengthen and stabilise the different phases, thus allowing both single phase and duplex grades. This has interesting implications in that if such a frame is weld-repaired in the west, chance are that no-one will know of or be able to source the correct filler wire. Under these circumstances (or with unknown Ti grades in use) using CP filler is probably safest because if you get the filler material wrong you can end up with a witches brew that might well be no good to man nor beast as it were.

Originally the most common 3Al,2.5V grade was manufactured by taking 'new' Ti sponge and mixing it with Ti scrap (which for a long while would have contained a lot of 6Al,4V material). Most Ti sold today will contain a proportion of scrap at least and some is likely to be mostly recycled scrap. Reports of 'bike frames made from recycled submarines' might be literally true; the Russian navy did build some subs using Ti for the pressure hull, which must have been a fantastically expensive thing to do.

Weld penetration in TIG welded Ti is very often less than you might expect. The reason for this is that heat is transported around the weldpool by convection. You might expect this convection to be the same in every case but it varies with the chemistry of the weldpool. Weldpools that convect 'normally' (i.e. rising in the centre) are in fact not normal per se in many materials; in most welded steels there is a phenomenon often known as 'Maragoni convection' (in which the surface tension varies strongly with temperature) which drives the convection in the reverse direction, increasing weld penetration in the weld centre. In addition there are other effects that can constrict the arc or flare it out.

All these things usually work against you in TIG welding of Ti. If you give a skilled TIG weld operator (who is used to steel) a piece of Ti and ask him to weld it, he'll produce consistently underpenetrating welds for a considerable length of time. In steel, if you take thin sheets and butt them together, you can make a fully penetrating weld that is only about twice as wide as it is deep. In many Ti grades, four times wider than the depth would be closer to it. If you want to make a narrow weld in Ti using TIG, you need to have a well-made V prep and then to weld it consistently well, or aim to make a good sized fillet. Even then it is very much the case that lack of fusion defects in the weld overlap regions are likely to be commonplace unless steps are taken to avoid them.

Keezx has asked 'why should they crack?'. IMHO a better question in welded Ti is 'why should they not crack?'.

However in welded steel, this would be a fairer question; you would (relatively speaking) need to do something cretinously stupid if you wanted to make a weld in steel that would crack very quickly in service without said weld being poor in appearance or there being an obvious deviation in welding parameters. By contrast almost any small deviation in procedure when welding Ti is liable to make a welded fabrication that will quickly fail by cracking in service, and the welds themselves may look 'normal'.

An example; if someone grinds some steel, anywhere in or near your Ti welding shop, there will be microscopic iron particles in the air. If any of these sit on the Ti parts to be welded, the welds will fail. If the iron particles are red-hot when they land on pieces of Ti, they will stick so hard that they cannot simply be removed by normal cleaning. The failure mechanism involves the formation of brittle Fe-Ti intermetallics on the Ti surface adjacent to the welds, in the region that gets hot but doesn't melt. Slightly grubby hands or gloves can easily transfer enough contaminant to cause the same kind of thing. Flakes of skin, hairs, spittle etc are all potential weld-wreckers, even in quantities that are so small you can't see them.

It takes a miniscule amount of contaminant to cause a problem; we are talking a few parts per million here. In this respect, welding steel is about x1000 times easier than welding Ti. Basically when TIG welding Ti there is one way to do it right and a million ways to do it wrong. It is sufficiently difficult to do well that I don't think there is a Ti welding shop that doesn't occasionally produce substandard product, even though most of the possible problems are well known; after all TIG welding of Ti has been practised industrially for over 50 years now.

When you see a Ti fabrication that has been welded properly, and/or see it actually being done, it can be magical. Good Ti welds can be things of real beauty. If you know what you are looking at and you see it being done wrong, or the results of it being done wrong, it can make your flesh crawl.

So yeah, best to get one with a good warranty, and to keep a good eye on it for at least the first year or so; that should weed out most of the rogue frames that might slip through the net.

cheers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~