Visit to the heart of the Giant factory in Dajia, Taiwan

Real open doors from Giant on a gigantic production facility of nearly 67,000 m². Of course, we only visited a small part of it, otherwise it would probably have taken several days.

A factory from which 1 million bicycles produced by Giant (70% Giant, 30% for other brands) and 100,000 wheels manufactured for all brands come out. Giant remains the world’s leading producer of carbon bicycles and the biggest brands subcontract the production of their frames to it.

But certain exclusive manufacturing processes remain reserved for Giant frames. The subcontracting activity is carried out with Giant engineers and engineers from other brands. But here we are only going to talk about the 100% Giant activity.

While there were of course some places that we could not photograph, due to obvious manufacturing secrets, these were rare. In 95% of the places we visited, we were able to take photos and videos as we wanted and had all our questions answered.

Video summary

If this article is necessarily richer in information, you can also watch this video that I made during this visit.

Manufacturing of carbon layers in-house

While the majority of brands buy carbon sheets (Prepreg) already ready.

Carbon fiber prepreg is a combination of high pressure, high temperature epoxy resin and carbon fiber. Composites made from carbon fiber yarn, epoxy resin, release paper and other materials by coating, hot pressing, cooling, coating and winding are called carbon fiber prepreg. It is called prepreg because it is just the initial impregnation of the resin and carbon fiber and the final impregnation of the product at the time of molding.

For raw carbon fiber, Giant sources exclusively from Toray, even if there are other suppliers such as SGL Carbon, Dupont, Umatex (group Rosatom), Hexcel, Hyosung Advanced Materials, Solvay, Mitsubishi and Teijin.

Giant therefore receives spools of carbon wire and produces its Prepreg sheets with a mixture of resin whose composition is kept secret, specific to the brand applied to a separation paper.

The carbon yarns are then applied to these resin sheets by hot pressing to obtain unidirectional fibers. Yes, only unidirectional fiber, it is during the manufacture of the frame that the fibers are crossed at precise angles in order to obtain the necessary rigidity.

Here is now the finished product obtained, the famous Prepreg which will be used to build the Giant frames. These sheets are then stored in roll form at -15°C.

Fatigue tests

Like all renowned brands, Giant does not skimp on quality and tortures all the products that leave its factories.

Frames, wheels, forks, handlebars, all must pass fatigue test benches which impose real torture, going well beyond normal and everyday use. Machines subject components to the worst possible conditions, generally going well beyond European or American safety standards, with each brand preferring to take large safety margins.

In each manufacturing batch, frames, forks and other peripherals are taken at random and thus undergo lengthy fatigue tests.

X-rays for all forks

The forks get a bit of a special treatment, as ALL of them have to be x-rayed before being painted and assembled with the frames.

No exceptions. Each fork is therefore inspected by an operator. An expensive, long and quite rare process in the cycle industry.

This makes it possible to detect the slightest weak point, the slightest crack or bubble that could appear in the carbon. As we can see in the table of statistics taken by photo, the rejections are relatively low.

Building a TCR Advanced SL frame

Many still think that carbon frames are made by robots. But no, throughout the industry, this process cannot be robotized, only expert hands can precisely position the different carbon sheets on the sleeves to achieve a perfect lay-up.

This partly explains the price of frames. Because in addition to the molds which cost around $70,000 each per frame model and per size (for certain frames in high demand, several molds are necessary to ensure production), we must therefore add labor.

Certainly, the minimum wage in Taiwan is incommensurate with France, but with more than approximately €830/month, we are far from the approximately €340 in China. It’s even more expensive than Slovakia (€580/month), where for example Time frames are manufactured which arrive on the market with a price identical to Giant’s best productions.

In short, we are far from the image that some people have of a very low-cost country.

For this TCR Advanced SL, no less than 270 carbon parts are required to manufacture the frame. The operators then glue these carbon pieces precisely, in a certain order. It takes time and expertise.

Once everything is finished, the frame will be placed in a mold under pressure and with precise heat for several hours to “freeze” the carbon which will reach its final rigidity.

Assembling the bikes

Once the frames are “cooked”, painting. They are all painted on site in this factory.

Then they will be assembled on an assembly line. Again, no robots, everything is done by hand.

Everything is done to ensure that the assembly is done quickly, but always with attention to precision and detail. Torque wrenches and all the necessary tools to, for example, perfectly place the brake levers on a handlebar, at the same height.

The installation of the handlebar tape is done by two operators, one on each side, so, in just over 30 seconds, the handlebar tape is placed on the handlebars. A simple operation at first glance, but very time-consuming on a road bike. Multiplied by hundreds of bikes per day, this represents a considerable amount of labor time.

Balance sheet

I hope that you were able to discover a little more behind the scenes, even if this is of course more difficult through an article, even embellished with numerous photos or even a video.

But believe me, I myself was impressed by the labor required to manufacture carbon frames, not to mention all the brainpower required upstream for development. This partly explains the cost of our very expensive bikes. No robot can yet replace humans for many operations, unlike what is done in the automobile industry, a sector with which cycling is quite often compared.

A huge difference also compared to “counterfeits” of which only the forms are very often used. However, many naive people still believe that counterfeits are strictly identical frames, made from the same molds.

A big thank you to Giant who agreed to open the doors of its headquarters but also of this factory, with, I would like to remind you, very few things that we could not photograph or film, it is rare enough to underline this. .

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