Israel to mass produce cardboard bicycles

The durable bicycle, invented by Izhar Gafni, will have no metal parts, and retail for $20, Reuters reports.

"Reuters" reports that a bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard is to be mass produced by an Israeli based at Ahituv, a farming village near Hadera.

Izhar Gafni, 50, an Israeli inventor, amateur cyclist and expert in designing automated mass-production lines is the man behind the revolutionary idea. He told "Reuters" that after much trial and error, his latest prototype has now proven itself and mass production will begin in a few months.

Gagni said, "I was always fascinated by applying unconventional technologies to materials and I did this on several occasions. But this was the culmination of a few things that came together. I worked for four years to cancel out the corrugated cardboard's weak structural points."

He added, "Making a cardboard box is easy and it can be very strong and durable, but to make a bicycle was extremely difficult and I had to find the right way to fold the cardboard in several different directions. It took a year and a half, with lots of testing and failure until I got it right."

Gafni told "Reuters" that in testing the durability of the treated cardboard, he immersed a cross-section in a water tank for several months and it retained all its hardened characteristics.

Once ready for production, the bicycle will include no metal parts, even the brake mechanism and the wheel and pedal bearings will be made of recycled substances, although Gafni said he could not yet reveal those details due to pending patent issues.

He said, "I'm repeatedly surprised at just how strong this material is, it is amazing. Once we are ready to go to production, the bike will have no metal parts at all."

Gafni works in a garden shed and one of his first models was a push bike he made as a toy for his young daughter which she is still using months later.

Gafni himself owns several top-of-the-range bicycles which he said are worth thousands of dollars each, but when his own creation reaches mass production, it should cost no more than about $20 to buy. He estimates the cost of materials used at $9 per unit.

He said, "When we started, a year and a half or two years ago, people laughed at us, but now we are getting at least a dozen e-mails every day asking where they can buy such a bicycle, so this really makes me hopeful that we will succeed."

Nimrod Elmish, Gafni's business partner, said that cardboard and other recycled materials could bring a major change in current production norms because grants and rebates would only be given for local production and there would be no financial benefits by making bicycles in cheap labor markets.

Emish said, "This is a real game-changer. It changes ... the way products are manufactured and shipped, it causes factories to be built everywhere instead of moving production to cheaper labor markets, everything that we have known in the production world can change."

Elmish said the cardboard bikes would be made on largely automated production lines and would be supplemented by a workforce comprising pensioners and the disabled.

He said that apart from the social benefits this would provide for all concerned, it would also garner government grants for the manufacturers.

"Because you get a lot of government grants, it brings down the production costs to zero, so the bicycles can be given away for free. We are copying a business model from the high-tech world where software is distributed free because it includes embedded advertising."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 15, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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