Industry.au: Input BMX
If anything has taken me by surprise over the last years, it’s been the rise of new companies making their own product here in Australia. The latest player in the home grown industry is Input BMX. Based out of Melbourne their products have been popping up all over the place and for good reason, it’s quality gear. And thats the reality. High end, CNC machinery ensures a level of quality unsurpassed and an end product that can compete on a world stage. We caught up with Jimmy from Input to find out a little more.
The last couple of months has had me seeing Input BMX popping up over social media and beyond. So, to fill in the youth of today, let us know the who/what/where that is Input BMX?
Well Input BMX was started to fill a bit of a void in the Aussie BMX scene, we have some of the best riders in the world, but hardly any locally made hard goods, so with my experience with design and machining and passion for BMX, Input BMX was born. We are based in Melbourne where we have our own CNC shop, and make all Aussie made hardgoods. We currently have a few guys riding for us, Adam Hough, Jax Anderson and Jake Wallwork, all absolute shredders and really awesome dudes, so glad to have them on board, they have both been awesome in pushing the brand along, and have been really helpful in getting things off the ground, cheers boys!
Could you give us a bit of a timeline from initial idea to when did your first part come together?
Haha, I made my first set of pegs back in maybe ’93, my Dad had his engineering business on the farm we lived on and I used to wait for him to go out and I would go down to the shed and knock up pegs on the lathe from the offcut aluminium he had lying around, then sell them at school! As far as getting serious about things, I suppose in around early 2010, my boss and I were talking about a few things and he encouraged me to have a go, I had wanted to have a components business since way back in the day but hadn’t ever had the opportunity to work with someone who would let me do it, so we had our first stem testing not long after that we’ve been developing a few parts since then. Massive props to the big boss man Shayne, without him this whole thing would never had started.
Australian made parts are a rare commodity and most will say they don’t exist, aren’t up to par, or are simply too expensive. Whats your comeback to these pessimists?
I can’t really speak on behalf of any other bike parts companies coming out from Australia, but as far as manufacturing goes in Aus, for the majority this is true. It’s no secret that we are now living in one of the most expensive countries in the world, and with a declining skilled labour force, I wouldn’t call it pessimistic to have those views, just realistic. There are however a handful of companies that do things a little bit differently and like us have some amazingly talented people and some pretty awesome machinery that make us stand out from the crowd. As far as competing on price, Australia will always struggle but we can compete on quality hands down. As long as there are people that appreciate quality parts and attention to detail, then I think Input will be in good hands.
Taking on the Chinese/Taiwanese industry that makes the majority of BMX parts these days must be daunting? Whats up your sleeve to tackle them?
Like I said before, quality for me is paramount. I have seen some rubbish come out of Taiwan and also some extremely good quality parts too, so for us it is about being able to offer consistently good parts, made from the best quality materials and machined to the closest possible tolerances. We have also installed a hydro dipping and spray painting booth, so we can get some crazy designs and colourways going on our parts, I have a few cool ideas that I think might take our parts to a new level of creativity, stay tuned…
You’ve obviously got connections or work with an established set up? 3D printing is one thing but CNC equipment is a multi hundered thousand dollar investment?
Yeah got some sweet hookups at work, I work in an engineering business and we specialize in complex CNC machining, metrology and CAD design, so I get to play around on some cool machinery and software, it’s a tough gig haha! Don’t discount the 3D printing, we have been trialing some titanium printed parts, with the CSIRO and I think we will be seeing a massive impact on our industry in the near future, it’s not going to do away with CNC machining anytime soon but it has opened up some doors with materials and complex designs not achievable with current manufacturing techniques, exciting times ahead, well for engineering nerds anyway!
While Input is obviously your passion, whats the day to day making and pay the rent activities include? I know 2020 only exists due to me working other jobs to pay the rent!
Yeah gotta pay the bills mate, luckily I love what I do, it’s in the blood! I am a toolmaker by trade so I work full time doing a bit of everything, CAD design, programming, operating and fixing machines,. I am currently restoring an old gun drilling machine so we can gun drill axles and crank spindles for some upcoming projects, love tinkering and fixing up old machines, something pretty cool about giving an old machine a new lease on life!
And beyond simple connections, you’re obviously trained in this area of manufacturing as this isnt sketch a stem on a napkin and it magically materializes is it?
Man that would be nice, wouldn’t ever have to leave the pub! The old napkin does come in handy sometimes but getting an idea from a basic concept to a finished design is a long slog. Once you have it drawn in 3D then all the fun begins, having a good looking part is only half the job, getting it to function safely without compromising the aesthetics too much is where all the work is, hate to think how many times I’ve scrapped a design because of that!
So you wanna word up the process from design to choosing the materials/billet, testing to finished product?
Well once we have a design we are happy with, the first thing we do before we cut any metal is run it through a virtual simulation using our CAD software, Solidworks. This is called FEA (finite element analysis), this gives us an understanding of the strength of the part under strain, we can use this to add or remove material from the part to optimize the design, and get an understanding of the best material to use.
Once we are finished the CAD design of the part, then we have to figure out the best way of manufacturing part, we have twin spindle multi axis Turn/Mill lathes, multi axis Milling machines, multi axis Swiss turn machines and all the conventional CNC machines to choose from, so we figure out the most cost effective way of making the part and then if we have to, design and manufacture all the jigs to machine the part.
We then use the solid 3D model and program toolpaths to cut the part out of the billet or barstock, this is what makes or breaks a part when it comes to affordability, so we spend hours fine tuning the programs so we can make the part as fast as possible without damaging the tools we use to make it.
When we have a finished part, it’s on our CMM (measuring machine) straight away to verify that all the parts are within tolerance, then we put them on our testing jig where we put our parts through hell on these and make sure that they will hold up to abuse you guys give them. It’s also a good way to reference our parts against other companies’ bits and see how they stack up, pretty damn nicely actually! The last step is to finally get the parts on a bike and ride the shit out of them, this is definitely the best part of the job and when you finally get a part doing what you want, it makes all the hard work worthwhile!
Materials are always a hotly contested issue, what billet are you using?
We have spent years with our current suppliers to find the best materials possible to make our parts from. Quality starts from the material up, there is no point in making the best looking parts if they are made out of rubbish, so our aluminium is sourced from a mill in South Korea and our chromoly steels are from a mill here in Australia. We do regular spectrometer tests on our materials to double check that they are in spec, and I wouldn’t use them if they weren’t the best! As far as grades go, we use 7075 t6 aluminium for our sprockets and stems, 6061t6 for our compression caps and heat treated 4140 chromoly steel for our pegs.
From inital prototypes, has the design and testing process been a steep learning curve?
Yeah for sure, the initial prototypes of all our parts all parts are never the same as the finished product, so when I started on our first stem, I had no idea the amount of work it would take to get where we are now, but it has been all worth it, I get to combine two things I am really passionate about and it’s always rewarding seeing the final product.
You range is solid from the get go, run us through it.
Cheers man, we currently have two stems, a topload and frontload, both 52mm reach and made from 7075 aluminium, anodized in black, blue, gold, green, red and purple and laser etched logo.
There are 3 different sized sprockets, 25t, 28t and 30t all made from 7075 aluminium and unlike a lot of other companies, we machine the 15/16” spindle bore and teeth in the same setup so that the teeth are perfectly concentric with the bore, eliminating tightspots in your chain. We’ve got these in the same anodized colours as the stems. These come with chromoly adaptors to fit 22mm and 19mm cranks.
We also have our pegs, made from heat treated 4140 chromoly steel, these things are street ready and tough as nails! We’ve double butted them to keep the weight out and strength up where it needs to be, come with anti rotation pin and adaptor to suit 10mm axles. These come in our “Cash Roll” wrap or black oxide finish.
We have just finished off some fork compression caps, they are 6061 aluminium and come engraved in a anodized black. We have two sizes, 25×1.5 and 24×1.5 and come broached to suit a 6mm allen key.
So selling the stuff, are you dealing direct with the riders, or via a website and/or stores?
At the moment, we are selling through Riding Way and Anchor BMX, plus we have our e-store on our website, inputbmx.com. I am hoping to get parts in as many BMX shops as I can, these are the guys helping keep the Australian BMX scene alive, so go and support them!
Whats the future got in store for you and Input?
Hopefully some good times ahead, the whole idea of Input BMX was to have a bit of fun and be able to support both the scene and our riders, so as long as we are doing that then I’ll be happy. As far as developing parts, we have a few new things being drawn up as we speak and I never stop thinking about new things to make so keep an eye on our website inputbmx.com, instagram @inputbmx and facebook page for all the new gear coming in.