Astro Preparing for Robotized Frame Production in Vietnam
HO CHI-MINH CITY, Vietnam – For frame manufacturer Astro Engineering Co. Ltd. Vietnam was already in 2000 the best possible location for low cost production outside Taiwan. Founded in 1991 in Taiwan, the company today operates multiples facilities in Kim Huy Industrial Park and Dong An Industrial Park II nearby Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city.
Though based in a low-cost country, the Astro factory Bike Europe visited is well laid out and operated smoothly. To cope with increasing demand, Astro Engineering opened a second facility in 2017, next to 500,000 units factory opened in 2000. Also, the company’s Vietnam head office is based at this new facility.
Bring in robotized frame production
The factory includes three large halls, each dedicated to a specific operation. One hall with a capacity of 250,000 units per year, is used for the production of alloy frame sets. While all welding is still done by hand, it immediately stands out that the hall is not yet fully in use. “We anticipate on increasing labour costs. That is inevitable, also here in Vietnam,” explains Camille Hung, Astro’s Vice General Manager. “In future the available floor space will be used for, partly, robotized frame manufacturing. We expect to present more on this at the next Taipei Cycle Show.”
We anticipate on increasing labour costs in Vietnam
When walking through the production halls it stands out that all frames have smooth welding. “Other welding technologies require another handling to finishing the final product. For smooth welding you need skilled welders, but these are not available in this country. As a result, we have to train everybody who comes in so we decided to learn them the skills for smooth welding immediately. At the same time, they get Chinese classes to make communication easier.”
Carbon frame production
The production of 50,000 carbon frames is done in the second hall of the facility. With a capacity of 100 units a day, the production is done is three separate rooms. During the production the total weight of the frame is checked regularly in order not to miss anything. The third hall mainly included the painting factory. Not only for the frame built in this factory, but also for the frame of Astro’s second facility in Vietnam.
Frame development and design is an important part of Astro’s added value and service for its customers. The company’s in-house frame testing facilities in both Taiwan and Vietnam are built by themselves. “The in-house frame development and design is a necessary part of our work as specialist in this field,” explains Camille Hung.
“Most of our customers outsource this part of development of their bicycles. It means that we are at the table with many competing brands. Something this is delicate but it never caused any problems. The bicycle industry is small so trust and reliability are very important. We implemented Abaqus software for high level element FEA and computer-aided engineering two years ago for all our frame designs. Our design team works year round to handle all request together with our three CAE engineers.”
With this information it is not surprising to hear from Camille Hung that “90 percent of our production in Vietnam is e-bike frames. In our product design we focus on MTB and e-bikes. That’s our background. These categories also require more research and development. That’s we have got to offer to our customers. The outlook in the market for e-MTB and e-bikes in general is very good.