Here in this article, we are taking an exclusive tour and look inside the Industry Nine headquarters located in Asheville, North Carolina. It is truly amazing how much effort, hard work, and time goes in to designing, machining, assembling, and testing these rad wheels. All Industry Nine parts start their life as raw material and leave the door a piece of carefully crafted jewelry. Let's dive right in and see how these wheels are born.
Also be sure to check out Industry Nine's Tuesday Night Supper Club video at the bottom of this article!
Industry Nine Torch Hubs and "System" Chassis in Anodized Green
Industry Nine is a brand that is built on determination, determination to go above and beyond what is possible with high end performance wheels. It is more than just maximizing weight and performance. Everyone at i9 has a common goal to be the best and you can see that energy running through their entire factory. Industry Nine was founded in 2004 by Clint Spiegel, owner of both Turnamics Inc. and Industry Nine. Industry Nine gets its name from being the ninth company born out of the Turnamics machine shop. Clint's father, Harvey, founded Turnamics in 1969 and is still involved with the day to day operation on the shop floor. Currently about half of the floor space at Turnamics is filled with Industry Nine products. That is likely to change as Industry Nine continues to grow over the next couple of years.
Clint Spiegel - Founder of Industry Nine Componentry
If you've got a bike, Industry Nine makes the wheels to fit it. With so many different ever-changing wheels standards, the crew at i9 has done a great job keeping up. The main reason they can afford to get on board with new standards right away is because they do all of their own manufacturing in the Turnamics machine shop right next door. Currently Industry Nine offers 26", 27.5" and 29" mountain wheels any where from 135mmx9mm to 157mm x 12mm super boost wheel spacing. If road or gravel bikes are more your style, i9 has you covered with a full selection of carbon or aluminum, disc brake or rim brakes offerings.
So Many Custom Wheels Ready to Go!
Chris Reichel, I9's Marketing Director, gave us a tour of the entire Industry Nine facility here in Asheville. Here at I9's headquarters, they engineer, design, manufacture and assemble all of there hubshells, spokes, end caps, axles, and Matchstix multi tool axles. All of Industry Nine's rims are designed at their office in Asheville but are manufactured offsite. The bearings used in their hubs along with the valve stems are both outsourced. This gives the whole crew at Industry Nine more time and energy to focus on continually trying to improving their system spoke chassis, hub design, and all of their other products. During our visit with Chris, we were able to some great insight about the wheel building process from start to finish, and also ask him some questions about what keeps everyone on top of their game.
Industry Nine has a great group of engineers that work closely with both owner Clint Spiegel and vice president Jacob McGahey, who both have engineering and design experience. Every single piece that goes into making these wheels is scrutinized here. From the original design, to continuous refinements, the engineering team is always looking for ways to improve.
Exploded View of a Torch Front Hub Assembly
The heart behind each Industry Nine wheelset is their Torch hub. Each hub starts its life from 7075 aluminum round bar. One step at a time, the stock round bar gets cut to length, turned on a lathe, milled and bored in a series of machining processes.
Axles, Endcaps, and Hub Shells ready to be Born
First cut on a chop saw, the round bar is cut to length for the specific hub it is intended for. Fat bike hubs use a wider hub shell than say a 100mm front hub shell. The round bar is rough cut to the appropriate length here before the next machining operation. Because almost every individual part that makes up a hub assembly is machined from the same 7075 aluminum, Industry Nine is able to collect and sell the metal chips being they are all the same material.
One at a Time, Every Hub Shell Starts Here
These Metal Chips Are Sold Back to the Supplier for Almost as Much as the Round Bar Costs
The hubs are first turned on a lathe in a series of operations where they are cut down to what is recognizably a hub shell. One step at a time, this raw material is starting to look a bit more like a piece of jewelry. Once finished on the lathe, the hubs are taken over to the mill where the individual spoke flanges are cut along with the rotor bolt mounts. Below you can see a side by side photo of a Torch hubshell finished with its turning operations on the left next to a hubshell finished with its milling operations on the right.
Left: Torch Hub After Turning Operations, Right: Torch Hub After Milling Operations
Left: Torch Hub After Turning Operations, Right: Torch Hub After Milling Operations
Torch Road Hub on the Mill
Each of the different end cap and driver bodys variations are machined in a similar manner. The end caps start off as 7075 aluminum round bar, they are cut on a similar chop saw, and then turned on a lathe down for their intended use. The standard HG driver bodies, single speed HG driver bodies, and Sram XD driver bodies are first turned on a lathe and then placed in a mill to get each of the splines cut into them.
End caps Almost to their Final Spec
12mm Rear Hub End Caps Almost Ready to Go
Part of what makes Industry Nine wheels unique is the drive mechanism inside their Torch hubs. Both the drive ring and ratcheting pawls are heat treated and hardened before they are cut to shape using Electrical Discharge Machining, or EDM. Industry Nine uses a wire-cut EDM where current flows between a "tool electrode", or electrode, and the "workpiece electrode", or workpiece, while submerged in a dielectric fluid. The current flowing between the two electrodes effectively cuts away material in the desired shape. With a wire-cut EDM, the electrode is a spool of wire that is fed through the dielectric fluid and the workpiece is the pawls and drive rings that are being cut. Both the drive rings and pawls are polished up before assembly.
Left: The Drive Ring After Being Heat Treated, Middle: The Finished Drive Ring via EDM, Right: Excess Material Cut From the Center
Here is the thought process. Industry Nine wants to used hardened steel pawls and drive rings to increase the durability of the drive mechanism in their Torch hubs. They choose to cut the teeth on both the drive rings and pawls after heat treat because if done in reverse, they run the risk on the teeth deforming during the heat treating process. The most efficient way to cut these intricate hardened steel small parts is using EDM. Industry Nine Torch hubs are the only hubs that use both hardened steel drive rings and ratcheting pawls. Because of that, they are able to withstand over 700 ft-lbs of torque! That's as much as your diesel full size truck puts out!
Each of the Drive Rings are Cut in Stacks of Five at a Time
This has got to be one of the coolest parts that goes in to making these wheels go around. A long section of aluminum round bar gets loaded in, and out comes a finished Industry Nine system spoke. This machine first cuts the spoke to length, then turned down to the correct diameter, the spoke wrench flange is cut, the fine threads are rolled, and a small torx wrench key hole is broached all without having to be touched by an operator. In a round bar, and out a finished aluminum Industry Nine spoke.
One Spoke at a Time Gets Spit Out
Industry Nine runs a super tight ship when comes to quality control. Every single one of their parts gets checked and measured before continuing on to either the next manufacturing operation or to assembly. Every single hub shell, hub axle, end cap, freehub, spoke, and rim is measured to ensure that the customer is getting the absolute best wheelset possible.
Ricky is the Man Who Handles Quality Control. Stainless Steel XD Freehub Here
Once the majority of the machining on each hub shell is done, they are sent over to be polished. Polishing is a tedious and never ending process here but important for the high gloss anodized finish. Each of their system hubs are hand polished before they are anodized.
Each and Every Hub Gets Polished Here by Gabe
Industry Nine does all of their anodizing in house to be in full control of the process. Anodizing can be tough to repeat identically because there are many factors than can affect the color shade of the end product. A small change in ambient temperature, concentration of the chemical mixture, and time in each bath are a few of the many factors that come in to play when mastering anodizing. Industry Nine offers 11 different anodized color options on all of their hub shells, spokes, valve stems, and Matchstix axle handles giving them a durable finish with a killer look. Check out the AnoLab and design your own custom wheelset with limitless combinations!
Each Anodized Color has its own Tank and is Running Constantly
Hubs Polished Clean and Ready to be Dunked in Some Color
Spokes Get Hung in Custom Racks for Anodizing
Once each of the hub shells and spokes are finished getting anodized, they are sent to the laser etching machine. Here is where the Industry Nine logos are scribed into each and every hub shell, spoke, and Matchix. It was pretty cool to see how they test different hub shells for laser etching. Just sharpie over the original, and run it again!
This Classic Torch Hub Getting its I9 Badge in the Laser Etching Machine
Laser Etching Test Piece
Each hub makes its final trip back down to the Turnamics machine shop before being assembled. The next operation on I9's system hubs is to machine and tap the threads for each of the individual spoke holes. This step comes after anodizing because it important that the spoke threads and hubs do not seize together once the wheel is assembled. Each individual spoke acts like a long screw and is threaded into the hub using a traditional spoke wrench. With the spoke thread's surface finish anodized and the hub shell threads with a raw finish, the two are able to slide keeping them from seizing.
Spoke Flange Holes Being Drilled and Tapped
Spoke Holes Get Drilled and Tapped After Anodizing
Now that all of the machining operations are finished, it's time to assemble some wheels. Industry Nine keeps their shelfs full of so many different wheel standards and color so that each custom order can be ordered and built right away. With a team of experienced wheel builders, all of Industry Nine System wheels are all laced, trued and tensioned by hand. Right now, I9's S series wheels are assembled using one of the most advanced wheel building machines you can get your hands on. This machine uses a systematic process taking in to account thread bind up and tension to get a round and straight wheel before being checked over again by hand. The wheel building room is always busy with wheel builds. Most of the wheel builders pump out around 10 wheel sets per day!
The Wheel Building Area is Always Full Throttle
i9's Own Wheel Truing Machine Takes in to Account Tension and Thread Binding
So Many Custom Mountain and Road Wheelsets Ready to be Shipped