Phantom frames was founded in Santa Ana, california in 2011. Our product concept originated when the founder’s son Jack needed a new light for his bicycle. Rather than choosing an existing headlamp from the local bike shop, he asked why the entire bicycle could not “light up”. To be clear, not just a bike with lights, but one that the entire frame could light up (he actually wanted the tires to light also). What a cool idea! So we set out to develop a transparent frame with internal illumination.
After creating some initial concept drawings, we purchased three rusty old bike frames for $30 and started tinkering. Over the next month or two, we cut apart the frames and installed polycarbonate sections with led lights mounted inside. The light sources were actually small flashlights from the hardware store which were cut apart and wired into the polycarbonate sections. Using the remainder of the bike components we cobbled together our first prototype. The glowing sections of the frame looked awesome.
To check if anyone had done this before, we performed a patent search to check other types of lighted bicycles. We found that most of them simply added lighting systems to an existing frame. None of them actually used the frame to transmit light throughout, making the whole frame a light source. We also searched for polycarbonate molded frames and found many concepts, but limited success in actual production.
Based on that first prototype, we filed for a us utility patent to protect the concept. The following month, Jack brought the prototype to his school as a science fair project. Reaction from both kids and parents gave us no choice but to move ahead and develop a model which could be mass produced. There were many technical hurdles ahead of us in order to design a frame strong enough for riding, but life is full of hurdles – right?
So the real work started. We had custom circuit boards built to make our own light sources. We had a number of designs sla prototyped using a material that looked similar to polycarbonate. Then for the bike components, finding the right suppliers was not easy. The first design we actually production tooled had many technical issues, so the molds were written off as a “learning experience” which basically equates to expensive boat anchors.
Finally in 2015 we arrived at a winning combination. The first internally illuminated polycarbonate molded bike frame. A frame design that has excellent strength, very good light transmission, and can be manufactured in high volumes. The first model to be released is our balance bike, which we expect to follow up quickly with both 12” pedal and tricycle models…..AND Yes, there are more applications we are working on.