Curtiss-Wright’s Innovation Incubator

Inspired by the legacy of innovation and celebrated history of our famous founders, the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss, Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions formed the Curtiss-Wright Bicycle Shop™, our incubator for innovation. The Bicycle Shop takes its name from the bicycle workshops where Curtiss-Wright’s founders pioneered major breakthroughs in the development of world-changing aviation and motorcycle technologies over 100 years ago. Inspired by famous research and development operations, like Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works® center for Advanced Development Programs, the Bicycle Shop serves as an incubator and laboratory for first-phase exploration of next-generation market leading technologies.

 


Ensuring Technical Maturity

Curtiss-Wright customers depend on us to ensure that new rugged system technologies have achieved the technical maturity demanded by critical aerospace and defense applications. Bicycle Shop projects provide the engineering resources and infrastructure to develop these new technologies before they are brought to market. Thanks to the depth of our technical expertise and the strength of Curtiss-Wright, we are able to test and evaluate next-generation system elements to ensure performance and product integrity before they are launched. Thanks to this approach, when we introduce new technologies they will be quickly proven to meet the demanding performance and quality requirements unique to deployed platforms.

R&D and Open Architecture Design

The Bicycle Shop’s charter goes beyond nurturing and evaluating new technologies. These technologies must also conform to those key industry standards that form the foundation of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Open Architecture system design. Curtiss-Wright is one of the leading vendors helping to define and evolve these important standards through participation in and support of industry consortia such as VITA and the U.S. Army’s VICTORY initiative. We are proud to serve as stewards of these open standards while exploring ways to optimize the performance and product integrity of standards-compliant system elements.

Open Standards, Yes – Commodities, No

Compliance with open standards does not mean that COTS products are commodities. While the Open Architecture approach does ensure commonality for electrical and physical interconnects, thus enabling a healthy technology eco-system supported by numerous COTS vendors, the products marketed by these different vendors will typically feature markedly different performance and support attributes. The often significant differentiators of these competing products can include wide variance in performance optimization, technology road-maps, and lifecycle support resources, just to name a few. The Curtiss-Wright Bicycle Shop provides the organization and infrastructure to deliver proven and trustworthy next-generation Open Architecture solutions to our partners.

The Bicycle Shop: Disruptive vs. Sustaining Innovation

What sort of projects will the Bicycle Shop undertake? The focus of the Bicycle Shop is on what we identify as either “Disruptive Innovation” or “Discontinuous Sustaining Innovation” opportunities. Those technology advances that represent traditional product evolution won’t qualify as Bicycle Shop projects. A Disruptive Innovation is one that helps to create a new market and value network. This type of innovation will eventually disrupt an existing market and value network, and displace an earlier incumbent technology. At Curtiss-Wright, we also recognize two types of sustaining innovations, “continuous” and “discontinuous.” A sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks. Instead, it evolves the existing status quo with better value, which enables COTS vendors to compete against each other's sustaining improvements. Continuous sustaining innovations are those that are simply evolutionary. Discontinuous sustaining innovations, on the other hand, are those that are transformational or revolutionary: these join Disruptive Innovations as ideal Bicycle Shop projects.

 

Investigating a New Technology? Contact Us First.

Current Bicycle Shop projects that are already underway might be exploring those new technologies that you want to know more about. If there is a new technology that you are interested in, but don’t already see on our website, feel free to contact us. Chances are that the Bicycle Shop is already hard at work on evaluating that exact technology. 

Bicycle Shop Projects

While only recently introduced to the public, the Curtiss-Wright Bicycle Shop has been quietly in operation for several years. One of the first Bicycle Shop project technologies brought to market was our innovative Fabric40 40Gbs high-speed interconnect solution. Fabric40, which is fully compliant with existing VITA standards, delivers the highest speed system fabric performance to a full range of rugged modules, backplanes, and enclosures. It enables system designers to easily and rapidly integrate and deploy HPEC quality processing for the most demanding C4ISR applications.

Examples of current and ongoing Bicycle Shop projects include:

  • Fluid Flow Through cooling
  • Direct Digital Manufacturing to cost-effectively leverage and integrate 3D printing into the manufacturing process
  • Network Bridging technologies to enhance VICTORY, network-centric, and distributed computing architectures with support for both legacy and contemporary data communications interface standards, and the development of Ultra Small Form Factor (USFF) solutions for SWaP-C sensitive platforms.
 

The History Behind the Bicycle Shop

The immortal aviation pioneers, Wilbur and Orville Wright and Glenn Curtiss, first started on the auspicious paths that led them to world-changing invention and innovation by running bicycle shops.

At the end of the 19th Century, the recently begun bicycle craze caught the imagination of clever, mechanically inclined young entrepreneurs. The Wright brothers opened their bicycle shop, the Wright Cycle Exchange, in Dayton, Ohio in 1892. Eight years later, Glenn Curtiss opened his own bicycle repair shop in Hammondsport, New York.

In their workshops, surrounded by their tools and caught up by the energy of the new century, these young inventors embarked on new discoveries that altered the course of history.

The Inner Tube Box

One anecdote from the Wright brother’s bicycle shop highlights how central this prototypical “garage shop” was in the development of man-powered flight.

Having experienced repeated crashes during their first experiments in glider flight, the Wright brothers were stymied in their efforts to effectively control and maneuver the aircraft in flight. One day in their bicycle shop, while nervously twisting a bicycle tire inner tube box, Wilbur came upon the solution they had been struggling so hard to find.

The distorted cardboard box grasped in his hands brought to Wilbur’s mind the concept of “wing warping,” a method of physically reshaping the aircraft’s wings by pulling on cables to enable control over lift and attitude.

The profits from their bicycle business financed the Wright brothers' ongoing experiments, and it was at their bicycle shop that they crafted their experimental gliders, designed their first airplane, and built the wind tunnel that enabled them to test and improve the inventions that gave wings to humankind.

The Fastest Man on Earth

No less bold and curious was Glenn Curtiss. Given a bicycle at a young age, Curtiss parlayed the gift into both a business and an avocation.

With his bike he first got a job delivering Western Union telegrams around town. He next entered bike racing contests, and soon after became renowned as a champion racer. Pursuing his love of machines and speed, Curtiss opened a bicycle repair shop and manufacturing company.

Thanks to the popularity of his bicycle designs, Curtiss' company expanded with multiple locations around New York State. For Curtiss, it was a natural progression from self-powered transportation to the new technology of motorcycles. In 1902, he launched the G.H. Curtiss Manufacturing Company and began selling Hercules motorcycles.

In 1903, after traveling a mile in 56.4 seconds – a new world record - Curtiss was named the first American Motorcycle Champion. In 1907, he became famous as the “fastest man in the world” after reaching a top speed of 136.36 mph on a Daytona, Florida beach.

An inspiration to countless future engineers and inventors

While less known and celebrated today than the Wright brothers, Glenn Curtiss’ exploits with two-wheeled speed helped to inspire the creation of the fictional hero, Tom Swift, the Boy Inventor.

Victor Appleton's novel,“Tom Swift and his Motor Cycle,” the very first in the long-lived popular series of books for young adults, was based on the speed-demon adventures and daredevil reputation of Glenn Curtiss.

Innumerable futurists and technologists have acknowledged the important role that these books played in their careers, including the great science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, and Apple Computer co-founder, Steve Wozniak.

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