So, if you’ve been reading Roadshow for, like, any length of time, you know that I’m kind of crazy for motorcycles. I love them. In fact, I love them so much that I’m building a custom motorcycle of my own (that’s a whole other kettle of fish). Right now, I’m in the exciting and also vaguely panic-inducing part of the project where you buy and hoard parts, and one of the parts I got in the mail today is so cool that I thought I’d share it with you. Spoiler alert: it’s a rearview mirror.
But wait, it’s not just any rearview mirror. It’s a German-made rearview mirror that is made entirely without glass. That’s right, it’s a glassless and, therefore (probably mostly) unbreakable and frameless rearview mirror from a company called MotoGadget, and if you’re like me, you’re probably super-curious how something like that is made. Luckily, MotoGadget produced a nearly 20-minute-long video detailing the process, and while there’s no voiceover, it’s still pretty dang interesting.
So then, how do they make a mirror with no glass? First, MotoGadget starts with aluminum bar stock, which then gets sliced into chunks and milled down to its mostly final shape on a CNC lathe. This takes care of the mount at the back that the mirror swivels on and makes it super-thin and lightweight, but it still just looks like regular old aluminum on the front.
The next step is called fly cutting, and it’s a machining process that gets used on all kinds of things, but in the automotive industry, we most commonly see it used in engine machining to make cylinder heads, engine blocks and manual transmission flywheels flat. The fly cutter used by Motogadget is slightly different than the ones used on an engine. It uses a super-fast rotation speed and a super-sharp cutter to take off microscopically thin layers of aluminum, leaving an almost glass-like surface finish. Seriously, it looks as though the mirror has been polished, but it’s straight out of a CNC machine.
Next, MotoGadget uses some kind of witchcraft to shape the surface further and then harden it to help it resist scratches. The results are reasonably bonkers just in how light and thin they are. I will confess to being mostly ignorant of all of this when I ordered (and paid full price for, mind you) my mirrors, having initially selected them because they looked cool, but now I appreciate them in a whole new way and hope you do, too.
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