Babylon | How They are built
Babylon have total control of each stage of the manufacturing process, allowing them to create unique blanks that fully meet the expectations of the most demanding angler. These are the eight stages that go into the manufacture of a carp rod blank:
1st stage – The cold room
The dozens of rolls of fibre used by Babylon to manufacture their blanks are kept in the freezer at precisely -23ºC in order to stabilise the small amount of resin content mixed with the fibres. Indeed, to transform a carbon web – imagine a roll of fabric and you will be close – into a solid blank, the carbon fibres are mixed with a thermosetting resin whose performance depends entirely on temperature.
At -23ºC this resin is solid and stable; at ambient temperature, it begins to react, and it can therefore only be kept for a few days. Finally, once the different carbons have been assembled, this resin will undergo a long, meticulously-controlled, cooking process which will cause it to fuse with the carbon fibre to produce the blank as we know it. The carbon cloths are packaged in rolls of several dozen, or even hundreds of, linear metres in size. The company works with the latest generations of carbon, principally used in the aerospace industry. The resins used by Babylon are all enhanced with Nano-particles, similar to reinforced concrete, which make it possible to strengthen the blank and achieve a considerable improvement in its life expectancy and resistance to micro-impacts –this is what is known as Nano Carbon Matrix technology.
2nd stage – The robotic cutting machine
Once the rolls are out of the freezer, they are placed on the digitally-controlled, robotic, cutting machine and then painstakingly unrolled. This brand-new, highly-sophisticated machine allows precise cuts to be made, accurate to around 1/100 of a millimetre, and above all makes it possible to ensure the repeatability of the cutting process, so each blank that leaves the Babylon factory conforms rigorously to the initial specifications. A blade with an extremely sharp edge cuts the cloth at high speed, cleanly and with no burr.
3rd stage – Assembling the sheets of carbon
At this stage, the different carbons that make up the blank – up to ten in the same blank – are assembled and placed on a mandrel. To give the rod its conical shape, tempered steel mandrels, heat-treated to obtain a perfectly smooth surface, are used in the manufacture of each component. Before each process of assembly, the mandrels are placed on a hot-plate to ensure that the carbon adheres perfectly. The mandrel is placed with great precision on a table, where a special machine moves into position and winds the sheets of carbon around the mandrel under high pressure so as to create a seamless unit, with as little air as possible. It is at this stage that the rod takes shape, with the sheets of carbon taking on a slim conical form, the colour of anthracite.
4 – Vacuum treatment
Once wound onto the mandrel, the fibre will be wrapped in a special plastic film to allow the blank to undergo a uniform cooking process. Indeed, before becoming solid, the resin (which is used at extremely low levels in blanks made by Babylon) will pass through a liquid state. Placing the blank in a vacuum allows the resin to spread evenly in all directions. This process ensures that each cubic millimetre of carbon will contain precisely the same amount of resin as its neighbour. The blank is very slim, and it is therefore crucial that the resin is distributed perfectly.
5 – Cooking
We’re not talking about a domestic oven here, but a huge autoclave oven, several metres high, which can hold up to 200 blanks in a single cooking process. This mandatory stage generally lasts between seven and eight hours. Each cooking cycle is controlled by a computer linked to the network. This regulates the cooking cycle on the basis of a strict norm from the field of aeronautics, NADTAC.
6 – Extraction (a delicate stage)
Once the cooking phase has finished, the blank and the mandrel form a single unit. An extremely powerful machine has been developed to separate the blank from the mandrel. Despite its jack developing six tonnes of traction, each extraction is carried out with delicacy so as not to damage the sensitive fibres. Once the mandrel is freed, the blank already looks more like a proper rod!
7 – Sanding
All the initial stages have made it possible to produce the blank that will become a rod; however, they need to remove the excess resin and give the blank an exclusive shine, impervious to impacts and ageing – the famous ‘Diamond’ finish. At first glance, you would think it was varnish, whereas it is actually the carbon, polished so finely that it shines!
8 – Test-bench
This is the moment of truth – from each series of blanks, Babylon sacrifices one, in order to ensure that the strength of the batch conforms to the strict specifications set down for each model.