3 Tips for Working with Carbon Fiber Parts

carbon fiber parts

The history of carbon fiber begins earlier than many realize. By the late 1800s, scientists were experimenting on carbon fibers for incandescent lightbulbs. Less than 100 years later, these filaments opened the way for a future material: carbon fiber.

Today, you’ll find carbon fiber as a vital component in many industries. It’s light, strong, heat-resistant, and ideal for sensitive applications like medical devices. Regardless, parts-like any other material are best when you manufacture them right.

Planning to make carbon fiber products? Before you do, it helps to have a bit of expert advice going in. Read along as we discuss three key tips when working on a carbon fiber part.

1. Make Sure Carbon Fiber Is Ideal

Before anything else, make sure carbon fiber is the correct material for your application. It does an excellent job in many solutions, from prostheses to aerospace-grade parts. Like any material, though, it is not fit for every job on the planet.

Carbon fiber has unparalleled tensile strength, up to four times stronger than steel. Yet its compressive strength is one of the few areas where steel has its beat. When used in a submersible vessel, as one example, it can buckle and collapse.

Make sure your carbon fiber product would not be better suited with another composite material.

2. Use the Proper Fiber Grade

There isn’t one “carbon fiber” used for everything. Thicker, heavier fibers naturally create a stronger, denser, stiffer weave. Thinner fibers create ultra-light finishes and covers.

Professionals break  down into three categories:

  • Grade
  • Weight
  • Strength

Something, like twill weave carbon fiber at 5.6 ounces, gives the classic carbon fiber look. For heavier-duty industrial applications, you’ll want to increase the weight and grade commensurately.

Selecting the proper epoxy will also play a role in the end physical properties of carbon fiber. In many applications, you bond the fibers together with something like cyanoacrylate adhesive. For thicker weaves, layers of carbon fiber require epoxies that can keep them aligned and lend further strength.

3. Use the Correct Gear When Working With Carbon Fiber Parts

What’s great about carbon fiber is it’s not rocket science to make or work with. That said, this doesn’t mean you can build it in your garage with whatever parts you have on hand. Composite materials are tough and need tough tools to mold and cut them.

Cutting the laminate, for example, works best when you use carbide or diamond-crusted tools. Carbon fiber is abrasive in nature and can wear down steel scissors and razor knives very quickly.

Further, carbon fiber may produce dust in the manufacturing and cutting process. Although this dust is non-toxic, it is an irritant for the lungs, eyes, and skin. You should wear a mask and eye protection just as you might when handling fiberglass.

Work With SMI Composites

Carbon fiber parts can often outpace–and replace–their steel competitors. Though miraculous in many ways, handling– properly in the manufacturing process will prevent big hiccups later on. Use these three tips as a starting point.

SMI Composites has the capabilities to tackle your next project. Whether it’s autoclave curing or compression molding, drop by our website to find a solution for you.

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