Carbon Fiber Laminate: A Powerhouse Composite Material

carbon fiber laminate

If you asked the average person how old carbon fiber is, they’d probably guess wrong. Carbon fiber is much older than most of us would imagine. It was first used in lightbulbs in the 1870s.

We’ve improved carbon fiber significantly in the past century-and-a-half, and one of the most important improvements is carbon fiber laminate. Carbon fiber laminate is when carbon fiber is synthesized into a solid sheet.

This laminate is a versatile material that has carved out a place in the luxury market. We’ll discuss carbon fiber laminate and its uses here. We’ll also talk about how it’s made.

Creating Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber’s fabrication process is complicated, but we’ll simplify it as best we can. It all starts with a material like polyacrylonitrile (PAN), pitch, or rayon. We use these materials because they consist mostly of carbon.

Knowing about carbon fiber and how it’s manufactured can help you tell real carbon fiber from imitations.


The chosen material is then “spun” into carbon fibers. The term ‘spinning’ is a misnomer, because the process is mostly chemical. During this process, the starting material is exposed to chemicals, which cause it to break down and reform as fibers. These fibers are then stretched to a desired length, which lines up the molecules in the fiber so they’re easy to work with later.


After spinning, the resulting fibers are put into ovens and heated at 2-300 Celsius to oxidate them. Exposure to oxygen makes the fibers denser. This is important because scientists use density to find specific stiffness.

Specific stiffness is a measure of strength to weight in a given material. Carbon fiber is designed to have high strength and low weight.


The next step in the fabrication process is carbonization. During carbonization, the fibers are put into an oxygen-free furnace. This is important because fire feeds off oxygen, so an oxygen-free environment means no fire risk.

The strands are then heated to temperatures of 1-2000 degrees Celsius. Heat this intense causes molecules to vibrate. These vibrations shake most substances off the carbon molecules, leaving almost pure carbon. These new carbon strands are then woven together and coated in plastic or resin to create carbon fiber laminate.

Uses of Carbon Fiber Laminate

Being a laminated composite makes carbon fiber laminate a valuable material. Composite structures fulfill several roles in the market because of their weight-to-strength ratio. An advancement in molding technology allows us to fuse carbon nanotubes to carbon fiber to make a stronger material.

You can find carbon fiber laminates in everything from artificial limbs to cell phones, and this list will grow as time goes on.

Carbon Fiber Laminate

Carbon fiber laminate has many fascinating properties that have made it useful for many different purposes. We’ve discussed the manufacturing process and characteristics of carbon fiber laminate here, but there’s always more to learn.

SMI Composites is part of a global community that provides composite materials for many industries. We have a lot of experience in making carbon fiber and many happy customers to prove it.

We encourage you to read more about us if you’re still not convinced.

About the author