Comparing Popular Manufacturing Methods of Carbon Fiber Parts

carbon fiber parts

These days, carbon fire is a principal element in the manufacturing of composite materials. The material dates back to its first uses by Thomas Edison. Although the fibers in his day lacked tensile strength, the considerable heat tolerance made them ideal for conducting electricity.

So, it’s no wonder that decades since then, carbon fiber has continued to be developed. These composites are suited to light-weight materials that require strength and stiffness, which is one of the reasons why carbon fiber features heavily in the sporting goods and automotive industries.

With that in mind, in this post, we’ll take a look at the popular manufacturing methods for carbon fiber parts and see how they compare.

Carbon Fiber Through the Decades

The first petroleum-based carbon fibers were created by accident and only featured 20% carbon. Back then, the fibers didn’t have enough stiffness and strength for widespread use.

During the early 1960s, modern carbon fiber was established. A revised production method inspired by polyacrylonitrile (PAN) allowed for 55% carbon.

Nowadays, yarn has entered the global market, with some fibers boasting up to 95% carbon. In return, massively increases the tensile strength and as such, carbon fibers used across various industries.

Open Molding

These days, open molding crafts a versatile range of parts that comprise carbon fiber composites. When production isn’t easily automated open casting makes low-volume orders ideal.

During the open molding process, a reinforcement fiber will saturate with a thermoset resin, using either the hand lay-up or spray-up method.

Hand Lay-Up

This is the simplest method of composite molding. A mold uses a thin plastic sheet for a smooth surface. Layers of woven reinforcement are cut into shape and placed on the surface of the mold. Then, the resin mixed with other ingredients is infused on the surface of the reinforcement and uniformly spread with a brush.

Spray Lay-Up

The spray lay-up method is similar to the hand lay-up approach. But, an operator applies the composite material into single-sided tooling. The composite cures under atmospheric conditions, which means the tooling is low-cost, and you can produce huge parts. However, the cycle time for completing this method is much longer.

Methods differ from hand lay-up because hand-held guns spray a combination of thermoset resin and chopped carbon fiber.

Vacuum Infusion

Fiber reinforcements begin placed into the mold, and then into plastic bagging film covers, secured over the top creating a vacuum-tight seal. You then pour the resin into strategically placed ports and feed lines. The resin then draws into a vacuum through the reinforcements.

Vacuum infusion doesn’t require high heat or pressure, and you can use relatively low-cost tooling. This enables manufacturers to create large, complex carbon fiber parts.

Ready to Manufacture High-Quality Parts?

There are various manufacturing methods you can utilize to create carbon fiber parts. So, knowing which to use (and when) is crucial. Therefore, please feel free to contact us today, as we’ll do our utmost to point you in the right direction.

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