Carbon Fiber For Newbies: Before You Make That First Part
Despite carbon fiber being commercially available for decades, we find that there are plenty of opportunities to sell carbon fiber materials to new customers. These are folks who have never used carbon fiber before. They are just getting started as DIY fabricators or commercial operators looking for alternatives to other materials.
At any rate, carbon fiber brings a lot to the table. Designed properly, it can be stronger and lighter than aluminum, steel, titanium and even wood. For some applications, there simply is no better composite. Yet choosing to use carbon fiber for the first time opens the door to a whole new way of fabricating. Trust us when we say that fabricating with carbon fiber takes some getting used to.
Below is a selection of tips designed for people who have never made a carbon fiber part before. Suffice it to say that it takes time to perfect the art of working with this material. But once you do, you will be able to create all sorts of parts for a variety of applications.
1. Do Your Research
Research is an integral part of fabrication design and implementation. Before you cut that first piece of fabric or mix up at first batch of resin, be sure to do research into exactly which materials to use. For example, carbon fiber comes in many different form factors. We sell dry carbon fiber fabrics, prepreg fabrics, panels, plates, tubes, and more.
There are also different types of epoxy resins. Some resins are suitable for certain types of applications while others are not. You need the right resin based on the part you want to create and how you plan to create it. We can walk you through the details of all the resins we sell.
2. Check the Engineering
Next, you may want to check the engineering of the part in question. By this we mean looking into whether or not your design will actually work. For example, maybe you are planning to fabricate replacement blades for a drone. Doing so may not be as simple as taking an existing blade and using it to make a mold.
There are computer software apps that can help you with engineering problems. You design your part with the app and then choose your carbon fiber materials. It will run the calculations and let you know if your plan is sound. In the absence of software, avail yourself of online materials including videos, how-to guides, etc.
Do not stress about the engineering if you are fabricating a part for which maximum structural integrity isn’t required. A good example would be a carbon fiber spoiler for the back of your car. The spoiler is just for aesthetic purposes, so the engineering isn’t critical.
3. Plan the Fabrication Process
A lot of carbon fiber newbies get into trouble during the actual fabricating process because they began with no plan in place. Take it from us, planning how you are going to fabricate a part can save you a ton of trouble during the process itself.
Most people new to fabrication start with manual layups. They are the easiest to do and capable of producing pretty impressive parts. Fortunately, there are tons of videos online that explain exactly how to do it.
We suggest practicing with fiberglass first. A fiberglass layup will cost less. You can practice making a few parts before you invest in more expensive carbon fiber. Note that we carry fiberglass materials as well. If you would like to know more, do not hesitate to give us a shout.