Why You Need to Do Your Research Before You Purchase Carbon Fiber Sheets
Whether you’re a professional fabricator or a first-time DIY’er, you might need carbon fiber sheets for your next project. Carbon fiber composites are complex materials that require specific engineering knowledge, skills, and equipment to properly manufacture. It is important to understand the process, the product, your supplier, and the type of carbon fiber sheets you want.
Fabricating Carbon Fiber Parts
If you plan to fabricate a carbon fiber part yourself, be sure to know the processes involved in producing carbon fiber composite parts.
Molds, or tooling, are needed to produce carbon fiber parts. Molds are typically negative molds, meaning they are concave for laying the carbon fiber cloth onto or into to form the exact surface contour of the part.
The carbon fiber cloth is first impregnated with resin (typically epoxy). This step is not necessary if you utilize prepreg carbon fiber sheets.
Next, you layup the material by trimming it appropriately and fitting it to the mold.
Closing the Tool
This is accomplished with matched tooling, a vacuum bag, or other methods, and removes air and excess resin to consolidate the part.
Curing the Part
This is typically done with the addition of heat
Demold and Trim
Finally, the part is removed from the mold and the edges trimmed to shape. This is typically done with CNC machine tools.
Skill in these processes is needed to successfully fabricate carbon fiber parts. It is highly recommended that you carefully research the subject and watch the available YouTube videos to be sure you are prepared to take on this task by yourself.
Selecting a Carbon Fiber Sheet Manufacturer
If you decide to entrust this process to professionals, you need to research where to purchase your carbon fiber sheets. The importance of purchasing from an experienced carbon fiber sheet manufacturer cannot be overstated. Carbon fiber sheets should lie perfectly flat. Sheets with a gloss finish should not show bumps, ridges, or indentations and should be reflective like a mirror. Sheets with a matte finish should be smooth but not as reflective as gloss finishes. Sheets with a textured finish should have a fine, fabric-like texture to aid in bonding. The fibers in the carbon fiber sheet should lay perfectly straight along the axis to which they are oriented. Finally, cuts should be clean.. Sloppy cutting of carbon fiber sheets indicates that the manufacturer is negligent in other areas. This can result in inconsistencies in the sheets that can cause premature failure. Thoroughly researching the manufacturer you plan to purchase carbon fiber sheets from helps ensure your finished product is of the highest quality.
Selecting the Right Carbon Fiber Sheet
Once you’ve done your research and selected a top-notch carbon fiber sheet manufacturer you’ll need to know how to select the right type of carbon fiber sheet for your project. Here are a few questions to ask:
Is veneer strong enough for your project, or should you opt for a heavier-duty carbon fiber sheet?
What weave will work best for your project?
Plain weave - a square weave
Twill weave - a square weave with a diagonal pattern created by the pattern of fiber cross overs
What finish works best with your project?
Do you need quasi-isotropic carbon fiber sheets, or will 0°/90° sheets serve your purposes?
It is important to understand the characteristics of carbon fiber sheets and which ones will work best for your purposes. Researching and selecting a quality carbon fiber sheet manufacturer will ensure your ability to make these decisions with professional guidance.
Finally, deciding whether to purchase carbon fiber sheets and complete your project design yourself or hire a professional to assemble the project for you can be a weighty decision. Doing your research before diving into a project involving carbon fiber sheets will save countless headaches and significant wasted expenses.