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Carbon Fiber Composites in Multiple Commercial Applications

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Carbon fiber composite, usually called carbon composite, is typically a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) or carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP). It is lightweight, high in strength, and withstand an extremely rapid temperature increase.

Carbon composite applications

Carbon composite material has considerable demand in modern times. It is used in many commercial applications such as furnace fixturing, heatshields, load plates, heating elements, and X-ray targets. It is also has used an increasing number of consumer and technical applications. Carbon composite is used in many industries, including aerospace, automotive, civil engineering, sports equipment, the superstructure of ships, and consumer product industries. One of its prominent applications is in rocket nozzle manufacturing that requires maintaining a high degree of integrity in an extremely rapid temperature increase in a highly corrosive atmosphere.

Why is it so useful?

Carbon composite has two elements – reinforcement and matrix.

  • Carbon fiber provides reinforcement.
  • A polymer resin or thermoset resin, such as epoxy, is a matrix that binds the reinforcement together. Thermostat resin (epoxy) is sometimes replaced with polyester, vinyl ester, or nylon as thermoset or thermoplastic polymers.

Reinforcement and matrix provide rigidity or stiffness and a high strength-to-weight ratio to this material. It becomes light in weight but more durable.

Carbon Fiber Panels

What it is and how it is treated

Carbon fiber panels are produced for multiple applications. The panel is a plate or sheet with a flat portion made out of composite materials – reinforcing fiber and bonding resin. The panels can be processed and shaped by standard methods. Cutting carbon fiber sheets require no significant efforts. They are easily sawed, drilled, milled, and sanded because their abrasive properties allow cutting tools and blades to move comfortably through the sheets.

  • Joining composite sheets has more complexity than metal sheets because a welding method cannot be used for this purpose. Only glue can join these sheets.
  • These sheets can be joined quickly with screws, bolts, and rivets.
  • It is very easy to laminate composite panels for even load and high strength, but it is time-consuming. Lamination is an excellent alternative for reservoirs and containers.

Their properties

These panels look attractive. The mechanical properties of carbon composites are quite distinct from an ordinary isotropic plate. They are strong (five times more strength than steel at the same weight), lightweight (thirty to forty percent lighter than aluminum), incredibly stiff, excellent corrosion resistance, very low thermal resistance, and have vibration diminishing properties. Carbon fiber plates sandwich some core material – a foam or honeycomb structure.

Prepreg composites

Prepregs

A reinforcement fiber is pre-impregnated with a thermoplastic or thermoset resin matrix in a specific ratio in prepreg composites. The reinforcement in a prepreg can be unidirectional fibers or fabric. Prepregs are composite materials cured under high temperatures and pressures. They acquire unique properties due to this treatment. Prepregs are suitable for a range of performance requirements, such as low-temperature cure, temperature, resistance, good fatigue performance, and smoke/fire/toxicity performance.

Prepreg manufacture

Prepregs use two processes for their manufacture – hot-melt process and solvent dip process. The first process is useful for producing both fabric and unidirectional prepregs. The second process produces only fabric prepregs. Certain prepregs use phenolic, epoxy, and BMI resin matrices and are reinforced with unidirectional, multiaxial, glass, and carbon fibers.

Prepreg applications

Prepreg composites are useful for the following significant applications:

  • Automotive components and parts, ballistic panels, and tooling
  • Aerospace and aircraft industry for components, aircraft interiors, aircraft flooring, and cargo liners
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), doublers, and seatbacks
  • Ducting for A/C plant
  • Electronic transmission applications
  • Carbon-carbon composites, high impact surfaces, and high-rise flooring
  • High temperature and UV resistant parts, and sporting goods
  • Flame resistant laminates and foam and honeycomb panels

Prepreg benefits

Over the years, revealing many new material formats has boosted these composites’ acceptance for their many benefits with decreased costs. A low-temperature prepreg is an ideal alternative for its environmental benefits.

There are several advantages to use prepreg composites:

  • They are low void content that is easy to use.
  • It is a clean process.
  • They have good fatigue resistance.
  • They have high strength and modulus.
  • They have an exceptionally low thermal expansion coefficient.
  • They have excellent corrosion and environmental resistance.
  • Control of laminate thickness is the best possibility in these composites.
  • They allow control of fiber volume fraction.
  • They have more significant vibration damping features.
  • Prepregs are known for better quality and conformity.

About carbon fiber panels and prepregs

Both carbon fiber panels and prepreg composites have similar properties and a common way of treatment. However, they are suitable for different types of applications. They are excellent for high strength, low weight, and easy cutting and shaping. Carbon fibers are cut and shaped using various low-cost rotary tools such as pneumatic rotary, router, jigsaw, A Dremel, or angle grinder. Since mostly hand-used tools are used to cut carbon fiber, safety is a significant concern. Health and safety concerns are crucial when cutting carbon fiber laminate, adhesive, molding carbon fiber, and dealing with machine capabilities. One can follow general rules for health and safety.

Precautions for cutting carbon fiber

Utmost safety is assured when the following precautions are taken for cutting:

  • Wearing a Tyvek paint suit or long sleeves to prevent injury to body parts.
  • Wearing a mechanic or leather gloves for hands’ protection when using power tools. Nitrile gloves are also suitable when using light tools.
  • Wearing industrial glasses for protection of eyes from the dust emanating from cutting.
  • Ensuring proper ventilation in the cutting room to prevent dust collection can cause health hazards, like allergies or infections. One can rig a shop vac or use a downdraft table to collect dust.

Wrap up

Carbon fiber composites are the most used material in modern times in multiple commercial applications. This material is tough to process yet highly effective from various perspectives than many other materials; aluminum and steel are the most common. Carbon fiber composites are conveniently shaped based on the specific industry’s needs with easy cutting and shaping. Still, health safety is an issue that cannot be overlooked to process this material for useful applications. Carbon fiber composite is the best material with the best treatment for top applications many industries.

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