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Old 09-15-2004, 09:18 AM
MattWatson MattWatson is offline
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It is not strictly true that you have to put carbon fiber cloth in an autoclave to produce it.

For non-structural carbon fiber, mostly for things like what you are doing, (dashes, panneling, trim) it is not nessesary to use structural Pre-Preg type carbon fiber. Most of the time, to get a carbon fiber look piece, (note, when using a female mould) the clear gelcoat is laid, then the carbon fiber, then (# depending on the strength required) layers of either fiberglass for normal applications, or kevlar for higher strenght applications. This will give the look of carbon fiber without the high cost of just using carbon fiber. I can't remember wich resin works best for the carbon fiber "look", I think it is epoxy. One of the two (vinyl ester is the other...) clouds the finish.

For carbon fiber that is used in formula one and other manufacturers products (mostly monocouqe construction) carbon fiber is used in a pre-impregnated format. This is the carbon fiber cloth pre-impregnated in resin. Now, since this resin is already added, it can't be cured by normal mean with the hardener, or else it would cure in the cloth before it would even be useful, so the resin is activated by baking it at higher temperatures under pressure. Since this type of carbon fiber is already impregnated with resin, there is a weight savings because there is never any extra resin in the weave, just enough to properly cure the part. Also CF is stronger than glass fiber, so it will take less sheets to lay up a part. But because of the costs needed to purchase and cure Pre-preg, it is almost exclusively reserved for manufacturers and race teams, or people with outragously large budgets.

Matt Watson
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