How are carbon fibers made? (part 1)

Sorry guys! Got caught up with some work at my company in regards to (you guessed it) fibers and had a lot of work we needed to complete before the weekend. So now I am typing away like a crazy person, to make sure you guys get something concrete (although we won’t be talking about concrete: nice joke Daniel) before the weekend strikes. I also understand that during the weekend you have other more fun activities than hanging out with me on this site, talking about geeky things that only us fibers lovers will every admire and appreciate. So let’s get started with some basic concepts for the more “ignorant people.” I’m kidding of course: just because you don’t know a thing about fibers doesn’t mean your are ignorant. It means you simply don’t know many things about the subject, and that is the whole point in creating this blog.

Carbon fiber is an engineer’s dream: light weight but very strong! It’s a string of thousands of parallel filaments. Multiple strings can be twitched together to create carbon fiber composite. Carbon fiber is 5X stronger than steel but half the weight. To make it, they take a plastic fiber composed of thousands of filaments and chemically alter it to create fiber atoms for the final product. A mammoth machine lines up dozens of those fibers which travel through an oxidation process for a couple of minutes. The oven temperature above 480 degrees prompts the fibers to pick up oxygen molecules from the air. This re arranges the structure of the fibers and thus making them resistant to high heat. As the fibers oxidize they change colors and basically become black. Now the next process (carbonation) will start: furnaces will heat the fibers in an oxygen free gas mixture. This expels the non carbon atoms and transforms the remaining carbon atoms into tightly bundled crystals running parallel to the length of the fiber. This gives the fiber its strength. The exiting fibers travel through a bath of electrical charged water that etches the fiber surface so it will better absorb resin. Next station applies a light code of resin which will strengthen the fiber chemical bond. A bowling machine whines each fiber now referred to as carbon fiber toe on to a bobbin which buyers weave into a carbon fiber fabric or mix with resin to mold a product.

Another form of carbon fiber is pre pray sheets of resin impregnated carbon fiber ready for molding. The resin is a formula of epoxy and various powdered hardeners and accelerators. Workers pour the resin into a filming machine which spreads it into a thin layer and on to paper. The paper is pre treated with the release agent to prevent the final product from sticking. Another machine meanwhile groups two to three hundred carbon fiber toes into a giant band fibers called a web. The width and thickness of the web determines the width and the thickness of the pre break sheet. Workers mount two rolls of resin coated paper onto the resin impregnation machine. A heating element warms up the web as it enters to facilitate resin absorption, then the heated carbon fiber web is sandwiched between two sheets of resin coated paper.

This isn’t the full process of course. There is some parts that I left out intentionally so that you come check back tomorrow. I won’t be doing this very often, but now at the very beginning, I think it’s a good idea to keep some suspense.

Tell me of any questions you have up to this point.