Carbon Fiber – The Shining Star of the Automobile Industry

Carbon fiber is a graphite polymer fiber. It is a strong and lightweight material and known to be much stronger than steel. Carbon fiber composites are used in the manufacturing industry to make different types of engineering parts.

What is carbon fiber made of?

Carbon fiber is primarily made of carbon crystalline filaments. The fiber though thinner than a human hair strand gains strength when many of them are twisted together and woven like cloth. Carbon fiber when putting over mold can be given resin or plastic coating.

Carbon fiber features:

  • Stiff with tensile strength
  • Offers chemical resistance
  • Can tolerate excessive heat conditions
  • Very low thermal enlargement

Carbon fiber is extensively used in numerous industries like automotive, military, aerospace, and sports goods industries.

What most vehicle components and other devices are made with carbon fiber?

You can make numerous components and end products using carbon fiber. Items such as bike frames, auto-drive shafts, containers, tubing, aircraft wings, car devices, and propeller blades can be easily made using carbon fiber.

According to experts, carbon fiber composites can actually help bring down passenger car weight by almost fifty percent and thereby improve fuel productivity by forty percent without compromising on the quality performance of the vehicle or its safety. Carbon fiber is universally acknowledged as a superior material that is both strong as well as lightweight. This composite gives extra strength and ability to racing cars, powerboats, and motorbikes.

Expensive Formula One cars’ central monocoque part is essentially made of carbon fiber due to its lightweight quality and tensile strength. The composite part of the sports car can absorb sudden shocks and accidents as it is non-corrosive and flame-proof. An accident that happened in the year 1998 Belgian Grand Prix event can prove that the carbon fiber literally saved the day. During the event, almost 22 cars were involved in the accident yet not a single driver was seriously hurt other than a few scratches.

Other car components made of carbon fiber include the gearbox, suspension, and brakes. The carbon fiber has taken over traditional elements like steel and iron. Carbon fiber brakes offer great resistance and stopping power. The manufacturing of such polymer components can be very laborious and involves the processing of autoclave composites. Slowly, over many years of designing and correcting the process of making carbon fibers, it has become an integral part of the motorsports vehicle manufacturing. Carbon fiber has now become a popular and irreplaceable component for the construction of road cars.

Companies Manufacturing Carbon Fiber Components

The usage of carbon fiber is steadily gaining popularity across all kinds of industries. The automotive industry considers the carbon fiber composite superior to all other alloys and composites. To find a reputed supplier and manufacturer of high quality and high-strength carbon fiber components is very essential as per your business requirements.

Companies Manufacturing Carbon Fiber Components

There are only a few companies in the world that manufacture different types of carbon fiber components.  Due to the limited number of companies supplying carbon fibers, the automotive industry is always on the lookout for a good supply partner to procure carbon fiber of the best quality at a reasonable rate. Professionals who procure the composite need to understand that carbon fiber is not an end product but a raw material and they also need to study its complex manufacturing processing. This can help them make fair decisions while finding suppliers.

Challenges while Manufacturing

The process of carbon fiber manufacturing is very labor-intensive and the final quality is very important. Buying low-quality carbon fiber at cheap prices can be dangerous. Procurement professionals should always keep this in mind while choosing a reliable supplier. The procurement team should analyze the raw materials, the manufacturing process and how it suits their industry before making a decision.

Raw Materials

The materials are essentially organic polymers that are bound as long strings by carbon atoms. 90% of fibers are created from polyacrylonitrile or PAN and the remaining 10% are designed from petroleum pitch. These are the raw materials used for the production of carbon fibers, also known as the precursor. These precursors are stretched into long fibers and heated up to reach a very high temperature in an oxygen-deprived environment. The intense heat causes the atomic particles inside the fiber to react and vibrate violently so that they expel all non-carbon atoms.

Manufacturing Procedure

When the raw material is ready, the manufacturing process occurs in five laborious steps that include the following:

  1. Spinning of the raw materials with powder acrylonitrile plastic to create fibers that are washed and elongated.
  2. Then comes the stabilizing step wherein the fibers are chemically altered to convert their atomic bonding to a very stable form.
  3. The next stage is called carbonizing, where the fibers are heated to reach up to a staggering 5500 degree Fahrenheit in temperature. This makes the fibers alter into strongly bonded carbon crystals.
  4. In the fourth stage, the fiber surfaces are oxidized so that they have supreme bonding properties.
  5. Then the fifth step involves sizing of the freshly-coated fibers that are wound into bobbins and kept inside a spinning machine to twist them into yarns of varied sizes.

As a last final step, the carbon fibers are converted into composite materials by molding them into a layer of woven carbon fiber fabric and resin. This mold is heated in the autoclave composite process until the fibers get the desired shape.

In the future, the carbon fibers could be used in the mass production of lightweight yet powerful automobiles. With increasing pollution and the greenhouse effect, automobile manufacturers are under a lot of pressure to create fuel-efficient cars and other vehicles. As carbon fibers can drastically reduce the fuel consumption of a vehicle, it is already being used to build all high-performance vehicles. However, carbon fibers are not cheap and thier manufacturing process is complex and arduous.

Even without the support of the automotive industry, the carbon fiber market is expanding in all directions and is slowly taking over the work of traditional heavy metals in the industrial sector.

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