Working With Carbon Fiber
The following five tips will help you with your first or fiftieth carbon fibre project.
1. Cutting Carbon Fiber Laminate
Carbon fibre sheets can be cut with standard tools, ranging from scissors and razor knives to thinner sheets, to abrasive cutting wheels and Dremel tools.
For cutting many carbon fibre veneer sheets, we recommend the use of carbide tools, abrasive type cutters or diamond crusted tools.
Regular steel tools will cut carbon sheets fairly well; however, the abrasive nature of any carbon sheet, the standard tools wear down much faster with heavy cutting use.
Panels are easily edge-sanded, allowing you to trim close and sand to final dimensions for a smooth, clean edge.
2. Health and Safety Considerations
Carbon fibre dust is not toxic; however, it is a mild irritant to the skin, eyes, and lungs, much like fibreglass.
We strongly recommend that you wear a dust mask to minimize any itching or irritation, especially when cutting or sanding in quantity.
Edges can be very sharp, so gloves are also critical to avoid cuts and slivers.
See our page on Adhesive Options for more information on the best alternatives for carbon fibre.
4. Molding Carbon Fiber
Carbon fibre panels made with epoxy resins are not thermoplastic (heat formable)- a finished sheet cannot be heated and bent to hold a curved shape.
Carbon fibre laminates will not stretch like plastic.
You can get a very limited amount of permanent curvature in one direction with high heat (over 200oF); due to the difficulties of this, we do not recommend this method.
Molded parts can be made, but the carbon fibre fabric must be placed in the mould and infused with epoxy prior to the curing (heating) process.
A flexible carbon fibre sheet will bend in a simple curve such as around a pipe, but not a complex curve covering a ball.
Several users have reported successfully installing our carbon fibre veneers with an adhesive film on mufflers and exhaust tips; however, we cannot make any specific recommendations for applications over 200°F.
You are welcome to experiment with heat, but be advised, it is totally at your own risk.
5. Machining Capabilities
Many people use CNC machines to cut carbon fibre panels, but at times it can be difficult to hold the carbon fibre sheets in the machine.
Die Cutting is also an option.
Be sure to find a machinist or die cutter who is experienced in working with carbon fibre or leave the machining to us.
Experienced CNC staff can handle even the most complex cutting jobs.
Water jet cutters are used for complex, intricate shapes, or high volume parts manufacturing.
3M high performance adhesive can be applied to water jetting the carbon fibre parts, as the water will not harm the adhesive, leaving a nice clean edge on both the carbon fibre sheet and the adhesive.