Carbon fiber is a material made from graphite textile strengthened by a plastic substance which is usually Epoxy. It is also known as carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or carbon fiber composite. If you are looking to replace parts of, say, your bicycle, with carbon fiber, here are the steps to follow:
- Get everything ready. Purchase a woven type of carbon fiber cloth. Add to that a can of spray automotive lacquer; 2 packs of laminating resin; dry and wet sanding paper, preferably 380 and 600 sized grit; a mold release agent; and hard carnauba wax. For tools and other materials, a pair of sharp scissors; have mixing pots and sticks; a rubbing down block; stainless steel washers; a dust mask; Tac rags bought from car accessory dealers; latex gloves; paintbrushes; foam; some big plastic bags; razor; strings; and Acetone or Methylated spirits.
- Make patterns. Using the foam, make out patterns of the parts you want to be made out of carbon fiber. Using a bread saw to roughly cut out the foam is a good option. Sand the foam to smooth out the surface and vacuum out the dusted foam to finally clean it up. Paint over a coat of PVA glue thinned in water of 50/50 ratio onto the foam pattern. Once dried, remove the created molding by cutting out the foam. Apply the hard wax and about 5 coats cold release agent respectively.
- Apply resin and mold the carbon fiber cloth. Measure the carbon fiber by running it around the molding. Make sure that at least half an inch of carbon fiber is left out to overlap when you finally cut it. Bear in mind that you will need to use a pair of really sharp scissors so as to avoid getting the carbon fiber frayed at the edges. After that, mix the resin based on the instructions on the label. Spread the carbon fiber onto a clean and smooth surface and apply resin onto it with the use of a paintbrush to provide it with a shell coating. After that, wrap the carbon fiber around the pattern and gently brush it with some more resin making sure that the overlaps are applied with the material as well.
- Vacuum. Carefully put the molding with resin and carbon fiber into a big plastic bag. Suck out all the air in the bag by putting a vacuum cleaner’s nozzle in the opening and tie it up afterwards. Vacuuming the bag creates enough atmospheric pressure to force the carbon fiber to take up the molding’s shape. Allow 20 minutes to cure. Remove the molding from the bag once completely dry and apply another coating of resin. The molded carbon fiber should separate from the molding by now.
- Finish everything off. Add five more coats of resin to make sure the new carbon fiber part is sturdy. Sand the resin surface to smooth it and make sure the carbon fiber cloth is not damaged in the process. Trim off any carbon fiber edges with a razor and finish off with a few more coats of resin to properly seal off the edges and allow to fully dry. Clean your hands with the Methylated spirits after the whole process.
Carbon fiber is a very light and strong material and as such has been favored by many manufacturers of cars, bicycles, boats and airplanes.