What is carbon fiber material? Why it is expensive?

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What is carbon fiber material? Why it is expensive?

The “carbon fiber” that everyone often says is actually the abbreviation of “Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer”which referred to as CFRP. The molding process of carbon fiber reinforced composite materials is mainly divided into three steps: 

  1. Molding
  2. Curing
  3. Demoulding

The preparatory work in the early stage includes: mold preparation, glue preparation, and carbon fiber fabric preparation. When we say that “carbon fiber” is expensive, it actually means that the price of parts processed from “CFRP” is very expensive, and expensive, because the “material cost” and “machining cost” are relatively high.

CFRP is a material formed by “carbon fiber” materials arranged in a certain direction and using bonded polymeric materials. stick synthetic polymers are usually thermoset resins, such as epoxy resins, other thermoset or thermoplastic polymers are sometimes used, such as polyester, vinyl base ester or nylon. In addition to carbon fibers, composites can contain aramid, ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, aluminum or glass fibers. The final “carbon properties of a fiber reinforced composite” product can also be affected by the type of additives introduced into the binding matrix.

The most basic unit of carbon fiber reinforced composite material is carbon fiber (Carbon Fiber Filament), and the basic raw material of carbon fiber is (Prepolymer) polyacrylonitrile (PAN), rayon or petroleum pitch. Then through chemical and mechanical methods, the carbon filaments become carbon fiber fabrics for carbon fiber parts.

In general, “material cost of CFRP is high”. Compared with traditional metal materials, carbon fiber and resin materials used in CFRP
cost is high. Secondly, the “machining process cost for CFRP parts” is also quite expensive. Compared with traditional metal processing techniques such as casting and forging, The machining process of compounding materials is more complicated and difficult, and the cost of manpower and equipment is also rising. In addition, CFRP parts
The post-processing process will also be more complicated, including the spraying process and installation of the parts.

Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer Material for Racing Parts

The high price does not prevent the more and more extensive application of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer materials. Compared with traditional metal materials, carbon fiber materials have relative advantages in strength, stiffness, and impact resistance, and their absolute advantage in unit weight has become the main reason for their widespread use in the field of racing.

The core application of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer materials in the racing field is the monocoque used in Formula 1. The McLaren team was the first to apply carbon fiber to the chassis in 1980. In 1983, McLaren Racing became the first team to use a carbon fibre monocoque body in Formula 1, and they applied this technology to the McLaren MP4/1C. Since then, this technology has never left the F1 arena, and continues to expand its application in the racing field. For example, the gearbox housing made of carbon fiber material, the suspension A-arm made of carbon fiber material, and so on.

carbon fiber reinforced polymer material for racing parts

With the continuous development of carbon fiber forming technology, the cost of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer has been further controlled. Although the cost is still high compared to traditional stamping, casting and machining processes, due to its special properties, it is widely used in automobiles. increasingly widespread. Especially in recent years, the development of electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles has provided a wider application of carbon fiber reinforced composite materials. Such as BMW i3/i8.

carbon fiber reinforced polymer for bmw i3 i8

CFRP Parts of Automotive Parts

  1. chassis
  2. engine cover
  3. fender
  4. tailgate
  5. side panel
  6. car door
  7. roof
  8. fairing

The use of a large number of CFRP parts helps to promote the lightweight work of a GT coupe. This will also become one of the development trends of electric vehicles in the future. For example, the use of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer materials can reduce the weight of an electric vehicle by about 200kg, and greatly improve the pure electric cruising range.

Author: Mose Li

Author: Mose Li

Director of Project Engineering at 3Q Machining

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