Q: What is Carbon Fiber?
A: A carbon fiber is a long, thin strand material about 0.0002-0.0004 in (0.005-0.010 mm) in diameter and composed mostly of carbon atoms. The carbon atoms are bonded together in microscopic crystals that are more or less aligned parallel to the long axis of the fiber. Carbon fiber-reinforced composite materials are used to make aircraft, spacecraft parts, racing car bodies, golf club shafts, bicycle frames, fishing rods, automobile springs, sailboat masts, and many other components where light weight and high strength are needed.
Q: What is Fiberglass?
A: Fiberglass, (also called glass fibre), is material made from extremely fine fibers of glass. It is used as a reinforcing agent for many polymer products; the resulting composite material, properly known as fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), is called “fiberglass” in popular usage. Uses for regular fiberglass include mats, thermal insulation, electrical insulation, reinforcement of various materials, tent poles, sound absorption, heat- and corrosion-resistant fabrics, high-strength fabrics, arrows, bows and crossbows, translucent roofing panels, automobile bodies, electrical insulation and boat hulls.
Q: What are Composite Materials?
A: Composite material (or composites for short) are engineered materials made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties which remain separate and distinct on a macroscopic level within the finished structure. Fiber-reinforced composite materials can be divided into two main categories normally referred to as short fiber-reinforced materials and continuous fiber-reinforced materials. Continuous reinforced materials will often constitute a layered or laminated structure. The woven and continuous fiber styles are typically available in a variety of forms, being pre-impregnated with the given matrix (resin), dry, unidirectional tapes of various widths, plain weave, harness satins, braided and stitched.
Q: What is Vacuum Infused?
A:Vacuum resin infusion is a sophisticated technique for manufacturing high performance, void free composites even on large or complicated moulds. The process is ideally suited to the manufacture of carbon fiber composites and is widely used by professional manufacturers in the aerospace and formula 1 industry for the production of carbon fiber body panels and by marine manufacturers for the production of boat hulls. In resin infusion, reinforcement is laid into the mould ‘dry’, i.e. without any resin, and then enclosed in a specially configured stack of bagging materials (such as peel ply, infusion mesh, bagging film, etc) before being subjected to vacuum pressure using a composites vacuum pump. Once all the air has been removed from the bag and the reinforcement has been fully compressed under this pressure, liquid epoxy resin (mixed with hardener) is introduced to the reinforcement through a pipe which then infuses through the reinforcement under the vacuum pressure. Once the resin has fully infused through the reinforcement, the supply of resin is cut off (using a pipe clamp) and the resin is left to cure, still under vacuum pressure.
Advantages of resin infusion when done correctly, can produce parts of incredible strength and quality of appearance. The combination of vacuum pressure along with carefully placed vacuum consumables (such as peel-ply and infusion mesh, etc) mean that the finished composite will have absorbed resin at the optimum resin-to-reinforcement ratio, avoiding resin-rich composites or variations in performance inevitable with traditional wet-lay manufacture. The resin infusion process also eliminates some of the problems that can blight wet-lay composites, such as air voids (caused where the reinforcement has bridged around tight corners) and tiny air bubbles caused by air trapped within the laminate. The quality of epoxy ‘infusion resins’ means that resin infused parts can be made with strength to weight ratios that can rival parts made using pre-impregnated (pre-preg) reinforcement systems.