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Lasers make carbon fiber fabrication quicker and easier

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March 28, 2010

Fraunhofer's laser and fiber/resin tape-based carbon fiber production process

Fraunhofer's laser and fiber/resin tape-based carbon fiber production process

Scientists at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology have devised a carbon fiber fabrication process that they say is considerably quicker and easier than the conventional method. Traditionally, carbon fiber products are made by lining a form with carbon fiber matting, saturating the matting with liquid resin, repeating this process for several layers, plastic-bagging the whole works and pumping all the air out, then baking it in an oven. The Fraunhofer process does away with the matting, liquid resin, vacuum-bagging and oven, and will hopefully make carbon fiber more abundant and thus more affordable.

The process utilizes carbon fibers that are integrated into kilometer-long strips of meltable resin tape. The tape strips are laid down over the form, side-by-side and on top of one another. Once in place, they’re compressed, and joined together by the heat of a laser melting the resin. Because the laser’s intensity can be precisely controlled, it emits just enough heat/light to melt the resin for the amount of time needed for the tape strips to bond. The end product needs much less cooling time than would otherwise be required, allowing the production process to move along quicker.

With the conventional method, completed carbon fiber parts are joined together using glue. With the Fraunhofer process, they’re joined by using an infrared laser to melt their touching surfaces, then pressing them together until the melted resin resets. The result, we are told, is “an extraordinarily stable bond.”

Before you start envisioning that carbon fiber dinnerware set, however, be advised that this is still all in the prototype phase.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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5 Comments

This is a very good idea, from the people who bought us the mp3 file! Keep up the good work. Presumably several layers are required? Just wondered, why is carbon fibre never used as short strands, like fibreglass?

windykites1
31st March, 2010 @ 03:17 pm PDT

I work with carbon fiber every day of my life, unfortunately this would only give you a uni-directional carbon fibre material. this has obvious limitations over the woven variety, also the whole purpose of vacuume bagging the composite is to ensure it is as suqashed together as possible. This seems to be a good cheap method for non vital parts...

Windykites in answer to your question the reason that a short chopped strand like glass fiber isnt used is partly due to the fact there is very little structural strength in this...or so i'm lead to think

marshall91t
12th May, 2010 @ 08:29 am PDT

another of the critical obstacles to the cost of carbon fibre is the energy cost -- there production process is amongst the highest for any materials, which is both economically and environmentally challenging. using lasers in a simpler production process could potentially cut the amount of energy used, making it both more profitable and a little more 'green'.

krzystoff
5th June, 2010 @ 07:10 am PDT

To answer Windykites1 question about why carbon fiber is never used as short strands the answer is it is. The auto industry uses the most carbon fiber of all industry to reinforce the plastic moldings on cars (bumpers mostly.) As to this production method being uni-directional I would say that's not true. Imaging a tape dispenser used for packaging. you can run this tape in every direct essentially weaving it into place and cross meshing it better than you could with regular sheets of woven fiber and you can adjust the tension higher than a vacuum seal could provide. Also image 6 or 7 of these machines simultaneously weaving patterns at high tension, the resulting patterns could yield all new strength to weight records. My guess is this process is going to raise the bar on performance parts. The difference is like making parts with sheets of metal with a stamping press or using Damascus steel and a lathe.

Matt Fletcher
29th August, 2011 @ 01:37 pm PDT

I am doing a research on making my own end arm tool that holds carbon-fiber tapes and attached to a robotics arm. Do you have any suggestions on which website I should refer to?

Eugene Kosgoron
7th November, 2011 @ 03:40 pm PST
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