Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DIY How to make Carbon fiber Xbox 360 Case layup


Today we’re going to show you how we took a standard white Xbox 360 and skinned it into a sexy real carbon fiber Xbox 360.  In our upcoming second part, we’ll show you how we did the actual Xbox 360 controller, so be sure to stay tuned for that.  You can keep up with Carbon Fiber Gear on our Facebook page for the latest updates. If you are interested in making your own carbon fiber parts and products, be sure to check out the carbon fiber starter kit in our store. It gives you everything you need in one box to start dabbling in carbon fiber yourself.


Very detailed DIY for a Vacuum Bagged Carbon Fiber Car Door

Let me begin this how-to by laying out two things upfront. First and foremost I am not a professional composite person nor am I an engineer. Second, I can’t begin to answer all of the design and engineering questions many of you have already had and will continue to have. This write-up is focused purely on the PROCESS, My process of making molds and parts and NOT how to attach them. I will not address how to handle various load situations either - i.e. will the roof I made work on a 200+ mph Pro 5.0 car. With that disclaimer, let’s jump in.
I will be breaking the process how-to down in multiple steps or phases. These steps are both long and involved. I personally prefer it when I am provided too much information over too little. For those that would prefer a shorter version, sorry. Also, like my one year old son and three year old daughter, I like pictures and as you will soon find out use them extensively.
***Please follow product safety information provided by all material suppliers** Some of this stuff is pretty noxious and I am sure can cause all sorts problems with prolonged exposure. Some of this stuff may be flammable as well and I can guarantee you that fiberglass and carbon fiber bits are not good to breathe so wear a respirator.
Below is the stuff I use. I have used more products that are not listed here but have settled in on a these materials. They work well for ME. That doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish the same thing with other stuff. If you find something that I am not using that works well, let me know as I am always open to try new products and procedures to improve the process.
Tools and Non-consumables:
-Gel Coat Cup Gun
-Paint spray gun with 2mm tip (Obviously you will need a compressor and my 4 hp Craftsman works fine)
-Mold release wedges (I have four which is a minimum for big parts)
-Scale (.1 oz resolution)
-Large table with a stick resistant top. I use a 3/4 in. thick 4x8 sheet of melamine covered fiberboard on top of saw horses. You can get one for $25 at Home Depot or Lowes. This works extremely well as it is cheap, large and very resistant to stick. It is also pretty durable and double sided which is great as the table will take a serious beating.
-Tarp to cover the ground as it will be covered in resin
-Tin Snips
-Circular Material Cutter w/extra blades
-Squeeze dispenser for polyester resin catalyst
-Composite rollers
-Body filler spreaders
-Rivet gun
-Hot melt glue gun
-Vacuum attachment for bagging
-Vacuum pump (lots more on this later)

-Kleen Clay modeling clay
-Fiberglass Chop Strand Mat (CSM) (I use 1.5 oz. I originally bough 75 yards of this which has made a lot of molds. Most of my molds are 3 to 4 layers thick and a yard is 50” wide. So for the door the outer skin mold required 4 yards of CSM).
-Polyester Resin (I use ‘tooling resin’ from US Composites which has worked great for me as it is super tough and is not tacky after cure)
-Polyester Gel Coat (I use black also from US Composites because it is easy to see blemishes and easy to see where the fiberglass has been wetted out)
-Tongue depressors (you will want lots and lots of these)
-Cup gun cups (I use a ton of these too as I use them not only for spraying gel coat but mixing resins as well)
-Sand paper (wet 240 and 400 grit)
-Sanding block
-Masking tape (3/4” and 2”)
-4.5” Grinder with thin cutting disk
-Acetone (cleanup)
-Aluminum flanging materials (I like the 50 foot .016x6” roll I get from McMaster-Car and also use .040 sheet and cut with pneumatic sheers for places that require stiffer flanges)
-Aluminum angle stock (I like to use the 1/16” thick 1x1” and 2x2” 90 deg angles because I can cut it with snips)
-Rivets 1/8” aluminum 1/2” long (I love rivets as you will soon see)
-Hot Melt glue gun sticks (the best of these I have found are the ‘High Strength long cure” variety sold at Home Depot)
-Part-All #2 Release wax
-PVA (poly vinyl alcohol)
-PTFE Release agent
-Nitrile rubber gloves
-Carbon Fiber fabric (I use 5.7 oz 2x2 twill for 95% of my parts. 50” widths are common, 60” are not which stinks as 60” saves lots of material for doors and trunk and is a requirement for a seamless hood on a SN95 Mustang.)

-Nomex Honeycomb Core (1/8” - 1/2”  thick 3.0 lb./sq ft. depending on part - AVT is my source for honeycomb)
-Perforated release film (US Composites)
-Breather Ply (US Composites)
-High elongation bagging film (US Composites)
-Bag sealing tape (US Composites)
-Epoxy Resin (I use the medium cure thin from US Composites for most of my parts and I have been happy with it)
Phase 1: Planning  
You will soon learn that everything you do now will affect not only what you are working on but everything that you will make from that point forward. If the original part has a problem that is not addressed, the mold will also have that problem as will the finished part. Planning can prevent these problems from moving forward. Often you will not realize that you are going to have a problem until the lay-up stage and then it is too late and the mold has to be redone. BTW, this phase of the process will get easier with each part you make. There is nothing like learning from your own mistakes. I am the master of this.  
Let’s talk about why a concave part requires a multi-part mold.

These diagrams above are obviously simplistic but illustrate what to watch out for. The first illustration will be fine to use a one part mold; the second is marginal but will probably work ok as a one part mold if the part or mold has any flex to it. The third illustration will definitely require a multi-part mold. Again, this is simplistic and in the real world the part shape will be much more complex. All it takes is one little concave ridge or spot to ruin a mold. The good news is that we have options to deal with these small areas which we will address later. Another piece of good news is that most production parts are stamped which also requires that a part not be concave.  
BTW, when I made my first roof mold I did not think that the concavity of the window ledge flanges relative to each other would be a problem. They were and it cost me a carbon/honeycomb part and a complete mold to learn this lesson.  
This is a good time to address physical mold release. Another problem I ran into with the roof was that the shape did not allow me to insert release wedges up into the main central area of the roof. So there will be situations where even though the part is not concave, you may want to make a multi-part mold. This is exactly the case with the interior door structure for this part. The shape would not allow me to get wedges into to large flat section so I split the mold down the middle of the roof.  
For my door there were several issues that I had to get my arms around up front: How much door did I want to make and if I was going to make an interior structure, how much to make? How was I going to attach the door? Do I want to use the stock latch? How strong does the door need to be in flex and in impact? At what point do I sacrifice the above for weight?  
From here I came away with two options. One, make as light a door as possible - i.e. just an outer skin - and two, make one with a stock matching interior structure but with a smooth interior panel that would create a completely enclosed structure. Ultimately I chose to make the molds such that I would not have to make this decision now. This would require a single mold of the exterior panel and a separate mold of the interior structure. If I wanted a part with an interior structure I would simply lay-up carbon parts in both molds and bond them together (more on this later).  

The first challenge that jumped out at me was the shape of the stock door’s interior structure. As you can see in the picture above, it is quite complex with lots of tight curves and angle changes. I wanted a large flat panel on the inside so I had to create a shelf for a panel to sit on. You can clearly see in the picture how I was trimming the inner structure to accomplish this. I also have to work out how the inner carbon fiber structure was going to bond to the top outer carbon skin. More on this later.
The next item to address was the door handle and lock areas on the outer skin. As the doors I am making are going to be in the 5-6 lbs. weight range I decided to eliminate these parts and to make the door smooth completely smooth. To do this I will filled these areas with clay on the stock part which keeps them from being transferred to the mold. More on this in the next phase.  
After studying the door for literally hours I finally came to the conclusion that the inner structure would require a multi-part mold to guarantee release and that the seam between the molds should bisect the large flat section of the middle of the door. I chose to seam it vertically to make the mold halves square instead of long rectangles. That way the seam would be smaller and the mold halves would have more structural integrity. Also, I could have chosen to seam it along the edge of the inner panel but that would have been much more difficult and as this was not an exterior panel I chose the faster route.  
Phase 2 - Part Preparation  
Now that I had a plan it was time to make the initial mold. The first step in this process is to completely clean the part inside and out. By completely clean I mean 100% free of grit and completely smooth. For this I love to use one of the clay bar cleaning bars. If your stock part has any major defects then this is a good time to address them using common body repair methods - welding, body filler, hammer, etc. Just get the surface perfectly smooth with a minimum of porosity as that will prevent the mold from sticking to the part. Remember any imperfections in the part will be in the mold and any imperfections in the mold will be in the finished part.  
BTW, my original door was in pretty good shape except for an ‘outward ding’ that came from the removal of the side impact door bar. This I chose to address on the mold as it would be an inward depression. More on this later.  
One thing I haven’t discussed yet is flanging. When vacuum bagging it is, in my opinion, highly desirable to have a flanged mold. This does two things, principally it gives you a smooth surface that surrounds the part to enable you to bag up the part (this will make more since later) and it also makes the finished part oversized which makes it easier to release from the mold and allows you to trim the part back to match the original parts dimensions.  
For flanges I shoot for a minimum of 2” and prefer 4”. Much bigger than this and you are wasting fiberglass and gel coat. To make the flange I like to use strips of 6” wide x .016” aluminum and glue them to the underside of the edges of the part. Often this will require trimming and radiusing of the aluminum to insure that the flange is continuous and has good adhesion to the part.  I will then trim the excess flange of to give me my desired 2-4” size. 

Above you will see a great example of the beginning of the flanging process. I held the aluminum under the part and trace the profile with a marker. I then trimmed along the line which resulted in a part that was ready to apply to the inside door flange. BTW, you must make sure the aluminum follows the contour of the part in every plane by pressing the aluminum up to meet the stock part continuously. You absolutely must make sure that there is no floating gap between the flange and the part. If there is then resin will seep into the seam and cause all sorts of problems.    

Click Read More to Continue

Monday, November 29, 2010

How It's Made - Carbon Fiber Cello (Pt.2)

How It's Made - Carbon Fiber Cello (Pt.1)

Carbon Fiber Fabrication Seminar How to guide / DIY - Episode 3

Carbon Fiber Fabrication Seminar How to guide / DIY - Episode 2

Carbon Fiber Fabrication Seminar How to guide / DIY - Episode 1

Molding Your Own Carbon Fiber Components- DIY

Author:  James Sparkes, Newcastle, Australia. 
Small hand held rotary tool with cutting disks and sanding / grinding wheels (a Dremel 
type tool with a flexible shaft is recommended), 
Wet / Dry abrasive paper (240 grit, 400 grit and a polishing grit - say 1200), 
Pane of glass (say 1.5 ft by 1 ft and thick enough to take reasonable handling loads 
without breaking - I used my wife’s glass chopping board), 
A few clothing vacuum bags (this is a must if you want to get a reasonable end product), 
A powerful vacuum cleaner (I used my wife’s with the filters removed to improve the 
A sharp pair of scissors (for cutting the glass and carbon cloth), 
Hot water bottle and blanket (to speed up cure times), 
A dust mask / respirator and eye protection (use when cutting / sanding). 
Fiberglass cloth (6oz weight should be fine), 
Carbon fiber cloth (I used a plain weave which was all the shop had - at $60 AU per roll 
metre it’s not cheap), 
Two part epoxy resin (I used WEST System epoxy which is a marine grade epoxy. 
Don’t be tempted to use the cheaper polyester resin as this is not as strong as epoxy, does 
not wet out carbon as well as epoxy and cannot be exposed to high temperatures.), 
Mold release wax (a carnauba based wax specific for mold release - do not use car 
Liquid PVA (for mold release - this is a specific PVA for mold release not the glue 
Thin PVC plastic sheeting (to avoid having resin sticking to things you don’t want it to), 
Roll of cling film (to use as a peel / release film), 
Cotton cloth (to use as breather fabric), 
Popsicle sticks (for mixing resin), 
Some wax free plastic cups (for larger amounts of resin), 
A small medicine cup (to measure out resin and hardener - I used a 50ml one and 
usually only mixed up small batches of 30ml or less), 
Acetone (for clean up of uncured resin), 
Some short length bristle brushes (use some that will not loose all their bristles when 
Latex gloves (to avoid a gooey mess all over your hands). 
The reader of this article takes full responsibility for their own actions when following 
these procedures.  Uncured resin and the resulting dust from cured resin and glass / 
carbon fibers may be toxic and have harmful effects when inhaled.  Use common sense 
and follow the manufacturers guidelines. 
Notes on resin mixing.  Always add the hardener to the resin, not resin to the hardener. 
Use small quantities, i.e. only mix what you can use during the pot life (pot life is the 
time taken for a standard volume of mixed resin to “gel” at a standard temperature). 
Large volumes of mixed resin (say 100ml or more) generate excessive heat during the 
chemical reaction.  This heat build up will cause to resin to gel quicker, may cause the 
mixing container to MELT and cause excessive resin vapors. 
Notes on cured glass and carbon fibers:  Take care when handling cured parts during 
sanding and cleanup.  Fine fibers with cured resin act as splinters and may break off 
when imbedded in your skin.  Carbon dust if left to sit on bare skin will cause a mild 
irritation - wash off with soap and water. 
Notes on sanding / grinding carbon fiber:  Carbon fiber dust can conduct electricity. 
Take precaution to prevent carbon dust from entering electrical equipment as this may 
cause short circuits and expensive repair bills. 
MOLDING BASICS - Plug Preparation 
A warning on part molding.  Mold only parts with a positive draft angle, i.e. the part 
will not be locked into the mold due to it’s shape.  For complex parts I suggest multiple 
piece molds which can be disassembled for part release.  These molds are beyond my 
current experience.  Also note that the clutch cover has a positive draft and can be 
molded using a single piece mold.  The original cover did prove to be difficult to remove 
from the mold.  The carbon part was also difficult remove and I ended up destroying the 
mold in the process. 
You can use you own original parts to create a mold.  Start with smaller simple parts 
which are flat or have small uncomplicated curves.  The first part that I attempted to 
make a mold from was the clutch cover and after three attempts I gave up and moved on 
to the heel plates. 
Once you have chosen a part to mold you need to decide whether you want a female or a 
male mold.  A female mold will give a smooth surface on the exterior side of the end 
product.  So with that in mind I assume you’ll use a female mold.
Take your chosen component and give it a good clean.  The surfaces on both sides should 
be spotless and free of nicks, gouges or blemishes as these will turn out on the mold. 
If your part has any fastener holes, you can fill them with plasticine or a similar material. 
This will prevent resin flowing through the hole and locking your part to the mold.  It 
also makes a nice impression in the mold and the final product so you know where to 
drill any fastener holes. 
Apply mold release wax to the part in accordance with the product instructions.  It’s 
generally wax on and allow to dry, polish off and then allow to dry for 10 to 20 mins then 
apply another coat.  Apply five to six coats and allow the final coat to dry for about one 
Apply a coating of liquid PVA release agent to the part and allow to dry.  This allows the 
part to come away cleanly from the mold.  It will wash off with soap and water or will 
peel away like a layer of “cling wrap”. 
MOLDING - Laying up and Vacuum Bagging 
Before you mix any resin, ensure you have cut the required amount of glass cloth 
(sufficient to cover the part with an overlap of about 1.5 inches), prepared an area to put 
your vacuum bag where it can sit for a few hours and you have boiled the kettle (if you 
want to use a hot water bottle for a faster cure). 
Have your bristle brush ready and a cup of acetone to clean the mixing cup and brush 
immediately after use. 
The vacuum bag is required to hold the cloth in position and against the part / mold while 
the resin cures.  The application of the vacuum also draws any air bubbles out of the 
layup ensuring a smooth mold surface.  The vacuum also pulls out excessive resin and 
compacts the layup which gives a lighter and stronger part. 
A basic vacuum bag configuration is shown in the Figure 1 below. 
Page 3 of 17 
While I don’t expect you go to the effort of replicating the configuration shown in the 
figure above, we can make do with our clothing vacuum bag, some cling film as peel ply 
release film and some cotton cloth as a breather fabric ply. 

Have your vacuum bag and vacuum cleaner (remove the filters to allow greater suction to 
be applied to the bag) ready.  Have a friend ready to help you seal the bag and hold the 
vacuum cleaner to the bag port while you work the wrinkles out of the bag.  I placed an 
old towel on the bottom side of the bag to protect it from being pierced by the glass plate. 
The towel will also prevent the bag from sealing within itself, i.e. it gives a route for the 
inside air to escape to the vacuum, i.e. a breather fabric. 
Place a layer of the PVC sheeting on the glass plate or you can use cling film if you wish. 
Place your waxed part in the center of the plate. 
Mix the required amount of resin for a single layer of glass cloth.  Mix the resin well and 
let it sit for a bit to allow any entrapped bubbles to rise to the surface. 
Place a single layer of glass cloth over the part and apply some resin with the brush 
(applying a single layer at a time allows the cloth to conform to the part better).  Use a 
stippling action (dabbing action) rather than a brushing action as a brushing action will 
generally just move the cloth around.  When the glass is completely wet out by the resin 
(it is no longer white but transparent), and you are satisfied with the work, place a layer 
of cling film (peel ply - see Figure 1 above) over the layup and then put a piece of cotton 
fabric over the top (this acts as a breather fabric ply to help the air within the bag escape 
to the vacuum port). 
Place your part in the vacuum bag and seal.  Apply the vacuum to the bag and slowly 
draw the air out, as the bag closes in on the part manipulate the bag to conform to all the 
curves and any tight radii of the part.  Try to smooth out any wrinkles over the part as 
these will create resin ridges and will need to be removed before the next layer of glass is 
Once you are satisfied with the vacuum bag, let the resin cure overnight or if you prefer 
you can use a hot water bottle a blanket to allow enough heat to cure the resin in about 
1.5 to 2.0 hours.  Periodically check on the bag to ensure that it has not lost its vacuum, 
this is crucial in the first 30 mins of curing.  Figure 2 shows a photograph of a vacuum 
bagged heel plate molding.  Note that the blue color is the dye in the PVA release agent. 
The dye helps to show where you have applied the PVA.


DIY Carbon Fiber Kayak greenland Paddle

This is a great article featuring the production of a carbon fiber Kayak paddle, with out the use of vacuum bagging or infusion. Learn how to make your own carbon fiber kayak paddle with the use of the DIY guide written by Duane Strosaker

Greenland paddles are traditionally made of wood, which has been a good material for making them. But the carbon fiber Greenland paddle made by Superior Kayaks, Inc. intrigued me, so I ordered one. When I opened the package, I was awed at the beauty of the paddle. The modern material wonderfully complimented the traditional design. Being the home builder I am, I just had to build my own carbon fiber Greenland paddle.
Building this paddle isn't much different than building a composite kayak. Like the deck and hull of a kayak, the pieces of the paddle are molded and then assembled at the seams, which is a construction technique found in almost any fiberglass manual. But before any molding can be done, a plug has to be carved, and from it, a mold is formed.
I don't know how Superior Kayaks, Inc. is able to beautifully assemble the molded pieces without any apparent (as far as I can see) composite reinforcement on the outside of the seams and still make the paddle so strong. I wasn't about to cut into a perfectly good $340 paddle (now $475 and worth every penny) to find out how they do it, so I settled for making my paddles using the common technique of composite reinforcement on the outside of the seams, and they turn out pretty nice.

Building the Plug

The carved blade half.
Building the plug starts like carving any wooden Greenland paddle, except that only one side of one blade and the loom is made. The other side is flat. Make sure that the edge on each side of the blade is exactly like the opposite side so that the two halves of the molded carbon fiber blades will meet perfectly at the seams when they are joined back to back. Also, avoid making sharp curves that the carbon fiber cloth will have troubles forming around.
The directions I recommend for carving a wooden Greenland paddle are by Chuck Holst at the Qajaq USA websiteMatt Johnson has an online video on how to carve a wooden Greenland paddle using Holst's directions. Brian Nystrom has a book on building Greenland paddles that you can order online at My own Greenland paddle specifications are at this link.

The plug and flange.
The plug needs a flange, which is simply a flat piece of wood that is epoxied to the blade half. Be sure to read and study the user manual for the brand of epoxy being used. Before epoxying the blade half and flange together, coat them with epoxy and sand them smooth until they are shaped perfectly.
After the epoxy has cured, apply five coats of Johnson paste wax to the plug (and flange) so the mold won't stick to it. Then, for the same reason, brush on a coat of PVA mold release and allow it to dry before building the mold.


How to Vacuum Bag Fiberglass & Composites 5 of 5

Vacuum Bagging & Sandwich Core Construction A complete demonstration of the advanced mold making process. Includes sandwich core construction and vacuum bagging using carbon fiber.

How to Vacuum Bag Fiberglass & Composites 4 of 5

Vacuum Bagging & Sandwich Core Construction A complete demonstration of the advanced mold making process. Includes sandwich core construction and vacuum bagging using carbon fiber.

How to Vacuum Bag Fiberglass & Composites 3 of 5

Vacuum Bagging & Sandwich Core Construction A complete demonstration of the advanced mold making process. Includes sandwich core construction and vacuum bagging using carbon fiber.

How to Vacuum Bag Fiberglass & Composites 2 of 5

Vacuum Bagging & Sandwich Core Construction A complete demonstration of the advanced mold making process. Includes sandwich core construction and vacuum bagging using carbon fiber.

How to Vacuum Bag Fiberglass & Carbon Fiber 1 of 5

Vacuum Bagging & Sandwich Core Construction A complete demonstration of the advanced mold making process. Includes sandwich core construction and vacuum bagging using carbon fiber.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 8 of 8

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 7 of 8

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 6 of 8

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 5 of 8

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 4 of 8

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 3 of 8

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 2 of 8

How To Mold Fiberglass & Composites. 1 of 8

If you can get past the woman in the videos, they offer detailed instructions on mold making for Composite fiberglass and carbon fiber parts.