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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DIY Carbon Fiber Materials


Part 3: Tools & Equipment for DIY Carbon Fiber Projects

This section will focus mostly on wet lay-up overlay carbon fiber projects, and not on other vacuum bagging, vacuum infusion or using pre-pregs (dry carbon fiber). For vacuum bagging or vacuum infusion, the same tools will be needed as below, only with the addition of your vacuum bagging/infusion equipment. At this time, DIY Carbon does not sell nor support vacuum bagging/vacuum infusion equipment, and you will need to research & obtain this equipment on your own. If we sense enough demand to expand our offerings to sell vacuum bagging/vacuum infusion equipment, we will also expand this section of our Carbon Fiber Tutorial.

Your Workspace:

First and foremost, an appropriate workspace is fundamental to the success of your project. A wet lay-up can be very messy, so do not try this on your dining room table (unless you are prepared to scrape dried resin off of your table). Another key component of your workspace is the fumes that are produced by the resins, as well as the temperature and humidity of the room.  Most resin systems work best at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity – warmer temperatures will shorten your working time and curing time, and colder temperatures will increase your working time and curing time. If your workspace is too cold, the resin may never cure at all. What works well for many people is to perform the wet lay-up/overlay process in a moderate to slightly cool room, then allow the pieces to cure in a warmer room, or even under hot lamps to accelerate the curing phase.

If using PER or VER resins, be sure to work in a well ventilated space using the proper safety equipment, fume hoods, fans, or other ventilation procedures to protect yourself from the VOCs being emitted by the reactions of the polyester/vinylester and the MEKP hardener.

Another key component of your workspace is that you’ll want it to be in a clean, dust-free environment. There is nothing worse than having dust or debris land on a wet part, and having that piece of debris curing into the final product. Maintaining a dust & dirt free environment will minimize any imperfections or foreign materials introduced to the curing piece of CFRP.

Lastly, a well lit environment will help you avoid mistakes, and notice imperfections. Use plenty of light!

Tools & Equipment Needed:

DIYCarbon provides you almost everything you’ll need in our comprehensive kits. Aside from a few simple hand tools which you likely have lying around the house, everything from the carbon fiber fabric to nirtle gloves and a particle mask are all provided in our kits, making them perfect for a complete amateur, or a seasoned carbon fiber veteran looking to create a new part. However, we have provided a comprehensive list of tools & equipment that you should obtain, whether through us or otherwise, if you choose to embark on creating your own carbon fiber parts:

Carbon Fiber Fabric – in the weave pattern, size & weight of your choice. You should have more than enough to cover the surface of the part plus a little extra.

Epoxy Resin & Hardener – preferably professional grade epoxy resin that is UV treated.

Mixing Materials – mixing cups, mixing sticks, and measurement cups will help you achieve the correct ratio of resin to hardener.

Cutting Equipment – to prepare your fabric to make the proper shape to fit your mold, you’ll want a handy array of (sharp) cutting equipment such as box cutters, utility knifes, scissors, and similar tools.

Measurement Equipment – simple tools such as pencils, sharpies, rulers and tape measures will help you plan your cuts into the fabric and make sure you are not wasting any extra material.  Measure twice, cut once.

Gloves – resin is messy and potentially dangerous – gloves are strongly recommended. DIYCarbon kits come with nirtle gloves which are thicker than standard latex gloves to keep your hands safe.

Hand Tools – a standard set of hand tools is recommended, just in tase. Mallets, hammers, flat head screw drivers an pliers can get you out of a pinch depending on the part being overlaid or mold being used. Another extremely useful tool are a set of (or several sets of) clamps to help hold things in place as they cure.

Brushes – bristled brushes work best for applying the resin, although foam brushes will work fine too for smaller projects.

Sanding tools – once the resin has cured, you will likely need to sand off imperfections. Have plenty of sandpaper from coarse to very fine as well as wet sand paper that you can sand your parts smooth with are crucial. A dremel or rotary tool can be great for removing drips or large imperfections as well. Sanding blocks and a particle mask are also very good ideas.

Clean up tools – acetone will go a long way for cleaning up any resin spills or sticky tools. Likewise a strong hand soap is a good idea if you don’t have some, such as gojo .

Advanced Tools

Vacuum Bagging or Vacuum Infusion Equipment – there are many components involved in creating a working vacuum bagging or vacuum infusion setup. This can be costly, but for certain parts that require extreme precision or have irregular or complex shapes, this investment is necessary to achieve the end product.

Mold Making Equipment – a mold can be made many, many different ways. As long as you have a shapeable, non-porous material that won’t decompose or warp over time, you can likely make a mold out of it. Due to the endless possibilities we won’t even attempt to name them all, but common materials such as wood, metal, or plastic are commonly used to create molds.

Part 3 Conclusion

As you’ve probably heard a million times, having the right tools is essential to creating any project. The right tools will save you time, create a better finished project, and are sometimes critical to your safety. Before you start any carbon fiber project, ensure your workspace is clean, your tools are ready to use and easily accessible, and that everything is in order. Due to the limited working time of resin once a hardener/catalyst is introduced, it is essential to have all of your ducks in a row before you begin working on your project.


1 comment:

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