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What is Carbon Fiber?

As PCMI looks ahead to the future of manufacturing, we’re talking a lot about carbon fiber. It’s light, quite strong and can be less expensive than traditional manufacturing methods. But what is carbon fiber?

The Science

Ready for a quick science lesson? Let’s do this. Carbon fiber is a material composed mostly of carbon atoms arranged in long, thin crystals. Because of this crystal arrangement, the material is incredibly strong for how thin it is. (We’re talking thinner than a strand of human hair!)

These fibers can be used in a multitude of ways. Thousands of carbon fibers can be twisted together to create ropes or woven together to create a fabric. When combined with epoxy, it can be molded into just about any shape depending on what it will be used for.

Carbon fiber is widely considered the next great innovation in manufacturing, allowing us to create new materials and structures previously considered impossible with traditional building materials. While the first carbon fibers were produced by Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan as filaments in their incandescent lamps, we’re still learning the many ways in which carbon fiber can be used. These initial strands weren’t nearly as strong as today’s and carbon fiber wasn’t even considered as a building material until the 1950s.

The Benefits

The simultaneous lightness and strength of carbon fiber make it an incredibly versatile material. Because carbon fiber is relatively new to the manufacturing industry, there really is no other material on the market that can compare.

Its strength-to-weight ratio is the most obvious benefit of carbon fiber. Compared to other materials, carbon fiber stands alone in this arena. It also stands up to extreme temperatures – whether hot or cold – and has flexible thermal and electrical properties.

Carbon fiber also plays well with others. When combined with the correct resin, it’s extremely resistant to corrosion and works with fiber, plastic, metal, wood, and concrete. This makes it useful across a wide range of products and industries.

Additionally, carbon fiber can be manufactured at various strength levels. For some builds, for example spacecraft fuel tanks, strength is key to resist rupturing from internal pressure. However, for a car body, you would want the material to crunch and crumble on impact to absorb the force in the event of a crash. Carbon fiber can be manipulated to behave differently when impacted, making it even more viable for commercial use.

At its strongest, carbon fiber is 10 times stronger and five times lighter than steel, and eight times stronger and 1.5 times lighter than aluminum.

Carbon Fiber and You

In addition to strength, durability, and variety of uses, carbon fiber can impact your bottom line. By swapping aluminum parts to carbon fiber, our team can save customers 12% per piece, which can increase production and profits. It can also stand up to intense conditions, meaning fewer repair and replacement costs.

Want to see what carbon fiber can do for you? Call our team today and let’s talk. PCMI is ready to meet your carbon fiber manufacturing needs and more!

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