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Carbon Fiber Terminology | Auto & Motorcycle parts Technology

 

At ScopioneUSA, we understand that carbon fiber technology is still relatively new. This is why we have dedicated this section of our website to explain all the general terminology that is used with carbon fiber.

 

Although the use of carbon fiber in the automotive world dates back several years, it is still relatively new, . Thanks to recent advancements, carbon fiber parts are now more sought after than ever thanks to their increased overall strength, better impact resistance and lighter weight compared to steel parts of the same size.

Our dedicated team at ScopioneUSA is here to help in case you have any questions about products that we sell. We believe that the better you understand all the terms and their significance, the better informed decision you can make when choosing carbon fiber parts. However, if you still have questions about the terminology that is used or you want to be absolutely sure, we encourage you to contact us so that we may be able to answer your questions.  

 


 

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is a lightweight, yet incredibly strong material that is now being used more frequently to replace traditional steel parts for vehicles - particularly high performance racing and sports cars. Carbon fiber is essentially carbon, the most common element on Earth that has been treated, weaved into strands that are bonded together with resin to increase the strength, cured, then cut into the shapes of parts which are needed.

Generally speaking with parts of the same size, carbon fiber is twice as strong as steel, yet only weighs 1/4th as much overall. Therefore, adding carbon fiber parts to your vehicle will lower the overall weight and increase its speed, performance and safety.

 


 

How Is Carbon Fiber Material Made?

How Precursors For Carbon Fiber Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) Is Created

 

How Is Carbon Fiber Material Made? Part II

 


 

Axial:

The reference made to a characteristic which is in the direction of the orientation of the fiber.

Autoclave:

This is a closed vessel that applies fluid pressure, with or without heat, to an object which is enclosed.

Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics:

A composite material that consists of carbon fiber as the primary reinforcement within a polymer matrix.


 

Carbonization:

This is the thermal process in which pitch fibers, otherwise called stabilized PAN, are heated to between 1200 and 1500C in order to maximize strength and upgrade its modules.

Modulus:

Essentially, this is the measure of the stiffness of a particular material. The formulation is the change in the stress divided by the change in the strain of a loaded material specimen within its elastic range.


 

Electrical Conductivity:

This measures the ability of the material to conduct electrical current. For example, carbon fiber does conduct electricity while fiberglass does not. In the construction of boats, the conductivity of electricity is a significant factor because of the galvanic corrosion potential.

Oxidation or Stabilization:

This is the thermal process where the PAN precursor is transformed into a cross-linked, thermoset material. Once converted, it is now capable of maintaining its shape during the process of carbonization.


 

Epoxy Resin:

Of all commonly used resins, epoxy resin has the greatest tensile strength, stiffness and resistance to fatigue. Epoxy resin is more resistant to degradation by water and osmosis as compared with polyester or vinyl ester. On the other hand, epoxy resin is more vulnerable to UV or ultraviolet rays. Epoxy resin comes in two parts that must be mixed in the proper proportions for maximum effectiveness. This separates it from both vinyl ester and polyester which is basically a single substance that only needs a small amount of a catalyst to become active. 

There are many different formulas of epoxy resin that will set at different temperatures and speeds. Plus, there are different temperature resistant compounds of epoxy resin as well. Overall, the epoxy is generally a stronger adhesive material that either polyester or vinyl ester, but it does have the disadvantage of creating a wax-type amine blush that must be washed away before more layers can be added.


 

PAN:

This is an acronym that stands for plyacrylonitrile. PAN is the raw materials that form the most common type of carbon fibers. Because of their high tensile strength, PAN-based carbon fibers are especially well suited for use in structural applications. Their compressive strength is also relative to the pitch-based carbon fibers that are used.

Precursor:

This is the raw material for carbon fiber. For PAN-based carbon fibers, polyacrylonitrile is the precursor. For pitch-based carbon fibers, petroleum based or coal tar-based elements are the precursor materials.


 

Prepreg:

This is an intermediate sheet material that consists of reinforced fibers which are impregnated by a polymer matrix resin system. Matrices are generally thermosetting resins which are partially cured. Although, thermoplastic resins may be used as well. By using a pre-preg as roving or unidirectional tape or fabrics that are either woven or not, carbon fibers may be incorporated into the mix.

Additionally, prepegs are generally classified by their aerial weight in grams per square meter (GSM) or ounces per square yard (OZ/YD2).

A pre-preg may also refer to a cloth (or carbon fiber) that is coated with a heat-activated resin, such as epoxy. To cure the epoxy, the pre-preg is shaped and placed into position before exposing it to heat and pressure. The final product is shipped to customers in refrigerated containers.


 

Tow (Roving, Strand):

This is a large group of carbon fiber filaments that are packaged together onto a single spool, otherwise known as a bobbin. Other terms for “tow” include “strand” or “roving”. The term “small tow” refers to the carbon fiber roving that contain less than 24,000 filaments. A “large tow” is carbon fiber rovings that generally refer to orders of 48,000 to 320,000 filaments or in some cases, even more.

The designation of “tows” are based on the number of fibers that they contain. For example, if you see the designation “16K”, that means 16,000 fibers are present in the tow. The purpose of the tow is to help wrap shapes or provide a significant increase in the strength of the carbon fiber when it is applied in a specific direction. For example, some frame or Ultralite Skin boats will use a Kevlar tow network to increase the stiffness of the framework itself, providing greater overall structural strength to the boat. The same applies in the use of carbon fibers.


 

You have just learned the basic terminology associated with carbon fiber. If we missed any terms, or if something is unclear to you, please contact us.

The three essential goals of our terminology page are to:

  1. Inform
  2. Explain
  3. Clarify

 

At ScopioneUSA, we are dedicated to providing the high quality Scopione carbon fiber parts, while delivering the finest customer service. If you have any questions about the terms used on this page, we encourage you to contact us.