What is Wet Carbon Fiber & Dry Carbon Fiber | Auto Parts & Accessories
Understanding the differences between dry and wet carbon fiber will help you make the most informed decision
What are DRY and WET Carbon Fiber?
Of the many different terms associated with carbon fiber, the terms "dry" and "wet" carbon fiber may cause the most confusion. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but understanding the differences will help lead you towards making a better informed decision about which to choose for your needs.
The terms “dry” and “wet” in carbon fiber refer to how the product is produced or manufactured. Each has its own unique approach, but the result is actually quite different in terms of weight, strength and other factors.
What is Dry Carbon Fiber?
Dry carbon fiber is formed by using a pre-preg or impregnated piece of carbon materials. This piece of carbon is first placed into a mold, and then into a sealed vacuum to properly cure. This particular method creates the least amount of waste and forms a lighter version of carbon than the “wet” method. The vacuuming process of making dry carbon means that there are fewer pinholes and almost no air pockets that form in the carbon. Dry carbon is the highest quality version of carbon fiber products that are produced.
However, it is 3 to 4 times more expensive to produce than its counterpart.
Advantages of Dry Carbon Fiber
- 60% lighter
- Significantly stronger
- Superior manufacturing process
- Uses a dry finish for enhancing its cosmetic appearance
Disadvantages of Dry Carbon Fiber
- Almost four times as expensive to produce
- Will fade if not adequately maintained
What is Wet Carbon Fiber?
Wet carbon fiber uses a different method of manufacturing. In this process, the carbon fiber is laid out by hand into a mold using a dry cloth. Then, a mixture of two parts resin, one part carbon is put together and applied on the cloth before being placed inside a bag and heated in a vacuum. Due to this method, carbon fiber weaves are far more affordable.
However, wet carbon fiber is subject to having more air bubbles which can create weaknesses and wavy fiber weaves which is less consistent that the dry counterpart. Because it is far less expensive to create carbon fiber using the wet method, most carbon fiber parts are created “wet”.
Advantages of Wet Carbon Fiber
- Far cheaper to produce, meaning a less expensive product
- Has a very shiny, wet appearance which can be attractive
Disadvantages of Wet Carbon Fiber
- Weaker and heavier than its dry counterpart
- Will fade unless properly maintained
What is Pre-preg Carbon Fiber?
You may have heard the term “pre-preg” when viewing carbon fiber products. This refers to the fact that carbon fiber is often sold with epoxy that is “impregnated” into the carbon fiber itself, thus the term “pre-preg”. For example, fabric can be pre-preg materials, but mostly it is unidirectional which means that it is spread out in no discernable pattern onto backing paper.
Such pre-preg methods means that this material can be spread out in varying thicknesses which can indicate the amount of grams per square meter (GSM) that is present. Fiberglass is described in roughly the same manner which uses ounces such as a 12 ounce cloth that weighs 12 ounces per square yard. Two layers of 6 ounce cloth will weigh 12 ounces per square yard when combined. The use of ounces, however, does not denote the actual quality or grade of the fiber itself.
Pre-preg carbon fiber is layered into a mold, then a breathable plastic covers the mold itself and is attached to a vacuum hose. Finally, all of the elements are placed into an autoclave for curing. During the curing process, the mold is heated from 350 to 800 degrees and placed under 80 to 100 psi pressure. This process causes any excess residue such as air and other non-carbon atoms to be removed from the carbon fiber product. The autoclave is used to completely cure the carbon fiber which hardens and strengthens the overall material. After a pre-set period of time, the product is allowed to cool and a resin carbon mixture then flows into the mold which creates a finished carbon fiber product. This particular process is used to create dry carbon fiber, which is significantly stronger and lighter than its wet counterpart.