Scopione Carbon Fiber Parts are crafted only using the best tested formulas of epoxy resins and pre-preg Toray dry carbon sheets. Our products represent the strongest and most durable on the market. Each carbon fiber part offered by us, automatically comes with high quality UV-resistance protection clear coat and shine. We carry only the top quality carbon fiber aftermarket automotive and motorcycle parts in the world today.
At Scopione, we understand that carbon fiber technology is still relatively new. This is why we have dedicated this section to explain all the general terminology that is related to carbon fiber. Our dedicated team is here to help, in case you have any questions regarding carbon parts that we sell. Thanks to carbon fiber manufacturers who are committed to the commercialization concept of expanding capacity, lowering costs, and growing new markets, carbon fiber has become a viable commercial product. In the automotive world, carbon fiber is used to enhance the performance and cosmetic appearance of vehicles. We believe that the better you understand all the terms and their significance, the better informed decision you can make when shopping for carbon fiber parts.
Although the use of carbon fiber in the automotive world dates only some years back, it is still relatively new. Over the years, carbon fiber technology has greatly expanded thanks to new, more streamlined manufacturing processes. These new methods help to create automotive and motorcycle parts which are stronger and more impact resistant than steel. Thanks to continuous advancements, such 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.
What is Carbon Fiber?
Thirty+ years ago, carbon fiber was a space-age material, too expensive to be used in anything except aerospace. However today, it is being used in wind turbines, automobiles, sporting goods, and many other applications. Carbon fiber is a lightweight, yet incredibly strong material that is now being used more frequently to replace traditional steel and plastic parts for higher end 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.
Carbon fibers are made from materials like the acrylic fibers that are used in clothing or blankets, and coal tar obtained from the heavy fraction of oil or by distillation of coal. Carbon fiber is a material that is created from thousands of individual fibers of carbon that are bundled together and woven into a cloth. When this cloth is combined with a resin epoxy, it becomes a very strong, yet lightweight material that is ten times stronger than steel. 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 quality carbon fiber parts to your vehicle will lower the overall weight and increase its speed, performance and in some instances safety.
What is ‘Grade A’ Carbon?
Although there is no official standard that grades carbon fiber products, there are still significant differences in overall quality depending on the manufacturer or brand. In response, the manufacturer began calling their products Grade A to help stress their overall quality, but this is really a marketing term and not an official grading of the carbon fiber products themselves. At Scopione, mostly Toray Industry Inc Carbon Fiber material is used in making our products. Toray is one of the leading suppliers for all car manufacturer composite materials and has a sterling record for quality.
What is the difference between Wet and Dry (Pre-preg) carbon fiber?
Of the many different terms associated with carbon fiber, the terms “dry” and “wet” carbon fiber may cause the most confusion. 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. Dry carbon fiber is crafted with pre-preg or impregnated resin fibers that are already in the carbon itself. Wet carbon fiber is hand coated with resin before the product is actually finished. 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.
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 and 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 or clear coated
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. Because it is far less expensive to create carbon fiber using the wet method, most cheaper 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 material is often sold with epoxy that is “impregnated” into the carbon fiber itself, thus the term “pre-preg”. Different pre-preg methods mean that different amount of epoxy is spread out in varying thickness’s, which is indicated by the amount of grams per square meter (GSM) that is present in the carbon material. The use of more epoxy does not denote the actual quality or grade of the carbon fiber itself.
Ready made, 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 oven 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 part. The autoclave process 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 once again significantly stronger and lighter than its wet counterpart.
What is a Weave?
The weave is the pattern formed when the carbon fiber is made into a fabric. There are many different kinds of carbon fiber materials available and they are usually identified by the size. Naturally, understanding the full meaning of ‘what is a weave’ will help you properly evaluate the carbon fiber parts.
Plain Weave carbon fiber sheet looks symmetrical with a small checker-board style appearance. In this weave the tows are woven in an over/under pattern. The short space between interlaces give the plain weave a high level of stability – the ability for a fabric to maintain its weave angle and fiber orientation. Due to this high level of stability, plain weave is not well suited for layups with complex contours, as it is not as pliable as some of the other weaves. Generally, plain weave carbon is suited for flat sheets, tubes and 2D curves. One major drawback to this weave pattern is the harsh crimp (the angle the fiber makes when woven) in the tows due to the short distance between interlaces. The harsh crimp can create stress concentrations which can weaken the part over time.
Twill Weave has good pliability and can form to complex contours, it is also better at maintaining its fabric stability. It is used in many cosmetic and decorative applications, as it has both moderate formability and stability. If you follow a tow strand in a twill weave, you will see that it passes over a set number of tows and then under the same number of tows. The over/under pattern creates a diagonal arrowhead look, known as a “twill line”. The longer distance between tow interlaces means fewer crimps compared to a plain weave and less potential stress concentrations. 2×2 Twill is likely the most recognizable carbon fiber weave in the automotive industry. As the 2×2 name implies, each tow will pass over 2 tows then under two tows. Similarly, 4×4 Twill will pass over 4 tows then under 4 tows.
What is the difference between 1×1 and 2×2 weaves?
The difference lies in the pattern of the weave itself. 1×1 weaves look like a square pattern while 2×2 weaves look like diagonal lines. With it becoming so popular, many people have questions about the different carbon fiber weaves, and if any particular weave is better than the rest.
1×1 Weave carbon fiber is woven in a symmetrical pattern which is what gives it great strength. Of course, any woven product can have different types of patterns. The most basic kind of weave is the 1×1, which is pretty standard to see in automotive parts, both OEM and aftermarket. This weave is pretty easy to identify because of its checkerboard pattern. The 1×1 design is a very tight weave which means it can be handled more easily without creating distortions in the fabric. The downside of the tight weave is it makes it less flexible overall, making it more challenging to drape over the mold. Cars like the BMW M3 are available with a carbon fiber roof which uses a 1×1 weave.
2×2 Weave is the most common weave you’ll find in the automotive industry. If you’ve ever seen an aftermarket carbon fiber hood, it most likely used this type of weave. It’s pretty easy to identify, as the weave will have a diagonal look. It can also be more easily conform to molds. For example, a rear diffuser with integrated fins will have lots of 90-degree angles, something a 1×1 weave is unlikely to conform to which is where a 2×2 weave would be used.
The sky is the limit when it comes to weave designs, which include four harness-satin, five harness-satin, eight harness-satin, 4×4, unidirectional, triaxial weaves, and others. Different weaves have different pros and cons, but for automotive use 1×1 and 2×2 are most excellent. 1×1 is very tight, but that tension can eventually sheer the fabric and 2×2 has more tensile strength than the 1×1, but not by any massive amount. To put this simply, both weaves are very strong and lightweight. A piece with a complex shape is much more likely to use a 2×2 weave because it’s easier to mold into those complex shapes. 1×1 is cheaper to manufacture and cheaper to make parts with, as the molding process is easier.
What are Epoxy, Vinylester, Polyester Resins?
Before you make a purchase of carbon fiber parts, you may want to know what resins were used in their construction. This will help you better understand how effective they are for the price that you are paying. There are three different types of carbon fiber resins that are used in creating automotive parts. Understanding what they are will help you make an informed decision about which brand of carbon fiber parts to get for your vehicle.
Epoxy is easily the most expensive of the three types, but it is also the strongest and most durable. Epoxy is a polymer resin that hardens when combined with a catalyst. Epoxy is one of the most common materials used to form the matrix in carbon-fiber fabrication. The epoxy binds to the carbon fiber, Kevlar, and fiberglass to form a solid barrier that is leak-proof. It has the greatest tensile strength, stiffness and resistance to fatigue. It is more resistant to degradation by water and osmosis as compared with polyester or vinylester. 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 are basically single substances that only need 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 than 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. Another issue with epoxy is that it tends to yellow when exposed to moisture. You will want to purchase carbon fiber parts that have an ‘all-weather’ epoxy hardener to insure that this yellowing does not occur. Scopione carbon fiber parts made with epoxy resins have UV protection to prevent damage and discoloration.
The Vinylester resins are only about 1/3rd as strong as the epoxy. In addition, they do not adhere well to either the carbon fiber or Kevlar materials. However, they are primarily used as an aesthetic application to these products. Vinylester is most often used with fiberglass, but is also applied to carbon fiber as an outer cosmetic coating. In essence, vinylester is used primarily to enhance the appearance, not the actual strength of the carbon fiber products.
The least expensive of the three, polyester bonds very poorly with carbon fiber and Kevlar materials. Polyester is only very effective with fiberglass. Unless strength is the only reason why you are purchasing a product or a certain part, avoid polyester resins carbon fiber and Kevlar bonded products and automotive parts.
Other Terms Explained
What is Tow, Roving or Strand? Tow 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. For example, if you see the designation 3K, that means 3,000 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.
What is a composite material? A composite material is a material created by combining two or more materials such that the final construction exploits certain properties from each. In the construction of carbon-fiber reinforced plastics or fiber glass, the high strength, high stiffness of the carbon fibers are combined with a low density stable matrix to create a combined material with desirable material properties. For example carbon fiber reinforced plastics are materials that consist of carbon fiber as the primary reinforcement within a polymer matrix.
What is a matrix in composite materials? In a composite material the matrix comprises the stable “fill” which holds the fiber reinforcement. By itself the matrix is typically much weaker than the fibers, particularly in tension. The matrix’s primary function is to transfer the loads between the fibers within the composite material.
What is 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.
How Precursors For Carbon Fiber Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) Is Created?
- What is Axial? Axial is the reference made to a characteristic which is in the direction of the orientation of the fiber.
- What is the Autoclave process? Autoclave oven is a closed vessel that applies fluid pressure, with or without heat, to an object which is enclosed.
- What is Carbonization? Carbonization 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.
- What is Modulus? Modulus 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.
- What is Electrical Conductivity? Electrical Conductivity 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.
- What is Oxidation or Stabilization? Oxidation or Stabilization 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.
- What is Precursor? Precursor 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.
You have just learned the basic terminology associated with carbon fiber parts production process. At Scopione, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality carbon fiber parts, while delivering the finest customer service. If you have any questions about the terms explained on this page, or anything else, we encourage you to contact us.