You can go online and find all sorts of videos explaining how you can make your own DIY carbon fiber parts at home. We would never discourage anyone from doing this. In fact, a lot of our customers are DIY fabricators. But we would caution people new to the composites world to take it slowly.
Anyone can make any process look simple in the era of modern video technology. But for every one of those 'too easy to be true' videos you find on YouTube, there were plenty of hours of work that didn't make the final cut. After all, video producers do not want you to see their failures.
Below are five things you should know about DIY carbon fiber fabricating if you are planning to make your own parts at home. Know that you can always call on Rock West Composites for your raw materials. We carry carbon fiber fabrics, panels, tubes, etc. We also have a variety of resins to choose from.
1. IT'S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS
The first thing to understand is that carbon fiber fabrication is not as easy as it looks. If it were, everyone would be doing it. There would be no need for companies like ours because our clients could fabricate their own parts. The truth is that the fabricating process is complicated. It is also a precision process that doesn't leave a lot of room for error. You really have to know what you're doing.
2. CARBON FIBER IS A MISNOMER
The term 'carbon fiber' is really a misnomer. What we refer to as carbon fiber is really a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). It is a finished product that combines a carbon fiber fabric with an epoxy resin that, when heated, bonds together to create a single material. So a carbon fiber tennis racket is technically a plastic tennis racket. The plastic material is reinforced by the carbon fiber fabric within.
3. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A TOOL
In our industry, molds are called tools. We mention this because you are going to need some sort of tool for making your parts at home. Let's say you want to make a replacement fender for that classic car you're trying to replace. You need some sort of tool on top of which you can lay multiple layers of carbon fiber fabric.
This means that DIY carbon fiber fabrication includes tool making. Before you can ever begin laying up, you have to learn how to make your tools. Either that, or you'll have to buy them.
4. MATERIALS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
We carry different kinds of carbon fiber products and resins for a reason. The point here is that your choice of materials does make a difference. So before you begin any project, do some research to find out what materials are best for your application. If you live in the Salt Lake City area, you can always pay a visit to our shop. We can get you hooked up with exactly what you need.
5. IT TAKES PRACTICE
Knowing the mechanics behind carbon fiber fabricating is just the start. All of that 'book learning' will not translate into high-quality parts without some practice. Knowing that, be prepared to fail. It is quite possible that your first few attempts are not going to turn out all that well. You may have to fabricate a dozen or more parts before you perfect your process.
Yes, you can fabricate your own carbon fiber parts at home. It is not as easy as it looks, but it can be done.