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Unread 10-09-2017, 11:19 PM
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Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

As part of a non-robotics-related project I have been looking at using a part made from a carbon fiber or mixed carbon fiber/kevlar composite sheet. The part in question would be circular or elliptical in shape and be about 2mm thick. Is it possible to use a laser or water jet to cut such a part?
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Unread 10-09-2017, 11:21 PM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

We've cut thicker than 2mm carbon fiber before on a waterjet, its definitely possible that way. I thought I've heard about bad fumes from carbon fiber on laser cutters, though I'm not sure about that one.
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Unread 10-10-2017, 12:05 AM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

I have a fair amount of experience with waterjetting carbon fiber. It's definitely a good way to achieve the shape you want but be sure to purchase enough material to allow for some botched parts. Sometimes when the waterjet initially pierces the carbon fiber, instead of going straight through the part some of the water will get in between the layers of carbon fiber which can lead to the layers separating. Be sure to keep that in mind but otherwise, you should be good.
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Unread 10-10-2017, 12:37 PM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

The one time I cut carbon fiber with the waterjet it was in 2015. It was an experiment and we didn't count on it for actual use on the robot (but did end up using it after CMP).

I was cutting a plate using a polypropylene honeycomb core. Due to the same concerns addressed by borisf (the water running along the inner face of the lamination and damaging the core-to-carbon interface while piercing the bottom layer) I did not do any interior pierces/features. I only cut the perimeter. While cutting on the waterjet, I started the stream off material.

For interior features, we laser cut some acrylic sheet and used it as a template with center punches.
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Unread 10-10-2017, 12:42 PM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

CNC router worked well for us for cutting 1/4" CF sheet with a wood core. We've also done foam core. Both worked well with the router. I can't speak to using a laser or a waterjet on it.
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Unread 10-10-2017, 01:55 PM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

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Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
We've cut thicker than 2mm carbon fiber before on a waterjet, its definitely possible that way. I thought I've heard about bad fumes from carbon fiber on laser cutters, though I'm not sure about that one.
Yes, Carbon Fiber will release Chlorine gas when cut with a laser cutter


-Zach
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Unread 10-10-2017, 02:08 PM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

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Originally Posted by Twins Inc. View Post
Yes, Carbon Fiber will release Chlorine gas when cut with a laser cutter


-Zach
Can you provide a reliable source for this? I suspect it's possible that the epoxy could off gas chlorine but even that I'm not sure of. This doesn't seem right to me but I could be wrong - I am far from an expert on this.
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Unread 10-10-2017, 02:37 PM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

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Originally Posted by marshall View Post
Can you provide a reliable source for this? I suspect it's possible that the epoxy could off gas chlorine but even that I'm not sure of. This doesn't seem right to me but I could be wrong - I am far from an expert on this.
Never heard of chlorine, but there are a lot of other gasses that are released that depend on the type of resin used.

Quote:
Burning will decompose the sizing system, if appropriate, and
produce carbon and nitrogen oxides, phenols, aldehydes, acrolein, carboxylic acid, traces of incompletely burned carbon products and other unidentified gases and vapors that may be toxic. Avoid inhalation.
Checking the MSDS for various different types of carbon fiber products (different resins, structures, brands) the common theme is that all release carbon and nitrogen oxides + a cocktail of traces of other toxic gasses that aren't always listed.

As long as there is no resin, it should be fine. However, if there is resin (as opposed to just fabric), unless you have a ventilation system designed for laser cutting carbon fiber, I wouldn't recommend cutting it.

Also, always be careful when cutting carbon fiber using a rotary tool. Carbon fiber dust is really bad to inhale (can get stuck in lungs) and it's easy for particles to become airborne.

According to the MSDS (http://www.eng.auburn.edu/organizati...n%20Fiber.pdf), you should use NIOSH approved dust respirator or a ventilation system designed for small dust particles.

There is still some debate about *HOW* bad it is to inhale but there is a consensus it isn't good.
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Unread 10-11-2017, 10:08 PM
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Re: Cutting Carbon Fiber Sheet

Quote:
Originally Posted by borisf View Post
Sometimes when the waterjet initially pierces the carbon fiber, instead of going straight through the part some of the water will get in between the layers of carbon fiber which can lead to the layers separating. Be sure to keep that in mind but otherwise, you should be good.
^^^

I've spent a good amount of time cutting carbon fiber and fiberglass sheets with a waterjet for some university projects. The reason that this happens is that the water pressure when the flow starts isn't immediately enough to go all the way through the sheet, resulting in causing the layers to delaminate instead.

The solution that I've found to work best is (whenever possible) to have the cut begin off the edge of the sheet, and then move in to where you want the part to be. This way, the water is all the way up to pressure by the time it comes into contact with the sheet, and you get a nice clean cut without wasting any of the material. In cases where it's not possible to do this (e.g. cutting holes in your part), you generally need to allow an inch or so in every direction for piercing damage. If that's not possible because the hole is too small, I just leave that feature out and finish the job on a mill or drill press.

Feel free to pm me for other questions about waterjet usage techniques.

Luis
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Last edited by Whippet : 10-11-2017 at 10:11 PM.
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