Carbon Fiber

Hey all! I’m from 3494 The Quadrangles, and have been considering putting together a tutorial on how to do carbon fiber in the off-season. We’ve done carbon fiber on our robots for 4+ years, and this year we branched out from making a belly pan to making a full set of ramps. Is there any interest out there in learning how to make carbon fiber?

We are interested!

I’d definitely be interested.

I ask this at the risk of accidentally winning another safety award… PLEASE devote a section in the tutorial for safety in regards to cutting/breathing/ventilation/masks/etc. This stuff ain’t no joke.

Very interested.

Agreed. Safety procedures when cutting are numerous, and masks are literally lifesavers.


Carbon fiber is great building material, but please use it safely.

This would be awesome! I’m not a mechanical designer but I know my team has shown interest in plastics manufacturing and a white paper would be really interesting!

Also, +1 for the safety section.

Every year I purposely bring composites construction to the robot. Every year our electronics panel is carbon fiber. We use pultrusions for many things and of course driveway snow poles are composites. By the time a student graduates they will have been part of a composite project.
Safety. Not just carbon fiber but any dust does not belong in the lungs.
Teams should consider adding composite construction to their designs.

Echoing the above.

Inhaling fibers will seriously mess you up for life. Skin irritations and damage can occur from the other resins and chemicals.

Safety for composites is different than safety for mechanical tooling: Your lungs will NEVER heal from the damage of inhaling composites.

For anyone interested in the safety of Carbon Fiber I suggest reading this paper by NASA.

Carbon Fiber is actually less toxic than most people realize. I’m not saying don’t wear proper safety a protective gear but a small accidental exposure won’t “mess you up for life”. The body can actually reverse most of the effects of short term accidental exposure by expelling it. Most of the health risks are from long term exposure. Still take proper precautions to limit your exposure as you would with any fibrous material.

As another team that made carbon fiber ramps we would love to see other teams looking into using it. Our school has a composites lab inside of it so we only have to pay for materials and not production which I think is the reason carbon fiber isn’t used so much.

There are many safety aspects that need to be addressed when working with composites. The dust is certainly a big one and cannot be overstated.

The resins are generally the next item of concern as they can cause serious reactions and people can become more sensitive to them with repeated exposure. Even pre-preg materials need to be handled using gloves. Some resins should not be used without active ventilation, but most resins would not require such drastic safety devices. However, you need to make sure you read the MSDSs for the resins you are using.

Mold releases can often also have nasty fumes or skin reactions. Waxes tend to be pretty benign, but there are liquid mold releases that require a bit more care in handling safely.

Dry fibers can also cause rashes and other skin irritations. Glass fibers in particular will get into your skin like tiny slivers and can lead to a nasty itchy rash.

Since latex gloves are a common PSE to deal with the cloth, resins and mold releases, the safety program should also include warnings about latex allergies and symptoms.

In my experience, the safety item that is often overlooked is that you are generally using very sharp instruments (typically razor blades) to cut the cloth prior to lay-up and to trim the parts after cure. Cuts from these sharp instruments are quite common and tend to be deep and hard to stop from bleeding. The safety program needs to make sure that this concern is addressed. Latex gloves offer little to no resistance to sharp razor blades and working with heavier gloves makes the intricate cutting work difficult, so people tend to ignore the safety recommendations to wear them (it is even harder to get people to wear suitable gloves than to wear safety glasses).

I would not recommend this without doing your own research, but in my past experience, cyanoacrylate (super glue) was a crucial item in the first aid kit. It was used in the Vietnam War as a way to stop bleeding in the field and stabilize patients for transport and is used in many doctor’s offices as an alternative to stiches. I have found it to be a great way to deal with the cuts from sharp razor blades and can save you a trip to the urgent care if and when the students forget to wear the appropriate gloves. There are medical-rated versions of CA glue that are supposedly better than hobby CA glue. There are safety risks associated with CA glue (read the warning label on the bottle) and I would not let students self administer without some level of supervision. You may even consider this to be controversial enough to need a special waiver from parents of students under 18.

If you use any special tools to work with composites such as hot wire foam cutters, vacuum pumps etc. you want to make sure that you have proper training programs for these tools and proper safety warning labels.

If you include all these safety protocols, composites can be a great way to build very strong and light structural components in unique shapes and forms that are just not possible with metals.

I would be totally interested in a tutorial. There’s a lot of things I would consider making out of CF, most notably the bellypan.

Definitely interested!

Very interested!

I am aware of using super glue to close wounds. At least in the US I wouldn’t do it to others without a specific protocol from a supervising Dr or such. The good Samaritan laws do not cover exceeding your training. There is a real risk of sealing in infection. Something deep enough to be glued deserves a trip to the urgent care or at the very least trip to Dr mom. My background: I have Advance Wildnerness First Training which mainly taught me how much I don’t know. When you are being shot is a completely different circumstance.

Yes. Very interested in a tutorial.

There are also quite a few videos on YouTube. Most of the ones I have watched were oriented towards making lightweight body panels for cars. Unfortunately, none of them have any content relating to safety. There are probably videos oriented towards other applications.

I think the issue with a “How To Carbon Fiber” tutorial is there’s so many different ways to work with Carbon Fiber.

I worked with it on my previous team where we did our own hand layup using single-layer carbon fabric, epoxy, and vacuum bagging to build composite sheets with foam/wood cores (the wood allowed you to screw into it and was limited to spots that needed attachment points).

The process and safety requirements also vary significantly between what we did and the other various build methods, such as open molding, compression molding, or even spray-on “chop” application; and which method you use depends a lot on the final product you’re trying to make.

definitely interested.