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Introduction

Composite materials on a chemical analysis refer to materials consisting of strong carry-load materials that are attached to a weaker material. Normally, the strong material attached refers to the reinforcement, whereas matrix refers to the weaker material.

As the definition suggests, the reinforcement plays a crucial role of providing strength to the weaker material, thus enhancing its rigidity and overall support (Ma 2011). Apparently, carbon fibre composites are carbon fibres used as composite materials in machinery. Normally, the carbon fibre comprises of thin filaments of carbon atoms. Traditional metallic materials, however, refer to metallic composite materials used in the design of mechanical and automobile systems, such as airplanes. Traditional metallic composite materials had their application prior to innovation of the carbon fibre composite technology (Mcnally 2011). The report paper aims at developing a comprehensive comparison of these two composite materials, highlighting their similarities and differences.

1.

1.1. Advantages of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymers

Carbon fibre reinforced polymer, which is an extremely strong and light composite material comprised of carbon fibre, has been used widely in different applications, mostly during the fabrication process of aerospace. These materials, while compared to the traditional metallic composite materials, have strong features that make them a better preference. Apparently, these features are strong contributors to the overall effectiveness of these materials during the manufacturing process of automobiles.

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Normally, the strength of the carbon fibre composites is in their weave. Hence, increased complexity of the weave promotes increased strength of the fibre composite and increases its durability (Kawakami 2011). An alternative method used in the manufacture of these materials is casting of mold and later applying it on carbon fibres. Later, the composite is allowed to cure through a vacuum process. It is through this process that the mold achieves the desired shape of the composite material. In most cases, this method has a high preference as it is simple and uncomplicated, hence implying that it can achieve the demand trends of the carbon fibre composite material. As developed earlier, carbon fibre composites have versified applications, depending on the nature of the manufacturing densities, the shape and the size of the composite material (Ma 2011).

Over the last decade, the use of carbon fibre composites has been significantly increasing. As an indication, it reveals strong advantages of these composite materials over the traditional metallic composite materials. Normally, these advantages attribute to the underlying features of these products over the later. In their considerations, manufacturers mostly consider the following features;

a. The composite material has a high tensile strength. When compared with other materials used commercially in the manufacture of machinery, carbon fibre composite are difficult to stretch or bend. Consequently, they are a preferred over the traditional metallic composites (Mcnally 2011).

b. These materials are light in nature; the overall mass of carbon is lighter, when compared with other materials (Kawakami 2011). Additionally, carbon has a slightly lower density, in comparison with other metals. Concurrently, it has a high strength to weight ratio, increasing its suitability in the construction of different systems.

c. The rate of thermal expansion is low, while subjected ton factors, such as temperature. While compared to Steel and Aluminum (common materials used in the manufacture of traditional metallic composites), carbon has a low thermal expansion rate. Hence, it expands and contracts less in both hot and cold conditions.

d. When made with additional components, such as resins, carbon fibre composites are corrosion-resistive. Therefore, when the composite component is placed on a corrosive chemical, it remains undamaged. According to experiments on then corrosion rate of the composite, it revealed that carbon fibre is the most corrosion-resistance material available.

e. Particularly, carbon fibre composites have a high degree of radiolucency in nature. Consequently, it is transparent to electromagnetic radiations, such as UV and gamma rays. However, analysis of the material revealed that carbon fibre is invisible in x-rays. Henceforth, its application in manufacture of medical systems is propagated by this property.

f. The composite material is highly durable. Unlike metals that have inferior fatigue properties and are easily worn out under continued use, carbon fibres are superior. Conversely, it has an implication that components made of carbon fibre wear out less, while being under continued stress (Ma 2011).

g. Normally, manufacture of composite materials, conduction is major consideration. As carbon contains allotropes, such as graphite, which is among the best conductors of electricity, its fibres are as well good conductors of electricity (Wali 2011).

h. Under some conditions, systems experience massive changes in temperatures. Hence, an effective composite material is ought to be thermally insulating in the quest of avoiding severe damages from these temperatures (Kawakami 2011). Particularly, carbon fibre composite is not only long lasting but also has properties that reduce these severe temperature effects. These properties reduce the heating and cooling costs, while used in the mechanical systems, thus increasing its efficiency (Wali 2011).

Under some conditions, composite materials often have the property of anisotropy (implying that the material displays different properties, while in different directions). This property can be a challenge, as it limits the maximum effectiveness of the carbon fibre composite. In the quest of eliminating the challenge, during the manufacturing process, the anisotropic material, also called pitch precursor, are treated at a temperature above 350 degrees. Apparently, during the heating process, the mixture is spinned. Due to the shear process-taking place in the mixture, the mesophase molecules (anisotropic in nature) orient longitudinally with respect to the fibre axis. Concurrently, the isotropic component of the fibre is made infusible through the process of thermosetting, in presence of air at temperatures below the melting point. The overall process lead to carbonation of the fibre at 1000 degrees. This is an essential process during the manufacture of systems using carbon fibre composite components, as it ensures that no tension is required during the stabilization process, thus the carbon fibre maintains its rigid features despite the changing environmental conditions.

1.2.

In the automotive industry, the use of carbon fibre composites has a limitation on race cars and some high-end-performance cars. The limitation of using the composite materials in these automotive attributes to the high costs of the composite material. Additionally, the justification of using the material in race cars is by its performance advantages.

However, the automotive industry is increasing its interests in these carbon composites, leading to formation of partnership between organizations aiming at manufacturing carbon fibre in the quest of meeting the accelerating demand in the standard automotive. Partnership between automotive companies are promising in nature and offer a specific guarantee that the fibre will be massively applied in mainstream passenger vehicles in future (Wali 2011).

However, there are some possible effects from the large production of the carbon fibre for standard class vehicles. The main challenge faced is accelerated costs of the fibre, while compared to the costs of traditional metallic composites. Another possible effect is the inconsistency of fibre supply. Apparently, considering the high capital costs of fibre production, producers are certainly unwilling to invest in new capacities without guarantee of future demand of the fibre.

In some structural application in automotive, structures do not necessarily require the mechanical advantages of the fibre (Park 2011). Hence, in most application cases, the sole motivation lies on the weight reduction property of the fibre. Conversely, in the standard class automotive, high production might face the challenge of reduced demand, as there are other alternative methods of reducing weight. Lastly, metal manufacturers are working hard to maintain their market share by investing and developing low-weight and high-performance materials in the pursue of overcoming the competition posed by the fibre industries (Mcnally 2011).

Supply of carbon fibre needs delicate handling. Pre-preg fibre, a conventional fibre treated with resin during manufacture, require delicate handling and exposure to temperatures. Normally, this fibre is ought to be stored at lowest temperatures possible of approximately -20 degrees. Henceforth, storage of the fibre in temperatures above the recommendation may lead to damaging of the resin and lowering the effective properties of the carbon fibre. Similarly, supply of vacuum bagged and autoclave molded fibre in the form of pre-preg contributes to reduced effectiveness, while applied in automotive.

2. Vehicle manufacturers are moving away from carbon fibre components for their medium production volume due to the long processing times needed for high integrity of carbon fibre composites. 

According to reports by Ferrari, despite carbon fibre composite considered as ideal for manufacturing of low-weight and high performing automotive, its application are confined on race cars (Kawakami 2011). However, standard class cars create opportunities for application of aluminium. Apparently, as observed from Ferrari’s point of view, available aluminium values can yield up to 30 cars per day. The accelerated production speed promotes the continued use of aluminium over fibre composites.

Additionally, carbon fibre composite material required for manufacturing one automotive does not meet the anticipated weight losses in the product (Wali 2011).

Additionally, metallic alloys, such as aluminium alloy have a high adaptability to manufacture high volumes of Ferraris. Optimization of the manufactured cars can be attained by using other methods and promoting its performance (Park 2011). It is in contrast with the use of carbon fibre composite that requires high volumes of materials for manufacture of vehicles. In order to maintain the constant production costs of Ferrari, a continuous processing of carbon fibre is required. However, maintenance of the initial integrity of the fibre is under scrutiny, since processing standards, inclusive of the time requirement, must be observed. Henceforth, many automotive companies are focusing on alternatives, such as aluminium and other metal alloys in the design of their automotive (Ma 2011).

Lastly, the costs of fibre are higher, in comparison to the alloy prices. Therefore, while the company aims at maintaining a standard price of its products, the costs of production must be proportional to the overall quality of the automotive. However, while using fibre composite, manufacturers are limited to application of regulated quantities, in order to maintain their standard clients and automotive.

In future, there is an anticipation among many companies that they will have bonding activities more than welding in their assembly points. The trend attributes to changes and continued high reliance on alloys other than fibre. The process of bonding a car is easier, as compared to welding. Bonding attributes to more strength. Welding experiences come together with possible challenges of peeling and possibilities of moving apart. Epoxy bonding is among the steering technology in the automotive manufacturing, as it promotes effective composition.

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