Carbo Fibre

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Paul_M | 14:37 Thu 08th Mar 2012 | Science
6 Answers
Why is it still so expensive?
When the technology first became commercially available the price was justified due to the cost of building bespoke molds necessary for individual applications.
Now, everything that would be better built with Carbon Fibre has a mold, the material and resin are relatively inexpensive and the presses and ovens have always been there.
So why is it still so expensive?


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Probably because until something better comes along, they will charge what they want for a premium product.
As the link says Carbon fiber is still at least 10x as expensive as steel and it can not be recycled.
Anything bulit with carbon fibre used to its maximum potential must be very carfully designed and that process is very expensive.

Carbon fibre is incredibly strong but its failure modes are catastrophic. There is no partial failure like many other materials. Snap and its is broken.

Years ago carbon fibre was trailed with oars for race rowing. They performed brilliantly but the consequences of an oar snapping were not pretty. They still use wood which is really quite an exceptional material that nature designed especailly to deal with repetitive stress.
When you say expensive.. how do you measure money against a human life.
My son makes these bespoke molds for F1. Molds dont last forever. The mold he was making in the early hours of last night, will more than likely be scrapped after it is used once. Because the designers will want to alter the part that has been produced from it ... so another needs to be made.. and another and another.

Where safety is concerned, money is never mentioned. Many molds are made before any part is passed as safe. Parts are tested over and over, and for every part .. there has to be another mold.
Just to get one of the Top British Teams on the grid in China, multiple molds and layups and tests were made for just one part. Each part produced was just crashed into a block of concrete before they were left with one item that passed. Without this item they could not compete.. not an option.

As for failure, each and every part is designed to fail in a certain way.
They dont just snap... otherwise you would'nt see drivers just step out of the remains of their car after what seems like a fatal crash. ( i.e. It takes 5 laminators about five weeks to create just one tub for one driver ... £700,000+ )

The non stop research and development is where the cost comes from.
You can buy a square metre of pre-impregnated carbon for about £100 ( the material of choice), but by the time it is laminated, you can multiply your £100 by 10 or even a 100.

.. another little snippet.. the oven used to bake the carbon..
a cool $1,'s not just the price of the carbon.!
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