Will the Future be in Carbon Fiber? Here’s What Auto Body Technicians Need to Know
Carbon fibre was first patented in 1961, appeared several years later in boat making and is beginning to be more widely used in the auto industry. Quite simply, carbon fibres are carbon atom strands that are woven tight and bathed in an epoxy resin to keep them together. In each ‘strand’ there are between 3,000 and 12,000 carbon fibres, and within those fibres are countless amounts of carbon atoms that are neatly packed together. Carbon fibre is praised because it’s lightweight, durable, and strong, making it the perfect material for car parts.
Read on to discover if carbon fibre is slated to be the material of choice of auto manufacturers in the future.
Auto Body Technicians Know the Cost of Carbon Fibre is High
Those in auto body technician careers know that currently carbon fibre is often only used on supercars like the McLaren 650S. The single biggest roadblock to carbon fibre being adopted more widely in auto manufacturing practices is its cost. Steel costs less than $1 a pound, while carbon fibre is said to cost about $7-9 CDN a pound, down from $45 CDN a decade ago. For carbon fibre to meet widespread use, it needs to reach a price tag of $6-7.
Factors that contribute to the high cost of carbon fibre includes human labour required to manufacture it, since carbon fibre ‘cloth’ needs to be hand cut. It also need to be baked in intense energy consuming ovens for long periods of time.
New Manufacturing Processes Might Bring Down the Cost of Carbon Fibre
With the emergence of new cost-effective manufacturing processes, the cost of carbon fibre has gotten lower over the years. Recently, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have discovered a method of production for carbon fibre that reduces the overall cost by as much 50 per cent and the energy consumption of the manufacturing process by 60 per cent.
The director of the ORNL, Thom Mason, explains that “Automakers, consumers and the environment will realize tremendous benefits because of the investment just a few years ago in the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.” With the help of these new developments, you might get to see more cars made out of carbon fibre once you become an auto body repair technician. Even the new BMW i3 has carbon fibre components, including a full carbon fibre frame, while retailing for just over $45,000 CDN.
Auto Body Technicians Know that Carbon Fibre is Used for Utility and Cosmetics
Many cars that are exclusively performance oriented will use large amounts of carbon fibre to boost performance. Recently, though, mass-production cars have begun incorporating small, aesthetically oriented pieces of carbon fibre. These pieces help to improve the look of cars since no material can mimic the dark, textured appearance of carbon fibre. Small pieces of trim in car’s interiors are usually where carbon fibre is employed for aesthetic purposes.
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