Thursday, September 04, 2008

Carbon Pix

OK, I promised some pictures and here they are. Hopefully I can format the page so that the pictures align with text.

First off, let's look at some CF bonded to an aluminum tube. In this case, it's a simple solution for a head tube. Use an aluminum head tube for structural purposes, wrap it in CF, and then bond the top and down tubes to the CF. First though, there is a layer of fine fiber
glass followed by a layer of CF veil. The later is like a felt, only very thin and porous. Between these two layers, and the epoxy they hold, the CF will be insulated from the aluminum to avoid galvanic reactions.

On this sample, multiple layers of unidirectional CF tape are wrapped around the tube. These are wound at +/- 45 degrees from the axis of the tube, to cover a variety of forces that may be imposed on the joint.

For this demo, heat shrink tape was used to compress the sandwich while curing. Also, just to speed t
hings up, I used a little heat. Around the CF, there is a release layer of plastic film (almost like less-clingy Saran-Wrap), which has a pattern of small holes that will allow excess epoxy to bleed off. On one side of the tube, a layer of bleeder material was placed over the release film. This is like a synthetic cotton batting, which will absorb excess epoxy. When a vacuum is used for compression, it also provides an air channel from which the vacuum can pull.

Normally, the bleeder layer would go all around the tube, but this is test to show you different options. After this was all wrapped, a heat gun was used to shrink the tape. As this was done, damp spots started to show in the bleeder material. The heat from the gun not only shrunk the tape, but also started to lower the viscosity of the epoxy - which helps to remove excess and helps t
o remove air bubbles in the fabric.

At this point, the whole shabang went into the over (the one in our kitchen), which was then turned on to 175. Once it was at temperature, this was held for about 10 minutes. Then the thermostat was raised to 225 and the timer set to 20 minutes. Approximately 7 of the 20 minutes were spent raising the temp to 225.

At this point, it was removed from the oven and allowed to cool enough to handle. The tape, bleeder, and release film were all removed - and the piece was essentially cured and ready to go. This is the state from which the pictures were taken. As always, pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Here is the side that had the bleeder layer. Note that the lighting exaggerates the texture. The overlap in the layers of shrink tape leave a spiral outline on the CF. Also, most of the texture on the surface is an embossing by the bleeder and release film sharp wrinkles are from the release film and larger textures from the bleeder. Surprisingly, most of this texture can be removed with a layer of clear epoxy. Now here is the side without the bleeder. Notice how much smoother it is. Also, it has a deeper sheen to the surface. If you saw this in person, you would notice the depth provided by a clear coat. On this side, the excess epoxy had no where to go. Some is still distributed in CF (making for a weaker product), but some has risen to the surface forming the finish you see. The overlap of the tape spiral is still visible, but not as much as on the other side.

Now here is another head tube.
It's not an experiment - but a real head tube. It has cosmetic layer of plain weave CF on the top, and was created using a full wrap with the bleeder layer. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of it as it came out of bag, but believe me when I say it had a distinct texture. Less of the bleeder printed through with this, but the texture of the CF fabric was very nearly as strong as if it had never been epoxied. To this, I've painted on a layer of epoxy. This was undiluted, so it's rather thick. There were some runs, which have begun to be sanded out with 400 grit, none the less, you can see the depth of the finish - and when all polished up it will be very impressive looking.

Here's an experiment that didn't go so well...

The picture isn't well lit and you'll want to enlarge it to see what's going on. I tried to run a dart or arrow of plain weave from the BB out onto the chainstay - just for decorative purposes. The problem with plain weave (in particular) is that the edges tend to self distruct. Thread by thread fibers fallout of the weave. The smaller the piece is, the more this happens. I'm working on some solutions to this problem, but meanwhile take a close peak. Besides not having a clean edge to the plain weave layer, you can see a couple of other things: 1) signs that I used shrink tape on the chain stay; 2) the ends of the CF threads are unwinding under the press. The later is most noticable in the center of the picture - two threads on the bottom of the plain weave layer.

Now, this doesn't pose any structural problems - heck this layer isn't structural to begin with. But, it's not the result that I'm looking for - so back to the drawing board for this one.

Some of these issues go away when working using pre-preg (pre-impregnated) carbon fiber. The epoxy in the fabric holds things to gether when handled, and the tack of the fabric makes it easier to hold pieces in position as the CF is layered on. However, pre-preg needs to be stored in a freezer and then cured in an oven - and I don't have room in my shop for a freezer or a frame sized oven - so I stick to normal uni-direction dry CF and wet epoxy layups.

Tomorrow, however, I'll share some pictures of some rocket science that I'm sampling which starts to close the gap between those to processes.

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