Fun With Carbon Fiber
Hello everyone! Being the DIY type, and loving to make all kinds of things that look flashy as well as being functional, I decided to take a serious look at composite work. After hours of reading threads, watching videos, reading blogs, manuals, and dreaming about beautiful carbon fiber parts, I believe that the time has come for me to dive into the wonderful world of composites and carbon fiber.
The goal of this thread is to share my experiences getting started with the learning curve required for such work. I have already placed a couple orders for materials, and will take pictures of the products when they come in. Once everything has been collected, it's off to the school of hard knocks for us when we start finally making some carbon fiber parts.
Inmate Twin-shocker advised that time spent laying up fiber glass (FG) in an open mold is priceless, and I fully intend to spend quite a bit of time doing just that before getting to the dark stuff. Like Napoleon said, it's all about the skills, and these are skills I have not. Fiber glass to the rescue!!
As of now, my goal is to replace all of the body work on my 05 DR650 with CF pieces made in the garage. I would like to work from the back to the front with the grand finale being the fabrication of a Dakar style fairing and dash to hold all kinds of goodies that are necessary for an ADV bike. More of that to come soon.
Aren't the internet and ADV great! Both are unbelievable resources. Like I mentioned above, I have been reading, reading, reading. Below is a list of great resources that I have found to be unbelieveably helpful in learning how all this stuff works. I'll add to this list as I find more.
Anything by Ebrabaek here at ADV is great. He has dedicated a fairly large portion of his life to CF, and has shared great ways on how to work with carbon fiber with common tools. the link below will take you to his Facebook page dedicated to CF. He has many great build threads on the page:
Composites 101, another great discussion here on ADV about working with CF. Read it all and take it in.
A guide on how to build a beautiful CF and kevlar fuel tank by tygaboy. The thread is very detailed and lengthy. Even if you don't want to make a fuel tank, the techniques are a wonderful learning tool.
Learning How to Work With Composites, by jesusgato. This is another great thread, much like this one actually about the same great stuff. There are so many great resources available!
This video by TapPlastics gives a great description of the differences between different weaves and types of fiber glass and carbon fiber.
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Some quality video from ebrabaek showing the manufacture of some CF exhaust parts.
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Another great video from ebrabaek showing us what happens to epoxy resin when you put it in a vacuum.
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A great series of videos by a gentleman that puts carbon fiber to work on some great projects. Even though this isn't motorcycle stuff, it still shows some great techniques on how to work with CF. Watch the whole series of videos for maximum schoolage.
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US Composites: Great site and great customer service. This site has a great selection of CF, and a discount section for short roll CF fabric. Really, they have everything you need. I have ordered fabric and parting materials from this company. Top notch.
Polymer Products: These guys have a great selection of quality epoxy resin. As you'll remember if you've read any of Ebrabeaks guides above, he highly recommends the epoxy resin from this source. I have ordered the Max CLR HP epoxy resin from PP, and it arrived quickly, and was packaged nicely.
Elite Motoring: Another great Ebay resource for a wide selection of reasonably priced CF, Kevlar, and other compositing fabric, and materials.
Fiberglass Supply: These guys carry a wide selection of products and pretty much everything that you would need for a project.
Fiberglast: Another great supply house. Fiberglast also has some great guides on their website.
Miapoxy: I learned about black E glass, and these guys have the best price that I have found so far. For the price and comparrison with CF, this black fiberglass looks pretty interesting.
Soller Composites: Whoa! I just found this place online and this store has a TONE of different kinds of fabric - by far the widest selection of FG and CF I have seen so far.
My Project Index:
Click on the links below to quickly move between projects in this thread. The links will get you to the thread page that the project starts on, so if you don't see the project right away, scroll down the page and look for the key titles or pictures. Sometimes previous projects will end after other projects have began, so if you are reading about a certain project and you see another project begin, continue reading to see the finishing steps of the current project that you are reading about.
Project #1: Moto fairing model. The project starts after this post.
This was my first composite driven project. Basically, I wanted to begin to develop the skills necessary to build plugs. I chose to use foam board for this small project.
Project #2: DR 650 Exhaust Shroud. The project starts about 3/4 of the way down the page.
Of course I wanted to build a part for the DR sooner rather then later, so I began the process of creating a mold and casting a final part out of carbon fiber. This project let to a number of additional developments which are outlined in the build process.
Project #3: Vacuum press system. The project starts about 1/4 of the way down the page.
After using the open molding process for a while, I thought that the time was right to get into compression molding using vacuum pressure. To do this, I needed to build a vacuum press system, so that's what I did.
Project #4: Epoxy gelcoat Experiment, and subsequent carbon fiber bowl. The project starts about 2/3 of the way down the page.
My past molds had worked OK, but it was time to step up the mold building process by using a proper gelcoat. I didn't want to buy any of the poly products, so I just learned how to make my own out of epoxy.
Project #5: X650 Chain guard and two part mold making process.The project starts about 1/2 way down the page.
I took on this project for a friend, and as a way to challenge the skills that I had build up to this point. The project proved to be the perfect challenge, and I learned a lot.
Project #6 Carbon Fiber hand guard deflectors. This project outlines the development of the plugs, molds, and final custom hand guard deflectors.
A friend of mine was in need of some new fancy hand guard deflectors, so I decided to take on the job. I had been wanting to develop a plug using dense insulating foam, and now seemed like a great time to get started with the project. I use a number of different techniques in the building process of the plugs and the final parts.
Project #7 Getting Started With Resin Infusion. This project shows the steps I took to get acquainted with the resin infusion process.
My Hand Guard deflector project needed a quality upgrade, so I decided to dive head long into infusion. That process can be found here.
Project #8 Designing and Developing a Multicopter Frame From Scratch.
Like motorcycles, I have always had a thing for RC toys. Well, they aren't the toys that they used to be, and multicopters take the cake. (This project is currently on hold)
Without further delay...
Project #1: Moto Fairing Model
Lets get started...
Through my research, I have learned that most of the work that goes into composites work is making sure that the plug (the model that a mold is made from) and the mold (the tool that you use to make the final part) is as perfect as possible. This means that your plug needs to be as smooth and shiny as you would want your final part to be. Which in turn means a whole lot of shaping, sanding, bondo, primer, sanding, sanding, bondo, primer, sanding, more sanding, primer, putty, primer, and lots of polishing. :D
Honestly I don't have a whole lot of experience with this kind of work, but I'm sure that I'll get really good at it with all the opportunities that I'll have to do it. Of course, if anyone reading this thread has any tips or tricks on how to do something better or different, I would love to hear from you in the thread. This kind of feedback is not only very helpful for me, but is also a great way to help others how they might do things differently if they decide to tackle a project.
While waiting for supplies to arrive, I wanted to make the best use of my time and get a little experience using foam board (a great material to build up a plug), and Bondo which I have no experience with.
I built this little model of what I was envisioning a Dakar fairing to look like in my mind when I sat down to make this thing. Of course, after it was put together I think it looks more like an old school fairing of some sort, but still cool and functional as a practice part.
Here I cut foam board and used hot glue to bond it together. The hot glue worked well.
A coat of primer to protect the foam from the Bondo. This is my first time EVER using Bondo, and let me tell you, I have a LOT to learn. :rofl
Here we are after a fair bit of work with the Dremel to knock down the spikes and very high spots, and then a fair bit of work with some 60 grit sand paper. I took off the "wings" because I didn't like the look, and after a bit of thought about how a real part would be layed up, it didn't seem right that they would be included in the mold for the fairing. Here is a shot of the bracing that I included in the back of the plug. The foam board really holds up well.
I have a lot more work to do on this plug, and I'm not sure if I'll make a CF part out if it, but I may use it to make a mold, and then cast a glass part from it for practice.
More to come soon!
don't rework it so much. looks like it started to set and you were dragging it around...
I think that I was trying to work it past its open time. Actually, I just came back in after putting another layer of bondo on the piece and it went much smoother this time. I guess like everything else here, it takes practice and experience.:D
Good thread, I'm going to keep my eye on this thread. Also in thumpers in case you missed it is a great thread by jesusgatos. The dude really knows his shit when it comes to fabricating.
I'm headed over to jesusgatos thread right now. Thanks for the link!
Edit: jesusgatos thread added to the resource page.
If you are serious about working with composites, then you need to learn the basic techniques of contact moulding GRP first, then move on to making simple moulds, make GRP parts using these moulds, and only when you are confident you have mastered these things, move on to vacuum or RTM using carbon fibre (which incidentally is far from ideal for making Adv bike parts, as it tends to shatter following relatively light impacts).
Learning the basics isnt simply a matter of watching videos or reading posts on various forums, its something that needs quite a bit of hands on practice, and you will find that unless you have mastered the basics, that trying to work with CF will almost certainly be a quite costly waste of time.
For those out there like me that don't know what Contact Moulding with GRP means, I Googled it.:D It's simply laying up fiber glass by hand in an open mold. GRP means Glass Reinforced Plastic, aka FG.
I fully intend to do quite a bit of work with FG before I try to lay up a piece of CF. In fact, the whole reason for making the little fairing model is to learn how plug making works with an emphisis on a very high finish, and making a molds and parst out of FG from that plug and other plugs that I make.
From what I have seen shopping for supplies, it looks like CF is about 8 times more expensive then FG. That's a fair difference.
Sure, I want to see a nice CF part pop out of a mould, but I do want to take the time to properly learn how to lay up composites. Maybe even some vacuum bagging some day.
Twin-shocker, do you have any advice for any particular practice, or project to work on with FG? Tips are always welcome and much needed BTW. I'm all ears!:ear
Schools in, friends!:clap
You can practice contact moulding by using something like a plastic food container of some sort as a mould, and then using GRP to make an exact replica of the inside of that. You need to try to avoid any air pockets, and use a brush to try and avoid part being resin rich.
There is no real point in contact moulding carbon, as this will mean a higher resin content than the ideal, which will mean reduced strength. Not an issue if parts are cosmetic only, but for good strength tou will need to use vacuum.
Main problem with carbon though is getting a good cosmetic finish, and this is an issue even if you are making parts using pre-preg in an autoclave.
Its also worth remembering that if you want to make copies of original bike parts in composite, then in many cases you can use the original part to take a mould from, which means there is no need to mess around making plugs.
I have read a lot about how vacuum molding does increase the strenght of CF parts by reducing the resin percentage to something closer to optimal, and consolidating the carbon layers better. I'm sure I'll give it a shot some day.
It is true that a copies bike parts don't require custom plugs, but I plan on making small changes to the parts which will require plug type work. Also, I need all the practice that I can get with producing a very smooth, finished plug in which to make a quality mold.
A little more progress...
I had managed to lay down a fairly smooth layer of Bondo which did a good job of filling in some really deep spots. Here I have sanded the part, and cleaned with rubbing alcohol in preperation for the next layer of bondo.
Here the next layer of bondo has been applied. It isn't perfect, but I feel like I'm getting better. Notice I used drywall mud to fill in the hole in the front of the fairing. It did shrink quite a bit but I expected that. I'll finish it with bondo once it has throughly dried.
I put the sand paper to it once again and it's smoother then ever now. However no where near smooth enough. I'll hit it with some primer which will help show the surface flaws a little better.
A light coat of primer really helps show what work still needs to be done. Unfortunantly this picture doesn't show how rough the surface still is, but it's getting better.
Once the primer dries, I think that I will start to build up the lip on the top of the wind screen and give it a nice gentle curve.
Aside from that, I have lots of fairly small scratches and gouges. To me, it doesn't seem that bondo would really work well to fix these. What other options do you guys use to fill in the smaller stuff?
More to come soon!
If you use a good primer it will fill the scratches. For the first coat use something like Feather fill or some other brand of primer that is catalyzed with the same catalist used for polyeter resin. Idealy these are best applied with a spray gun but they can be brushed, just expect to do a lot more sanding. For a really rough pattern 2 coats of this type of primer might be necessary but usually from there on you switch to automotive high-fill lacquer based primer applied with a spray gun.
You can avoid using a spray gun for the primer and you can even apply gel coat with a brush, but you will need one for the PVA so you might as well get one sooner rather then later so you can learn how to use it as you are learning all the other skills that go along with FRP. It dosn't need to be an expensive one, The compressor on the other hand will need to be able to keep up with it, at least for a resonable length of time.
I prefer to use a putty knife for spreading bondo unless the surface is curved more than a flexible knife will conform to. I have 1", 2", 3", 6", and 10" knives for spreading bondo. I find they have less drag and therefore leave a smoother surface than a plastic spreader. generaly speaking the less you work it the better it will turn out.
I would never use foam board for a pattern. Sure you can use it for a quick mock up to get the general shape and diminsions but I always use solid wood such as pine or poplar or 3/4" thick sheet goods such as MDF or even particle board. these materials will flex less and let you be sure you are keeping the diminisions acurate as well as keeping the pattern from twisting. It will also make it easier to add your flanges once you are ready to pull a mold.
I'm not sure where their stores in WA are located but TAP plastics has some outlets in your neck of the woods. I use their epoxy laminating resin and have bought cloth there as well. Their laminating epoxy is basicly the same as West System 3. They don't have the biggest selection of cloth but for most of what you might want to do they have something that will work and you won't have to pay hazmat fees or wait for the brown truck. They also have small containers of cab-o-sil, microspheres, and talc so you don't have to buy huge bags of those materials.
Anyhow, I'll keep pluggin' away (plug joke) and all of you, please keep the great suggestions and lessons comming. This stuff is priceless!
I just learned that such a thing exists as black fiberglass, as well as other colored fiberglass. Apparently the black fiberglass is supposed to do a fair job mimiking CF as far as looks, but I've never seen it myself, however I'll have to say that the price is making it very tempting.
Here is a comparison between the two fabrics. The black glass is on the left. Click here to learn more about the product.
Has anyone ever used this stuff? If so, how did it go, how does it look and function?
To be honest, I am really excited about this stuff, especially because I probably won't be making anything soon that would actually use the strength that CF would offer.
If I order some, I'll let you guys know. (I'll probably order some :D)
Before making plugs, you need to gain the basic skills which will allow you to cope with contact moulding successfully.
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