When it comes to cutting carbon fiber composites different techniques are used. It can be a Do-it-yourself project which you can carry out in your garage, but you need to be careful and take care of safety measures. There are a few tools you would require to carry out this experiment, as using your bare hands to cut carbon fiber is humanly possible. But you do not need to worry, this article covers everything you need to know about cutting carbon fiber sheets.
It is important that you handle the project keeping in mind the precautions, or you might end up harming yourself.
Wear eyewear or safety goggles. Carbon fiber dust can easily irritate your eyes and can even permanently damage them. Hence, it is important that you have your safety goggles on before cutting carbon fiber panels. You might even need a face guard when using some tools.
- Wear a dust mask. Carbon fiber dust is hazardous. To avoid inhaling the carbon fiber dust, you need to wear a mask that can stop particles from entering your mouth or nose.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt. Covering your skin with clothes or Tyvek paint suit can help you avoid contact ofthe carbon fiber dust with your skin, protecting it from irritation.
- Wear gloves. It is preferable to go with leather or mechanic gloves as they can protect you from the sharp materials used to cut carbon fiber composites.
- Make sure that the ventilation is good so that the carbon fiber dust is not collected in the area. You can also rig a shop vacuum or use a downdraft table to help you clean up the dust particles.
Before you carry on with cutting, there are a few things that need to be done in order to ensure satisfactory results. Firstly, use a tape measure to calculate the exact lengths you will need. To make sure that there are no mistakes, repeat this step. Then, use masking tape or a silver marker to outline the shape you want to cut. This will aid in cutting precisely and reduce the chances of making any mistake. Make sure that there is no backside blow-out by clamping the carbon fiber fabrication to a foam insulation.
Once you have taken care of all the preparatory and safety measures, we move on to the interesting part, which is cutting the sheets. There are numerous ways of cutting carbon fiber veneer, such as using a handsaws, rotary tool, angle grinder,and jig saw.
Using A Hand Saw to Cut Carbon Fiber Sheets
The most commonly available tool to cut carbon fiber is a hand saw. It is already present in most of our garages, and even if you do not have one, you can always borrow from a neighbor or a friend.One issue with hacksaws, though, is that the edges get easily dull. Choose a blade with higher teeth per inch for more efficient cutting, and smooth results. When choosing the blade, make sure that you go with a thin one for more precise cutting and sharper corners. Using a coping saw or a hacksaw might be a cost-effective way for cutting carbon fiber but for better and neater results, it is better to go with other options.
Method 2 to Cut Carbon Fiber – Rotary Tool
An alternative to using a hand saw is going with a rotary tool. It is not only easier to use, but works more smoothly, ensuring that the edges are not bumpy.Dremel is a commonly available rotary tool. While wheels work smoothly, they wear off easily, making them dull. If you plan on doing a lot of metal cutting for a long period of time, then it is better to invest in a diamond cutting rotary wheel, the one used to cut marbles and tiles. Though, it must be kept in mind that they are comparatively more expensive.
The rotary tool might help you cut smoothly, but it cannot be useful in shaping precisely. If you want to work on details, you will have to look for alternatives.
Using an Angle Grinder to Cut Carbon Fiber Sheets
Angle grinder can be seen as an upgraded version of a rotary wheel. It is also known as disc grinder. Using an angle grinder yields neater results as it helps in cutting straight lines. When buying the abrasive disc, make sure that it is used for cutting carbon fiber.Since angles grinders are powered by an electric motor, you need to be careful and make sure that you are wearing your protective gear. Instead of just sticking to safety goggles, it is recommended to go with a face shield.
Jig Saw for Cutting Carbon Fiber Composites
With a jig saw, the problem of rough lines would disappear. A jig saw helps in cutting straight lines, without any rough edges. Moreover, it helps making precise corners and cuts. When choosing the metal cutting blade for a jig saw, avoid opting for a standard one, as they tend to losetheir sharpness after 3 to 4 feet of cutting. Instead, invest in one that can last longer and work better. When using a jig saw, make sure that you place a backing material underneath the carbon fiber material for neatness. Another advantage of using a jig saw over other tools is that it comes with a vacuum that can suck away any carbon fiber dust.
Other Complex Tools
If you are looking to take up bigger and more precise projects, you will need tools that can achieve the desired results. While using saws and abrasive discs can help you cut carbon fiber sheets, they might not help with miniscule plans, such as your laptop. A CNC router is one way to cut carbon fiber parts. CNC routing helps better with designing, moreover, there are no tooling costs. By bonding 2D shapes together, you can get 3D models, without having to weld them together like you do with metals. Most importantly, using CNC router gives the most precise edges and corners. It helps achieve the accuracy you have been looking for. While it is slower as compared to water jet it yields more precision.
What Happens After Cutting?
Once you have finished cutting your carbon fiber sheets smoothen the edges with a sandpaper, though this step is not necessary if you are using CNC router.Next, you will need to coat it. Coating hardens the product and ensures that it stays put. Adhesive systems such as epoxy resins help bond carbon fiber parts.After applying the adhesive, you will need to wait for it to cure before your product is in its final form. Using an epoxy hardenerfacilitates the curing process.
People often experiment with different cutters when the appropriate tools are not available. For example, using a water jet or laser cutter. It must be kept in mind that both of these tools are ineffective in front of carbon fiber composites. Since the carbon fiber sheets are layered with the help of epoxy, using laser will melt the epoxy before it could even cut the material. As a result, you will end up with broken carbon fiber.