Here is an example of a dry carbon fiber kit that you could use at home. This K&N Engineering kit is
for emergency repair of carbon fiber parts & retails for $147.00.
You can see how large an autoclave is in comparison to the average person. This isn't a piece of
equipment that you would have in your garage.
Metal components usually do not fail due to a single catastrophic load. Instead they fail because of repeated stresses, called fatigue. Steel & titanium have defined minimum fatigue limits. If the stresses are smaller than these limits, these smaller forces generally don't shorten the fatigue life of the component. Aluminum is different, it has no such specific endurance limit. Each stress cycle, no matter how small, take the material a bit closer to fatigue failure. Actually, this sounds worse that it is. Engineers who use aluminum structural components usually understand this limitation & will overbuild aluminum structures.
Titanium's high strength, light weight, resilience, & resistance to corrosion make it a well suited racing commodity. Since it is a metal, many of the same mechanical properties that limit steel & aluminum also limit titanium. Metals are equally strong & stiff in all directions (engineers call the property "isotropic"). Once the cross-section geometry of a metal tube is determined to meet a given strength or stiffness requirement in one plane, an engineer lacks the freedom to meet varying demands for strength or stiffness in any other plane. In metal tubes, by setting the diameter & the wall thickness to meet bending standards, the torsional & lateral bending stiffness are automatically established.
Composites are another matter entirely. Composites consist of reinforcing woven fibers, particles, or whiskers that are embedded in a matrix of resin material. Advanced composites are composed of engineered fibers combined with polymer, metal, or ceramic matrices to form a single ply or "lamina." By combining several plies of lamina together, a "laminate" structure is formed to the desired shape. Combining these woven fabrics with a thermosetting adhesive (using the hair-like fibers of carbon, glass, & boron) creates a material with amazing strength & stiffness. They make structures that are as strong & rigid as a metal one of equal size, but with considerably less weight. Until the binder (typically some form of resin) is hardened by a chemical reaction (heat), the resin-soaked fibers can be molded or formed into virtually any shape. Obviously, this isn't always possible or affordable with metals.
There's more to this stiffness issue than first meets the eye. According to Brian Vermillion, vice president of operations at P&C Engineering Consultants, " The modulous or stiffness of a composite will depend upon the percentage of 0 degree, plus-or-minus 45 degree, & 90 degree plies in the lay-up." This means the way the fabricator orients the fibers determines the strength in different directions.
Composites are "anisotropic", which means the strength & stiffness is only realized along the axis of the fibers that can be arranged in any desired pattern. In order to absorb the variable stresses of a given component, composite structures can use multiple layers with different fiber angles for each. This puts strength only where it is needed, while minimizing weight.
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