In the world of composite materials, nothing seems to beat carbon fiber in terms of flexibility and applications. Today, it is common to see carbon fiber products both because they perform better than their metal counterparts, or because they look awesome. With the rise of the DIY market, these products are now available to everyone.
Carbon fiber is an excellent material for panels because of its strength-to-weight ratio. However, slim carbon sheets are sometimes too flexible to provide stable structural support. This poses a problem when it comes to leveraging the strength and lightness of carbon fiber while keeping costs down.
Thick plates made of pure carbon require a lot of material and, as we know, they can be very expensive. Moreover, they can be too heavy for their intended use.
The solution is a sandwiched structure with a honeycomb core trapped inside two thin sheets of carbon fiber. These carbon fiber panels are extremely lightweight and can support significant compressive forces. They can be used as a base for aircraft, drones, or even watercraft.
Carbon Fiber Panels vs Carbon Fiber Plates: The Difference
To manufacture carbon fiber plates, manufacturers usually work on large sheets of raw material first. Then, they use their CNC machines to cut it down into smaller pieces that have exactly the same dimensions as those required by their customers. This can amount to significant waste, as you only need the exact dimensions of the final product.
The process of manufacturing carbon fiber panels is a lot more streamlined and efficient because manufacturers produce them in small batches according to the customer’s specific needs. Also, they do not require CNC machines – it is possible to cut down these pieces with a good old saw or even a laser cutter.
Another important difference between carbon fiber panels vs plates is stiffness. Because of structural mechanics and geometry, a sheet of carbon fiber is less stiff than a plate. While this might be an issue if the panel would be used as a structural component (it can twist and bend because it’s too flexible) – we should remember that we are talking about drones or aircraft here. In these applications, panels are mainly used as bases for other components such as the battery compartment or racing seats. Because of their weight to stiffness ratio, they provide excellent load-bearing capabilities.
Carbon fiber panel structures can be made out of Nomex or aluminum honeycombs with different cell sizes and wall thicknesses – but only carbon fiber sheets offer the possibility to have a core as well as the awesome visual effect we all love.
Carbon fiber plates made from pure carbon sheets are favored by racing teams that need lightweight components. The downside is that they cannot be repaired if damaged so they have to be replaced entirely.
Carbon fiber panels are used because of their low cost, while plates are preferred for their weight-saving features. So if you have a choice between the two in some product or machine, it is worth understanding how they differ from each other and why one would be a better pick over the other. If you want to know which option works best for the project you have in mind, contact Protech Composites today. They manufacture high-quality carbon fiber panels and provide unparalleled customer service for individuals and businesses that need to include advanced materials in their processes.