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How much does it cost to manufacture carbon fiber composite parts?

How much does it cost to manufacture carbon fiber composite parts?

For decades, traditional materials such as metals and plastics have been the go-to materials for part production in industries ranging from aerospace to sporting goods to transportation. While parts made of composite materials such as carbon fiber have significant advantages over parts made from traditional materials, up until now they have been prohibitively expensive for many industries. That is all changing due to advances in materials, manufacturing technology, and automation. The result is that composite carbon fiber parts are now cost competitive with traditional materials.

This article will explain the advantages of carbon fiber composite parts, the factors that drive their costs, and how to determine the price of manufacturing composite parts.

Advantages of carbon fiber composite parts

  • Toughness: Thermoplastic carbon fiber composite parts are extremely tough and more durable than traditional materials. 
  • Lightweight: Carbon fiber composites are 70% lighter than steel, 40% lighter than aluminum, and 15% lighter than fiberglass composites. Carbon fibers are very light, rigid, and strong, making them ideally suited for weight-critical performance products and parts.
  • Corrosion resistance: Carbon fiber composites perform very well in acidic or corrosive environments.
  • High modulus of elasticity: Carbon fiber has a high modulus of elasticity, which means it is very stiff in relation to its weight. This makes it ideal for applications where rigidity is important, such as in the frames of high-performance bicycles.
  • Thermal conductivity: Carbon fiber composites have high thermal conductivity, which means they can dissipate heat effectively. This property can be beneficial in applications such as electronic devices.
  • Fatigue resistance: Carbon fiber composites have excellent fatigue resistance properties compared to most metals, making them suitable for applications where the material is subjected to frequent and cyclic loading.
  • Design flexibility: Carbon fiber composites can be molded into complex shapes and configurations, providing high design flexibility. This allows for innovative designs and optimization for specific use cases.
  • X-Ray and radiation transparency: Carbon fiber composites are transparent to X-rays and other forms of radiation, making them useful in medical and scientific applications where imaging is required.
  • Coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE): The CTE of a composite determines the change in material size in relation to a change in temperature. Carbon fiber composites have a negative CTE, meaning they will expand slightly when the temperature lowers. This effect is offset by the positive CTE of the plastic, resulting in a near-zero CTE for the part as a whole.

The cost of carbon fiber composites is decreasing

For decades, carbon fiber composite parts were considered prohibitively expensive to manufacture in most industries. Thanks to technological innovations pioneered by Re:Build Oribi Composites; however, the cost has decreased significantly in recent years. New advances in manufacturing technology have radically reduced labor cost, and Re:Build Oribi Composites’ groundbreaking automation has allowed us to mass-produce carbon fiber composites priced competitively with traditional materials.

Factors that determine carbon fiber manufacturing costs

There are a variety of factors that will contribute to the overall cost of your carbon fiber composite parts. These include:

  • Design complexity: Parts with intricate or complex designs are more difficult to mass produce, leading to higher manufacturing costs.
  • Volume: The number of parts produced can significantly affect cost. Larger production runs can spread the fixed costs of mold creation and setup over more parts, reducing the cost per part.
  • Material: The price of carbon fiber materials fluctuates based on market conditions. Additionally, different types of carbon fiber and resin can vary in price. The binding polymer can be epoxy, polyester, vinyl ester, nylon, or a variety of other thermoset and thermoplastic polymers, which also influences the final cost. In some applications, additives like silica, rubber, or carbon nanotubes are added to the binding matrix as well.
  • Labor: Carbon fiber manufacturing can be labor-intensive, especially for parts with a more complex design. Oribi’s automation innovations have significantly decreased labor costs over the last several years.
  • Finish option: Carbon fiber is commonly identified by the traditional “weave” look of woven cloth. Several coatings/finish options are available for carbon fiber composite parts that require a certain surface quality or aesthetic.
  • Quality control: Especially for high-impact industries or parts that are used in high-risk environments, quality control is extremely important and may affect your manufacturing cost.

How to determine carbon fiber composite manufacturing costs

Start by using our free part cost estimator tool – simply upload your part drawing (or enter measurements manually), and the tool will immediately generate an estimated price. If you have more in-depth questions, reach out to our expert team and we’ll help you find the best (and most cost-effective) way to manufacture a part to meet your needs.

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