You have most likely heard of Carbon Fibre, the ultra-tough, lightweight material made of microscopic carbon tubes but which is stronger than steel.
But have you ever thought about how it is actually produced?
And why it is still so expensive?
In the video above, we get a great rundown of what Carbon Fibre is, how it gets its fantastic properties, and why it is currently still so difficult and expensive to manufacture.
In fact, over the past few decades the demand for this innovative material has grown so steadily that many companies have invested billions of dollars to improve their manufacturing capabilities and bring down the cost of Carbon Fibre.
The clearest example of this is in the Automotive industry, where the move to Electric Cars has necessitated innovations to bring down the weight of the overall cars in order to improve how far the limited battery capacity can drive them. In 2014, BMW said that it would invest more than $200 million to triple its production of carbon fibre.
The challenge and next stages of innovation, as outlined in the video, are in developing new manufacturing techniques to allow companies to use Carbon Fibre for larger objects. The issue here is that as per the manufacturing process outlined below, the material needs to be treated with heat and pressure under precise conditions for the resin to set in something called an autoclave, and for larger objects the challenge is creating the autoclave large enough.
One of the companies at the forefront of building large new Carbon Fibre objects is SpaceX, the company run by Elon Musk hoping to bring down the cost of space transportation. Lightweight fuel tanks are vital for this, which is why they recently unveiled their largest Carbon Fibre tank for testing.
First development tank for Mars ship pic.twitter.com/dF5tZkldUb
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 27, 2016
As more companies invest in developing their own manufacturing innovations, we can look forward to a future where technology has driven down the cost of manufacturing, just as happened with previous materials like steel and aluminium.
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