VTE Carbon - Our Process, Our Materials, Our Technology
The carbon fiber is made using epoxy or polyester resin. There are four main methods of manufacture: Wet-lay, Vacuum Bagging, Resin
Transfer Molding (RTM) and Pre-preg laminating. Pre-preg laminating is
very difficult and is what dry carbon is made of. The laminate comes
in a cold sheet and is molded to the shape of the mold. This provides
for a very strong, yet light final product. While we can do this, the
cost is very prohibitive.
Wet-lay laminating is by far the most common form of carbon manufacturing. The mold must be cleaned, sealed, waxed and prepped. It will then receive a coat of resi;, this will form the visible side of the component. This is the gel coat which is applied by spray gun or by hand (the cheapest method). The mold is then left to cure, checked and if required a second coat added. Once cured, the lay up procedure can then begin. Depending on the product, a certain number of layers of 450 g.s.m. chopped strand mat is coated in resin (which is why the name is wet) one at a time. The first layer is coated on one side with the resin, then flipped over and hung on the mold (wet side down). The process would be continued until the mold is covered, then using a resin soaked brush dab at the mold until the mat takes the shape of the mold. From here it is rolled out using a roller. It is then left to cure before removing and trimming/finishing. This is easily the cheapest method.
With RTM the mold must still be gel coated and the mat cut/placed on the mold. Another mold is then placed over the top and the resin pumped in one end and sucked out of the other, filling the void with resin and sucking out the air as it goes. The main advantage to this is the cure time can be significantly reduced and the product will be lighter and stronger due to much less resin being used. Too much resin actually may weaken the structure as it is the reinforcement that gives it the strength and on its own the resin is brittle. This is an expensive process, but achieves weight and strength properties SIMILAR to dry carbon, yet is less costly. Using the process and combining a special core that allows our own patented technology, it produces a higher strength, lighter carbon fiber. This is our premium DriCarbon.
Vacuum bagging is where the mold is laid up as for wet lay and then a bag is then placed over the mold, sealed and all the air sucked out forcing the bag against the mould. This type of molding forces the cloth into every crevice. Strength and weight wise, this is one step above wet-lay, and one step below RTM. Using the process and combining a special core that allows our own patented technology, it produces a higher strength, lighter carbon fiber. This would be our entry-level DriCarbon.
For large body parts that require extra strength without the problem of weight gain (hood, trunk), we also offer a honeycomb sandwich core which utilizes the innate strength of the honeycomb shape. It offers 3-9 times more flexible strength, and 7-37 times more stiffness (depends on the size of the honeycomb sandwich core - though of course it makes it thicker as the size of the core goes up). Tensile and compression stresses are supported by the honeycomb structure, and rigidity is increased in multiple directions. And because the honeycomb structure has tiny air pockets between each "rib", it also allows a lighter product. This is available for any of our processes.
Our other specialty is in fiberglass (FRP). All products we make can be also reproduced as fiberglass, which allow light-weight products that are not nearly as cost-prohibitive as carbon fiber. In fact, we can offer the exact products you want to make in carbon fiber, also in fiberglass, for no additional cost for molding! All fiberglass products are coated in a smooth gel coat for easy of prep before painting!