Carbon fibre is a light-weight, stiff composite developed and used widely in aerospace and top end motorsport and marine markets. Carbon comes on the roll in two ways, as a dry cloth and as a pre-preg cloth. Pre-preg
has the exact amount of resin required pre-impregnated in to the cloth and has to be kept frozen to prevent the resin from curing.
In our market place carbon components are made up in several different and varied ways. The first and most commonly used is polyester resin, one layer of carbon cloth and backed up with glass fibre chop strand mat (CSM). This gives an excellent cosmetic finish that is fairly resilient that is very cost effective. It does not however exploit the qualities of the carbon cloth and it is only used for its cosmetic appearances. The finished product is in affect only a glass fibre csm bonnet.
The second method is to use the carbon cloth still in a wet lay format and apply multi layers of carbon instead of using the csm. You can use either a polyester or epoxy resin system, but the second is far more desirable and
also expensive. This will give a lighter and stiffer product than above but a high cosmetic natural appearance slightly more difficult to achieve.
The last method to creating carbon products is by using pre-preg carbon. The cloth in a pre-cured state is easy and clean to handle, can be cut easily with scissors leaving clean edges. No additional resin needs to be applied and the component is made by building up the layers of laminate. This is then cured under vacuum in an oven. Ideally you require an autoclave which applies pressure of up to 90psi to the outside of the bag, this improves the exterior finish. The problem with pre-preg is cost. The material itself is not really much more expensive than carbon cloth and epoxy, it is the additional equipment required. This includes, freezer large enough for the roll of carbon, vacuum bagging materials, vacuum pump, heaters and an oven large enough to swallow the components. The mould tool also needs to be of a higher quality to handle the heat and pressures involved.As there is no excess resin in this manufacturing process it is the hardest to get a good resilient exterior finish, the result is usually satin and the fibre pattern can be felt on the surface. An autoclave can improve on this but is mega money. A pre-preg component can be painted fairly easily and leaves an almost steel looking result.
For me the pre-preg method is the only option, and then paint the final piece body colour or use a UV protective lacquer. Carbon was designed as a light weight stiff product that happened to look nice and I believe it should be used as that. Having said that I can understand why people want the cosmetics.
If you look through magazines you can see the differences using this limited information. Recently there was a Honda S2000 photographed at a Japanese show with carbon bonnet and doors which looked dull compared to the gloss black steel wings. Compare that to a glossy carbon bonnet on a UK Focus or such like in Max Power or similar. I know which I would rather have! Japan and other 'Hardcore' market places seam to favour the full carbon approach as it gives them the main benefit of carbon, light weight. The problem is that this is directly reflected in the price, and that is why there is such a big variation in prices of products.
Please read carefully, these are not cheap heavy fakes.
You may want to spay with paint or lacquer if you do not want a satin finish.