Due to their extreme durability, strength, and light weight versus other materials, composites such as carbon fiber, Kevlar, and fiberglass are used in a variety of advanced manufacturing applications.
Carbon fiber, in particular, is a popular composite material choice because it can be put to work in countless industries that range from aerospace and automotive to energy and sporting goods. Thousands of the products that individuals use every day and businesses use in downstream manufacturing processes are made from carbon fiber. But to achieve the desired properties, a shrink tape for carbon fiber prepregs and layups is needed.
Unfortunately, many companies today still use non-shrink films like woven nylon, polypropylene, and cellophane. While these materials do provide compaction, they lose that compressive force as the cure temperature increases. As a result, the compression curve decreases — reducing the integrity of the process right when resin viscosity begins to decrease. Had a shrink tape been used, compression would continue and hold throughout the curing temperature — even up to extreme temperatures like 400ºC (752ºF).
With consumers and businesses demanding the most from their materials, whether they’re individual products or part of a larger production, it’s imperative that organizations working with composites utilize solutions that lead to improved product quality. Here, we’ll explore a couple of real-world examples from our portfolio to clarify the value of shrink tape for carbon fiber products in improving part performance, finish, and even bottom lines.
Two Examples of Shrink Tape for Carbon Fiber Components
1. Sporting Goods
Dunstone began working with a sporting goods company that manufactured small-diameter arrow shafts made from carbon fiber. Previously, the company used a carbon fiber prepreg wrapped in a non-shrink film for compaction during the curing process. The challenge in this instance was that the non-shrink film was leading to a large number of shafts with inconsistent straightness — a key factor in whether a product was put in a lower-grade category versus a higher-grade category.
With the goal of increasing the number of higher-grade shafts produced, they turned to Dunstone for a solution for shrink tape for carbon fiber shafts. We recommended a compaction tape solution that saved the company from having to invest in more non-shrink material while still receiving a high-compaction solution. The tape allowed for a higher taping tension while also providing additional consolidation during the curing process. It also made the application process faster, helping the company save on labor time. This resulted in greater mechanical stiffness and an increased percentage of higher-grade shafts being produced in each batch.
Drive shafts are an essential part of a vehicle’s control system as they transfer power from the motor to the wheels. Historically, composite drive shafts were more often seen in high-end racing or aftermarket upgrades. Today, they are being more consistently implemented in many manufacturers’ cars, with integration in SUVs, compact cars, and other vehicle types continuing to increase thanks to their higher level of performance.
Dunstone partnered with a drive shaft manufacturer to provide a compaction solution for their products. Because the part was very long and consistent compaction was needed, we recommended our 220R Hi-Shrink Tape product, which the company applied with a steep overlap to maximize the compression along the part. This ensured that the strength of the carbon fiber was captured in combination with the resin system being used.
The Applications Are Endless
At Dunstone, we’ve been involved in numerous applications requiring shrink tape for carbon fiber parts. The examples explored above are just the beginning, with additional applications including parts for robotics and automation systems, drone components, musical instruments, telescoping poles, and countless others. But just as we described above, the key to a successful composite part is the curing process. Using a shrink tape for carbon fiber materials ensures that the fibers themselves are compressed and joined with the resin while virtually eliminating the possibility for:
- Air voids and gas pockets between carbon fiber layers
- Surface defects like holes due to voids not being compressed
- Uneven compaction along the surface or length of the part
- Inconsistent surface finish due to weak or uneven wrapping
Depending on your application, Dunstone offers a variety of Hi-Shrink Tape solutions with varying characteristics to support your production goals:
- Thickness — We offer tapes ranging from .001” to .005”
- Temperature — Tapes work in cure temperatures from 120ºC to 400ºC
- Speed — Our Hi-Shrink Tapes begin shrinking at 70ºC for consistency
- Materials — We offer tapes made of Mylar, ETFE, and Kapton
- Perforations — Many of our tapes can be perforated for outgassing
- Force — Tapes apply 1.65–21.64 pounds of shrink force (temp. dependent)
- Adhesive — No adhesive is needed for our tapes (learn why here)
- Coatings — Tapes are available with or without coatings on one or two sides
- Rolls — Tapes can be produced up to 20” wide with 1,200 yards of tape
Experience the Dunstone Difference
Whether you already have a compressive film solution in place or are starting your search for a new part or product, Dunstone is ready to help you ensure lasting quality and performance. You can request a sample of any of our shrink tapes for carbon fiber parts at any time. We’ll send you an available material to test in your own production environment and can also work with you on a custom solution. Our team is also available to visit your facilities, review your processes and existing materials, and recommend new material solutions based on your goals.