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MATERIALS

Understanding Carbon Fibre Repair What you need to know about the up-and-coming material By Julie Douglas

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ost of us likely associate wonder about the cost of repairing such carbon fibre with highan expensive and specialized material. end luxury vehicles, Collision Repair magazine interviewed Gary the sort of cars that are typically Lin, Certified Collision Repair Program out of reach for use as a daily Specialist at BMW Group Canada, to driver. However, innovations in discuss what’s involved with repairs to the manufacturing process are carbon fibre frames and body panels. making the material more and “It isn’t as complicated as it seems,” said more accessible to automotive Lin, noting that carbon fibre is a mix of manufacturers. carbon and polymers, and is much stronger We’ve already seen carbon fibre than traditional steel components. used extensively on the BMW i3, He says that with carbon fibre you aren’t one of the first mass produced able to manipulate the material to massage vehicles to use a carbon fibre frame. A BMW i3 body shell that is used for training the technicians in repair a dent out. Instead, you need to remove the How did carbon fibre go from being processes. Photo courtesy of BMW Group Canada. portion that requires repair and then glue trim and accent on luxury vehicles in a new part. In the case of the i3, there to something more accessible to the masses? are markings where the cuts need to be made, so that the technician Rebecca Kiehne is a Product and Technical Communications can remove the damaged portion and then bond the new piece in. Spokesperson with BMW. In an interview with Collision Repair The cuts are made with a specially designed carbon milling tool. magazine, she explained that improvements in the manufacturing The major differences between repairing traditional vehicles process has lowered the material’s overall cost. and repairing carbon fibre vehicles are the safety equipment and “Increases in availability and improvements in production efficiency training needed. have improved the feasibility of using carbon fibre over time,” said “Carbon fibre particles are highly combustible,” said Lin. “If you Kiehne. “For example, not long ago it was commonplace in CFRP were to sweep them up in a shop you would see little sparks!” (carbon fibre reinforced plastic – Ed.) manufacturing to build a Of course when BMW built the i3, they took safety into monocoque and cure it in an autoclave. This is extremely labour consideration with the design of special tools. BMW’s milling tool and energy intensive. Advancements in the production process have has a built-in vacuum system to extract the dust being released. A been able to significantly reduce this cost and complexity.” traditional grinder would release all of that extremely combustible With the advent of the i3 as a mass production vehicle, we might dust into the shop. february 2017  collision Repair  57

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