A London-based company has created a solution to widely-discussed problem in the world of carbon fiber. Although the material itself stands at the precipice of cutting-edge manufacturing, many have wondered if it can be presented in a color other than black. Up until recently, options for dealing with this problem have been limited to painting over the top of the carbon fiber, which solely conceals the material underneath.
“Carbon fiber has a lot of visual qualities, but color is not one of them,” says Marc Cohen, chief executive of Hypetex, the company working to change this. “For me, the idea of having a colorized version of black carbon fiber is fascinating.”
In the past, other composite producers feigned the appearance of color by using a variety of pigmentations in lacquer systems or sneaking a colorized glass fiber in to the weave to give the appearance of color.
“Injecting some sort of colour weave leaves a dull finish,” says Cohen. “We messed around with those techniques but stopped when we realized that it didn’t look great. So what others are offering now is actually what we were doing five or six years ago.”
What Hypetex does instead is produce parts with resin transfer systems to create enhanced fibrous layers. The company is also considering press moldings for future production.
“It’s the same process as normal carbon fiber, but with three or four additional [layers],” says Cohen. “So, of course, that does mean some extra cost.”
In addition to the newly-created color, the Hypetex product has also received praise for its enhanced UV resistance and textual flexibility.
While Hypetex has reclaimed acclaim, Cohen believes penetrating the automotive and aerospace markets will be tricky. For now, he believes the best bet for industry application is designer furniture.
“The quickest and most usable way into industry is through visual applications such as furniture because there’s very little due diligence,” says Cohen. “If we start talking to vehicle builders, they want to ascertain you’re going to get 25 years without colour degradation and the warranty isn’t under risk.”
For now, the plan for Hypetex is to develop and produce the product as a prepreg while building confidence among manufacturers.