‘But How Can We Make Something Useful Out of Black String?’ The Development of Carbon Fibre Composites Manufacturing (1965–2015)

Kevin D Potter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

7 Citations (Scopus)
432 Downloads (Pure)


This chapter looks at how the manufacturing community responded to the invention of carbon fibres, the first practical, high-modulus, reinforcement to be available as continuous fibres, largely through the lens of the author’s personal experience. Whilst it seems axiomatic to us today that we use continuous fibres, most of the composites applications in 1965 used short fibres, for example, chopped glass, asbestos, whiskers or linen fibres. To a large extent, the narrative of carbon fibre composites manufacturing is the story of how to manipulate continuous fibres into complex geometries and how to do that cost-effectively without introducing strength reducing defects. Until very recently, when the manufacturing and structural integrity communities have started to interact much more, there has tended to be an almost complete disconnect between the materials, design and manufacturing worlds. This has been the case as much in industry as it has in the academia and seems to have been the norm since the very beginnings of the application of carbon fibre composites. The difficulties inherent in manufacturing geometrically complex parts were identified very early in the history of carbon fibre composites. However, it has proven to be very challenging to go beyond identifying problem issues to actually solving them, and that process is by no means complete. There are signs that the composites community may finally be on the right track, with some recent successes pointing towards research directions where design and manufacturing approaches can be unified to deliver reliable and cost-effective parts—only 50 years after the process started.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Structural Integrity of Carbon Fibre Composites
Subtitle of host publicationFifty Years of Progress and Achievement of the Science, Development, and Applications
EditorsPeter W R Beaumont, Constantinos Soutis, Alma Hodzic
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9783319461205
ISBN (Print)9783319461182
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2016


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