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Design News Goes to Lamborghini's Carbon Fiber School

This wall display shows examples of parts Lamborghini makes from lightweight carbon fiber.
Making carbon fiber parts is harder than it looks, and it looks hard.

Carbon fiber isn’t yet an everyday material, but it is becoming commonplace enough that it might be easy for us to forget the time and labor that goes into making objects from the material, even if it no longer has quite the exotic aura it once did.

This carbon fiber water bottle holder for bicycles costs $65 at REI and it weighs only 65 grams. So while a bike with a carbon fiber frame is still expensive, even casual riders can enjoy the benefit of carbon fiber. A carbon fiber guitar pick is only $5.

Lamborghini employs carbon fiber to make its cars stronger and lighter. That’s because carbon fiber has 171 percent the specific stiffness of aluminum and 389 percent the specific tensile strength, according to composites supplier DragonPlate.

Lamborghini employs carbon fiber throughout its cars, using composite material to replace almost every metallic part outside the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes. To gain an appreciation for the effort required to produce so many carbon fiber parts, Lamborghini invited me to a workshop where I would actually do the layup work of the carbon fiber cloth in preparation for sending it to bake in the autoclave.

Click through the slide show for a look at how this went and what I learned. Spoiler: making carbon fiber parts is harder than it looks, and it looks pretty hard.


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