Australia has its first carbon fibre spinning plant, thanks to CSIRO and Deakin University. The new wet spinning line has begun operating at Waurn Ponds just outside Geelong.
Although the use of carbon fibre composites has expanded greatly in recent years in areas such as aerospace, the automotive industry and sports, the creation of the carbon fibres themselves has remained almost a “black art”, with only a few companies worldwide producing the raw material. And each company jealously guards its own “recipe”.
The carbon fibre from the new line is unique in this respect, produced using patented CSIRO technology and bespoke machinery. The wet spinning line machinery creates a sticky mix of precursor chemicals and turns it into five hundred individual strands of fibre, each thinner than a human hair. These strands are then wound onto a spool to create a tape and moved to carbonisation ovens to create the finished carbon fibre.
The machinery for the wet spinning line was custom built by an Italian company in collaboration with CSIRO and Deakin researchers. The Italian company was so impressed with the design it made another line for its own factory. Indeed, the machinery has been described as “the Ferrari of wet spinning lines”.
According to Dr Anita Hill, Director of CSIRO Future Industries: “This facility means Australia can carry out research across the whole carbon fibre value chain: from molecules, to polymers, to fibre, to finished composite parts.
“Together with Deakin, we’ve created something that could disrupt the entire carbon fibre manufacturing industry.”