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CARBON FIBER is high tech in aerospace, Formula One, and other specialized applications. Compared with traditional materials, it can be engineered to be incredibly strong and lightweight—yet, at $10/lb., it’s also extremely expensive. (Aluminum alloys, by contrast, are priced in ¢/lb.)
So why a carbon-fiber skateboard?
Think recycling. Or, rather, what some call ‘’upcycling.”
In fact, according to The Orange County register, January 21, 2018, this is the business plan of 121c Pure Carbon. Aided by Kickstarter campaigns, this southern California company has already sold 350,000 custom-graphics carbon-fiber skateboards. The carbon fiber source is scrap left over from trimming components fabricated in the aerospace industry.
Ordinarily, these trimmings (as much as 40 percent of the material in worst case) end up as landfill. Upcycling makes a lot of sense, particularly until cost diminishes as high-volume use of carbon-fiber components becomes more widespread. Automotive applications, for instance, are still specialized, as with the BMW i8 hybrid’s bodywork or M3’s roof panel.
With regard to recycling, carbon-fiber components are more like tires than plastics: Complexly engineered, a carbon-fiber piece cannot be reverse-engineered to its original state. Once cured, there’s no turning back this composite of carbon fibers specifically aligned in a resin base.
However, as exploited by 121c Pure Carbon, scraps of carbon fiber heated to around 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 degrees Celsius, hence the company name) can be bonded into workable pieces. The pieces are then water-jet cut to desired shapes; skateboards, for example.
In fact, the skateboard’s fiber orientation might not be as precisely optimized as in an original carbon-fiber design. However, the skateboard still benefits from the light weight and stiffness typical of carbon fiber. Indeed, the skateboard is available in three different stiffnesses to accommodate rider weight. And, an important marketing point, it saves as much as 5 lbs. of material from the landfill.
Space Division Inc is a sister company of 121c Pure Carbon. Its marketing focuses on aerospace enthusiasts who seek ordinary objects such as key chains, bottle openers, briefcases, Christmas tree ornaments, and the like that are manufactured from this carbon fiber.
Years ago while testing at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track, I rescued a portion of an F1 carbon-fiber nose-wing endplate from the trash.
As for adding to my collection, I don’t skateboard, but I have been known to use a bottle opener or wine rack. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018