Fiber material

Strength test shows how carbon fiber compares to steel and other metals

Here’s something a little different from the normal automotive content we deliver. You won’t find screaming supercars or rugged off-roaders in the video above, but you will see oft-vaunted materials used in the automotive industry under extreme pressure. Carbon fiber is one of them, and we to know how manufacturers like to brag about using it. How does it handle the relentless force of a hydraulic press?

For the record, we are not engineers and this video does not claim to present a real scientific study. The crew at Crazy Hydraulic Press (yes, spelled with an i) on YouTube made identically sized round cylinders, placed them in a press and hit the smash button. Besides carbon fiber, we see aluminum, brass, titanium, stainless steel, stainless steel, PVC and acrylic cylinders, and they all go through the same press. A scale measures the force submitted in kilograms, with the maximum force noted for each material. It’s that simple.

It should also be noted that the pipes are weighed before the test. As you’d expect, acrylic is the lightest at 9 grams, with bonded PVC and carbon fiber at 11g. Steel is the heaviest, with the low end at 58g and the stainless steel at 59g. The aluminum measured 20 g, the titanium 33 g and the brass 45 g.

As far as testing goes, the acrylic holds up surprisingly well, reaching 1,538 kilograms of pressure before it warps and breaks. It outperformed PVC, which peaked at 1,004 kg before losing strength. But you haven’t clicked on this article to find out how the pipes in your home handle a beefy press. You want to know how strong carbon fiber is.

The material touted by brands like McLaren and Lamborghini peaked at 2,998kg of pressure. It didn’t break at that point, but rather began to peel and flake off with constant pressure at around 2,000 kg until there was nothing left but a pile of pieces and strands. Aluminum peaked at 3,840 kg, and titanium – another exotic material that car manufacturers sometimes mention – went as high as 9,190 kg, although it deformed before the pressure peak.

The high-strength star of this particular test, however, is stainless steel. He withstood 15,800 kg of pressure before literally collapsing from the force. That translates to nearly 35,000 pounds, and when it was removed from the press, the steel was too hot to touch. It withstood more than five times the force compared to carbon fiber, but interestingly it is also about five times heavier.

Again, this is not a scientific test. But it’s certainly interesting to see what happens to these materials under such pressure.