Carbon fiber, a strong polymer is ideal for manufacturing parts of several materials including aircraft, wind turbine blades, and sporting goods. Carbon fibers can be applied to radiological equipment due to their electromagnetic properties. They are tough, lightweight, and self-lubricant.
Aluminum, a soft and malleable metal is used on various products like aircraft, powerlines, window frames, and more. Due to its low density, Aluminum has a high thermal conductivity which makes it ideal for refrigerator evaporators and engine components.
Carbon fiber is generally more expensive than aluminum as it has various advantages such as superior strength and low density. Due to carbon fiber’s high thermal expansion properties, it requires professional skills to produce and it is difficult to mass-produce.
When comparing the price of carbon and aluminum, carbon is more expensive than aluminum. Let us see the major price difference between the two and the factors that influence the expensiveness of these materials.
Average Cost Of Carbon Fiber And Aluminum
The cost estimate of carbon fiber is determined by several factors including raw materials, energy, labor, machinery, and manufacturing. The cost of carbon as per the latest market value is $7-$9 per pound.
The average cost of aluminum is cheaper than carbon with a price range of 35cents per pound. Since Aluminum production requires a large amount of energy, it influences the final pricing of aluminum.
As the price of raw materials like resins and carbon fibers has raised recently, it resulted in a hike in the carbon price.
Cost Factors To Consider
There are various factors to determine the total cost of manufacturing carbon fiber and aluminum products. Since the cost factors undergo increasing advancement nowadays, it lowers the price of raw materials, production, and technology.
Below are some of the factors to consider in calculating the cost of carbon fiber and aluminum.
The standard thickness of the carbon fiber sheet is 0.25mm which is very thin and flexible. A medium carbon sheet will have a 1mm thickness and a thick structural panel of rigid carbon have a thickness range between 1.7mm to 3.1mm.
When purchasing a carbon fiber, you need to consider the carbon plate size, thickness, material, and overall finish of carbon fiber.
Let us see the average cost of carbon fibers based on the material and thickness.
Aluminum, on the other hand, can be purchased based on its dimensions.
|LENGTH AND WIDTH||ALUMINUM PRICE|
The raw material of carbon is obtained from polyacrylonitrile (PAN) which typically costs around $90 per kilogram. The availability of PAN as a high yield precursor has significantly reduced the cost of carbon fibers.
An Aluminum ingot has an estimated market price of $1.40 per pound.
Size And Weight
The cost of both carbon fiber and aluminum can be calculated based on the size of the sheet and how much it weighs. The estimated aluminum cost based on ton is explained below.
|Aluminum Ingot ADC12||50||$1200-$1900|
|Aluminum Ingot T3 Billets Bar||28||$800|
|Aluminum Ingot Bundle||1||$275|
The cost of carbon fiber sheets per square foot is mentioned below.
|CARBON SHEET SIZE||PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT|
Weather is an important factor that decides the price fluctuations of aluminum purchases. Carbon fibers can withstand heat at a temperature up to 212 degrees F.
Aluminum products often sell less during winter due to the non-availability of scrap metals and transportation difficulties. It results in a high price of aluminum.
The price of aluminum is highly dependent on the cost of electricity as they require a high amount of electricity for making aluminum. The U.S Aluminum Trade Group estimates the cost of electricity accounts for 30% of the total price of aluminum.
Carbon requires a lot of energy to reinforce each fiber with carbon atoms. It needs the energy to bind carbon into fibers or threads. Energy cost is the expensive factor in manufacturing carbon.
One of the main factors that determine the cost of carbon fiber and aluminum is the production which involves labor and machinery. Since the machinery needs to be advanced and the production involves a highly specialized process, it drives the price of the end product.
Based on the domestic and international situation, Carbon fiber and Aluminum prices can fluctuate. For example, Aluminum distributed in Guinea, Australia, Vietnam, Brazil, and Africa can make high-quality Aluminum products at a low mining cost. About 80% to 90% of Aluminum is sold through long-term contracts.
Based on region, the carbon fiber market is high in North America, Europe, and Latin America which produce high quality and low-cost carbon fibers.
Why Is Carbon Fiber Expensive Than Aluminum?
Carbon is more expensive than aluminum because of its structure and the materials used. It requires high precision to create low thermal expansion properties of carbon. So it is significantly more complex to mass-produce and a tedious process than aluminum.
As a commercial product, carbon comes with the price of the manufacturing process. Once it is manufactured, the precursor of the final product will be around $5 per pound.
Carbon fiber production is a more time-consuming process than aluminum where each fiber of 5-10 mm is bundled into rows and weaved. The process includes lamination, molding, and 3D printing.
Although manufacturers have access to new technologies that lower the time and energy costs, the average time cycle ranges from 1 hour to 150 hours depending on the complexity of the building parts.
Stiffness And Strength
Carbon fiber offers stiffness and strength at a low density which makes it lighter than aluminum. Aluminum is less rigid than carbon fiber.
For example, an aluminum-made bicycle frame is less rigid that will eventually crack. Carbon fiber bike frames are durable due to their dampening and stiffness properties.
Carbon fiber parts need skill and experience to build high-quality composite parts. Aluminum also requires higher skill to complete the welding process but it costs cheaper than carbon.
Thermal Expansion And Resistance
Aluminum has a thermal expansion of 13 units which is higher than carbon fiber which has a low heat expansion of 2 units. This makes carbon fiber to be used widely in 3D scanners, telescopes, and other optical devices.
Aluminum (1215 F) is more resistant to high temperatures than carbon fiber (160 F-210 F).
Long Term Performance
Carbon fiber has a specific tensile strength, stiffness, and corrosion resistance property greater than aluminum. Since carbon fiber composites are less resistant to UV radiation it requires an additional process of coating application which results in high production costs.
Benjamin is a certified financial advisor, with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He is knowledgeable about various business and financial topics, such as retirement planning and investment management. Ben has been recognized for his work in the financial planning industry. He has also been featured in various publications.