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Dangers of machining carbon-fiber?

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The_Apprentice

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#1
There is a person on youtube who shows videos of himself making carbon-fiber jewelry rings to wear. In a lot of the steps he is cutting, and sanding carbon-fiber. Most of this he uses a lathe and drill-press for.

While this looks interesting, I have seen more than one person exclaim shock at him for advocation of doing this. From what I understand, the dust from this material is extremely toxic, and has no use in a workshop. The carbon binds to anything, and everything, including lung tissue and stays there.

Can someone correct me if I am wrong? The person who makes these videos hasn't made any responses on the concerns, and also has done quite a few other SAFETY violations when I watch him.
 

strantor

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#2
According to the MSDS it sounds pretty benign (which is rare - they could make water sound deadly)

https://www.tapplastics.com/uploads/pdf/MSDS Carbon Fiber Sheet.pdf

Potential Health Effects:
Eye: Contact may cause mechanical irritation to the eyes. If sized, vapor or fumes from exposure of this product to elevated temperatures may cause irritation to the eyes. Dust from machining, grinding or sawing the cured product may cause mechanical irritation.
Skin: Contact may cause mechanical irritation to the skin and possible dermatitis. Dust from machining, grinding or sawing the cured product may cause mechanical irritation.
Inhalation: May cause mechanical irritation to the upper respiratory tract. If sized, vapor or fumes from exposure of this product to elevated temperatures may cause irritation to the respiratory tract. Dust from machining, grinding or sawing the cured product may cause mechanical irritation.
 

RJSakowski

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#3
According to the various MSD sheets, toxicity of carbon fiber, either inhaled or orally ingested, is not known. Carbon by itself is rather inert. Inhaling large quantities over an extended period of time, as when mining coal, will cause black lung disease. As far as oral ingestion, carbon in the form of activated charcoal is uses extensively for removal of impurities from drinking water. I know that I have ingested my share in eating grilled brats, hamburgers, and steaks. I have also inhaled quite a bit of carbon in the form of soot from diesel engines and from smoldering campfire.

I would be more concerned with the epoxy binders use in the carbon fiber material.
 

cvairwerks

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#4
It's going to depend on the complete material make-up. We used some that is pretty mild before it's cooked. After cure, it's quite toxic...enough that we had to install high grade HEPA level vacuum systems to deal with dust from sanding and drilling it.
 

woodchucker

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#5
So I wear a respirator when sanding it.
I vacuum it up after.
The real danger is carbon fiber splinters. They don't disolve under the skin, and if they enter the blood stream they can and will kill you. They just don't degrade and white blood cells can do nothing to break them down.
When they get to the heart the party is over.
 

The_Apprentice

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#8
Grrrrr.
So this thread went pretty quick from pretty harmless... to really nasty (#*@!
 

4ssss

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#9
Reminds me of when I worked in a pre-sintered carbide shop. It was so dusty and dirty you needed to wear a Haz-Mat suit and a respirator. Every 3 months they'd bring in a Dr. to examine your lungs and the first thing out of his mouth after he checked you was he'd wish you'd stop smoking. Didn't make a difference if you smoked or not, the diagnosis was the same.
 

RJSakowski

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#11
Reminds me of when I worked in a pre-sintered carbide shop. It was so dusty and dirty you needed to wear a Haz-Mat suit and a respirator. Every 3 months they'd bring in a Dr. to examine your lungs and the first thing out of his mouth after he checked you was he'd wish you'd stop smoking. Didn't make a difference if you smoked or not, the diagnosis was the same.
My father-in-law lived all his life in the East Midlands in the UK. He told me that when he was young the doctors recommended smoking cigarettes to coal miners because the hacking and coughing would cough up the coal dust from their lungs.
 

Wreck™Wreck

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#12
I did not see that in the MSDS where did you find DMHO in the product sheets.
Try and keep up here, Dihydrogen Monoxide is in almost every product that you have ever used, it is deadly and should be banned from all consumer goods.
 
Last edited:

GA Gyro

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#13
Dihydrogen monoxide, H2O, otherwise known as water.
Was wondering when someone would get around to that reality:
Di = 2 (x hydrogen)
Mon - 1 (x oxygen)
Or:
H20... = water

Sorry... that site must be a hoax.
Or a goof that is afraid of their shadow.
 

RJSakowski

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#14
Was wondering when someone would get around to that reality:
Di = 2 (x hydrogen)
Mon - 1 (x oxygen)
Or:
H20... = water

Sorry... that site must be a hoax.
Or a goof that is afraid of their shadow.
I think it is actually meant to be satire. The point was to show how ridiculous we can get about "chemicals". Everything on the site is true if you think about it. It's how you spin the truth that makes the difference.

In college, I had a chemistry professor that had previously taught at the Air Force Academy. They had a problem with ethyl alcohol disappearing. They relabeled it ethanol and the evaporation slowed but didn't stop so they relabeled it methyl carbinol and the evaporation stopped.

It just depends on the spin.
 

JPigg55

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#16
Your body is mostly made up of water and carbon (carbon based life form).
I could see the "Fiber" part possibly being an irritant to your lungs, but the only health hazard I can think of would be the other materials used in carbon fiber.
 

GA Gyro

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#17
I think it is actually meant to be satire. The point was to show how ridiculous we can get about "chemicals". Everything on the site is true if you think about it. It's how you spin the truth that makes the difference.

In college, I had a chemistry professor that had previously taught at the Air Force Academy. They had a problem with ethyl alcohol disappearing. They relabeled it ethanol and the evaporation slowed but didn't stop so they relabeled it methyl carbinol and the evaporation stopped.

It just depends on the spin.
Yeah...
This reminds me of a video that circulated around the AC and refrigeration business years ago...
This intelligent looking (and attractive) lady was wandering around a public area asking folks to sign a petition to ban a refrigerant (freon) known as R-718... the video included about a half dozen folks that signed it.
Then the second half of the video she explained to each one of them (probably edited, the explanation happened with the signing)...
That R-718 was water... (true, R718 is water in a chiller).
Folks said it still should be banned because of the damage it did to the environment.

We have lost critical thinking...
However at this point I probably need to quit...
Because the discussion will go to politics...
Have a different forum for that... grin!
 

atunguyd

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#18
Your body is mostly made up of water and carbon (carbon based life form).
I could see the "Fiber" part possibly being an irritant to your lungs, but the only health hazard I can think of would be the other materials used in carbon fiber.
True that your body is made up of carbon but the way that carbon exists and what other atoms it is bound to make a big difference.
Example oxygen typically exists as O2 and is pretty safe to us (in fact you die without it) but O3 or ozone is nasty stuff and you really don't want to get anywhere near that.

Carbon fibre as we know it is more than just the carbon fibres, I believe it there are polymers that are used to bind the fibres.

Sent from my SM-N920C using Tapatalk
 

RJSakowski

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#19
After reviewing multiple MSD sheets, it appear that the dust from machining is about as harmful as walking down a dusty country road. It is considered a benign irritant, but poses no immediate or long term health hazard other than minor irritation. The primary binders for the carbon strands or weave are vinyl esters or epoxies. Any slivers that might become embedded in your skin would be similar to a metal or wood sliver.

As with working with any process which creates dust, it is always advisable to use personal protective equipment. However, in the context of the original post, I wouldn't be too concerned.
 

JPigg55

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#20
Example oxygen typically exists as O2 and is pretty safe to us (in fact you die without it) but O3 or ozone is nasty stuff and you really don't want to get anywhere near that. /QUOTE]

:agreed:
 

ferlum

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#22
As a young manual laborer I worked for two companies that made boats. Mostly worked with fiberglass but also carbon fiber and Kevlar.

As another poster mentioned above, I'd be most concerned about the resin used in the composite. In my case it was polyester and sometimes epoxy, but there may be others that are used. Not sure how hazardous those are but it would be easy enough to find out.

One thing to remember about carbon fiber is that is electrically conductive. And it makes a very fine dust when ground or cut. Get that floating around in your power tools and bad things can happen.
 

The_Apprentice

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#23
Ok, thanks for the input so far guys. Can't say I feel 100% confident about machining this stuff in my basement (yet). But I'll keep looking into it.
 

homebrewed

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#24
Ok, thanks for the input so far guys. Can't say I feel 100% confident about machining this stuff in my basement (yet). But I'll keep looking into it.
Carbon fiber is made by pyrolysis of a polymer fiber. Naturally, it's done in an inert atmosphere so it doesn't burn up. The end result is pretty much pure carbon, not particularly toxic. However.... There may not be much known about the effects of carbon fiber on the human body. The hazard from asbestos is due to its structure, not its chemical content. According to Wikipedia, the various forms of asbestos are silicates of magnesium, sodium or iron, so quite low on the toxicity scale of things. Just to extend my hypothesis that "more knowledge results in more confusion", fiberglass has not been shown to be carcinogenic.

So there you go. Carbon fiber composites could be bad; maybe not. It also could depend on what you're doing to it (grinding vs cutting). Myself, to be on the safe side I'd limit my exposure to it. If machining it, do it with flood coolant to capture the debris.
 

magicniner

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#25
It's about fibre size, if small enough it can interfere with cell function and cause cancer, as with Asbestos chemical composition has nothing to do with it,

- Nick
 

C-Bag

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#26
Personally I'd not machine the carbon fiber in any enclosed area. There is just no way to pick up all the dust. And like has been noted, it's not about toxicity, it's about damage to the lungs. Problem is just like asbestos, coal, sand(silica), fiberglass etc the effects are not immediate. Personally cancer is a helluva way to go, but not being able to catch your breath 24/7 is my idea of the worst.

I knew a guy who "made" CF kayak paddles. He had the raw CF ends done outside the country and he finished and mounted them. He was in no way a health nut but had a very good heavy duty mask, gloves and goggles when he trimmed them outside and would not use any sand paper, only super sharp box knives. He also wore a painter suit.

It reminded me of when I worked as an assembler mechanic for a turf sprayer manufacturer for one fall/winter. it was a cushman frame with a fiberglass tank with a gas powered pump. They made the fiberglass tanks just yrds away in the corner of the same big tin building. The dust was horrible in there as they also ground the tanks in there too with just a makeshift vent. Within a day or two I started feeling like I was coming down with the flu and brought a dust mask from home. I was able to halt it. But I noticed the whole crew seemed sick. Every bodies eyes were blood red all the time. They thought I was crazy and asked why the mask? I told them my lungs didn't seem to like it. I also went to coveralls even though I blew myself off but could not get the fiberglass out of my clothes and was itchy all the time. But if I scratched, that area became infected and would have a red rash that only went away with antibiotic cream and keeping it covered with bandaids. Same with scratches. Nothing go deburred and it was like working on a thousand razor blades, which if not treated would turn into raging infections. The boss one day pointedly said to me during a meeting that fiberglass is no more toxic than dirt. History is full of weird ignorance, like ads in magazines about the health benefits of smoking using doctors as models. To each their own, just my 2c.
 

4GSR

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#27
A customer of mine has a machine shop next door to him that does most of his composite material machining. The machines he has set up for just composite materials, they have a negative air system that pretty much sucks shop air into the machining cell and takes with it all of the air born particles, passes it thru a cyclone filter system and last thru a layer of fiberglass and charcoal to filter the final residual particles out of the air.
 

mmcmdl

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#28
I machined plenty of carbon fiber years back . We were told back then that it was a nuisence dust with no harmful effects . All of our RPVs and drones were made of it . I preferred to grind it wet . No dust , no foul ! This was back in the early stages of carbon fiber . Years later after I left the place , there were dust collection systems out the wazoo in a brand new composites shop ! It told me something after the fact . I will say that many a day my nose would be bleeding after working with this stuff . We produced some of the earliest UAVs made . Check out the Pioneer and the Shadow at a company now owned by Textron in Md. . It will have a good history of it . When machining dry , I used diamond cutters , nothing else held up to it .
 

pontiac428

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#30
Too bad the OP's question led to degeneration of this thread so quickly, but it is a serious subject. You won't find the health hazard information on a SDS, so let's back up. Engineered nanomaterials, carbon nano tubes/fibers/particles, call it what you will, is incredibly hazardous to inhale. It won't kill you like cyanide gas or other instant death, but it will kill you nice and slowly like it's mineral cousin asbestos. Someone said above that it's the particle size that matters, and they were absolutely correct. The aerodynamic diameter of engineered nanomaterials generated during sanding and machining is in the 2.5-minus micron range, meaning it is respirable into the alveolar gas-exchange region of the lung. A lot of electron microscopy research has also shown that they meet the definition of a NIOSH fiber, where fibers exhibit a length greater than 5 microns and an aspect ratio of 3:1, prompting the need for asbestos controls to protect worker health. Fibers and particles smaller than the NIOSH definition are known to be generated when working with these materials, and the long term health effects are not completely understood.

So if you like the idea of dying slowly in front of your family by coughing blood and mucus from your lungs and sucking oxygen from a bottle, that's okay- it's your life. If you don't, you can try a few things. Wear a P-100 HEPA respirator. Sand and machine carbon nanomaterials using water wet methods. Clean up with wet wiping and vacuuming. Do the work outside. Take the hazard seriously.
 
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