In the competitive environment, it is not uncommon for us to encounter carbon fiber chamber doctor blade systems, which are advertised with sales arguments such as light weight and corrosion resistance. In this post, we take a closer look at carbon fiber chambers and examine their technical properties in comparison to our stainless steel NOVA XLS chambers.
Carbon fiber chambers - facts nobody tells you about
How is carbon fiber made?
The basis is a mesh of carbon fiber threads that cross over each other. This mesh, which is relatively rough at the surface, gets embedded into a resin. The result is a kind of hard and very stiff plastic material.
Plastic is naturally corrosion resistant, but there are some limits that should not be disregarded:
1. Plastic is not scratch-proof
If a carbon fiber ink chamber is cleaned or handled with sharp metal tools, the surface can be damaged. As soon as the surface is damaged, cleaning the chamber gets significantly more difficult.
The chemical resistance of the resin is good for normal printing inks, but has its limits when it comes to special applications with more aggressive solvents.
2. Material strength is limited to the fiber direction
Carbon fiber is only rigid and stable along the direction of the fiber threads. If twisted, the fiber threads can shift in the transverse direction and cause instabilities or even material delamination of the chamber system in case of a heavy shock (e.g. a crash or fall).
3. Connection points cannot be made directly in the material
It is not possible to make threads for the connection of ink inlets and outlets or other mechanical parts directly in the carbon fiber chamber. Normally, the connection points are glued into the chamber, which tend to loosen over time.
Retrofitting the chamber with new connection points is quite cost- and time-consuming.
4. Carbon fiber chambers are in fact not much lighter than stainless steel chambers
While the argument of carbon fiber chambers being very light-weight is true in comparison with many traditional aluminum chamber systems, the weight difference between a carbon fiber chamber and a NOVA XLS stainless steel chamber is actually not very significant.
Because of the high density and rigidity of stainless steel, the chambers can be made very thin, while carbon fiber chambers must be comparatively bulky to achieve the same stability. A stainless steel chamber of 1500 mm length only weighs about 12 kg and is easy to lift for one person. Above that length, a second operator is typically needed simply for geometric reasons.
Carbon fiber vs. stainless steel chamber doctor blade systems