What does carbon fibre sound like?

Visitors to the RAMPF Tooling stand at the COMPOSITES EUROPE 2013 trade show in Stuttgart this September were treated to a performance by four musicians playing instruments made from carbon fibre composite. And to my (untrained) ear, they sounded very good!

Why composite?

German company Mezzo-Forte Streichinstrumente produces violins, violas and cellos from carbon composite.

The company says composite instruments produce a quality of sound comparable to that from a traditional wooden instrument, but are insensitive to fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

Carbon fibre instruments are also strong and stable, and "visually stunning."

The composite instruments are hand-made using a resin infusion process and a number of RAMPT Tooling products, as outlined below.

How to make a carbon fibre violin

  1. CNC machine a negative mould from a polyurethane working board (RAKU-TOOL WB 1404);
  2. Polish the machined mould to a high gloss;
  3. Apply a release agent to the mould;
  4. Lay-up the dry fibres/fibre package; position peel ply, flow mesh, resin flow and vacuum channels; and build-up the vacuum bag;
  5. Commence vacuum infusion of the epoxy resin system (RAKU-TOOL EI-2500/EH-2970-1);
  6. Leave the parts to cure in the mould at room temperature for approximately 16 hours;
  7. Demould the parts and post-cure. 

And what does it sound like?

Of course carbon fibre musical instruments are not new – there are companies producing pianos, guitars and even didgeridoos! – and they are not cheap (Mezzo-Forte's violins start at €1890).

But can they really produce the same complexity and quality of sound as wooden instruments? That must be for the listener to decide.

Listen to one of a Mezzo-Forte's composite violins for yourself in this YouTube video.

By Amanda Jacob, Content Development Editor at Reinforced Plastics.