The latest manufacturing buzz, especially within the split world, has been the utilization of carbon fiber. To date, many of the advertisements and claims have been centered around the feather-light qualities of carbon construction. With carbon construction demanding a premium price over its fiberglass counterpart, many splitters are left questioning the advantages and disadvantages, durability, and if the benefits warrant the additional expense.
In order to get the skinny on carbon construction, and the carbon boards available today, we went straight to the source and reached out to some of the industry experts.
- Peter Bauer – Owner/Board Designer at Amplid
- Seth Lightcap – Marketing/Team Manager at Jones Snowboards
- William Westwood – Product Engineer at Prior
Over the next few pages we’ll cover what carbon fiber is, how carbon boards are constructed, advantages of carbon boards, disadvantages of carbon boards, durability of carbon boards and whom and what these carbon boards were designed for.
What is carbon fiber?
“Carbon fiber: a very strong lightweight synthetic fiber made especially by carbonizing acrylic fiber at high temperatures”- Merriam Webster
Carbon Fibers are created and processed to create various thicknesses. The greater these fibers are processed, the smaller in diameter they become. Fibers with smaller diameters allow more fibers to be used within a specified area. Much like yarn, anywhere from 1-50 thousand of these carbon fibers are bundled together and woven into cloths. The properties of these cloths will be determined by the thickness of the fibers, the number of fibers bundled together, and the pattern in which they are woven.
Splitboard manufacturers often reference their carbon construction with descriptions like, carbon top sheet, full carbon, and carbon layups. These various descriptions can leave riders with more questions than answers. A common misconception regarding carbon boards is that they are constructed from solid carbon. In reality, carbon boards are constructed in a similar fashion to fiberglass boards with a layer of base material, fiberglass/carbon fiber, the wood core, and a final layer of fiberglass/carbon fiber which is sandwiched together.
One of the differences amongst the various available carbon boards is the amount of fiberglass replaced with carbon. A number of boards replace 100% of the fiberglass with carbon fiber, while others simply replace the fiberglass top sheet with a carbon fiber top sheet. Manufacturers then tweak their wood cores, the amount and placement of any carbon stringers, the weave and thickness of the carbon fiber, the thickness of their edges, and the amount and types of resin used. Any modification of these elements can dramatically change the stiffness, weight, and overall performance of their boards.
“Don’t just take it as gospel that because a splitboard is made from carbon, that it’s a better riding product. Choose the board first, not the material.” – Peter Bauer, Amplid’s Owner/Board Designer
The major benefit for carbon construction is the ability to utilize less material, while producing a board with similar stiffness to fiberglass construction. GW Composites reports that carbon fiber has a, “High stiffness-to-weight ratio – Carbon fiber is about 3 times stiffer than steel and aluminum for a given weight.” This inherent quality allows manufacturers to adjust the thickness, and ultimately the weight of their wood cores and composite materials. This reduction in materials, combined with the use of carbon fiber results in a significant weight reduction.
“It’s also not a blanket rule that carbon boards are stiffer. We did a great deal of R&D to develop a weave that mimics the glass as much as possible, while providing substantial weight savings.” – William Westwood, Prior’s Product Engineer
- Amplid’s Lab Carbon split 157 weighs 2.55kg / 5.62 lbs. with Karakoram connector kit which is approximately 30% lighter than a fiberglass built board
- Jones Snowboards Carbon Solution split 158 weighs in at 2.9 kg / 6.39 lbs. which is the same as the 158 Solution but the ride characteristics are much different.
- Jones Snowboards Ultracraft Split 156 weighs in at 2.7 kg / 5.95 lbs. which is almost 1 pound lighter than the 156 Hovercraft.
- Prior’s BC split 158 weighs in at 2.8 kg / 6.23 lbs. The optional XTC Carbon construction is available on any of their 9 splitboard models. Delivers a weight savings of just over 1lb.
Some riders are opposed to becoming a “weight weenie” and would rather shave ounces elsewhere. Although, according to the Handbook of Footwear Design and Manufacture, “The weight added to footwear is equivalent, in energy cost, to about five and more times the weight carried on the torso” (p. 295). Considering this, approximately one pound total savings between the two boards halves may not seem like much, however shaving the approximate five plus pounds from ones pack can prove difficult to nearly impossible. In the end, conserving energy may lead to more laps, or at the least better quality laps!
An additional benefit of carbon fiber is the high fatigue level. GW Composites states, “Carbon fiber composites keep their mechanical properties under dynamic loads, rather than deteriorating slowly over time.” This means that your board will maintain its shape and pop longer than a traditionally constructed fiberglass board. This is one of the reasons many manufactures utilize carbon stringers and carbon rods within their fiberglass constructed boards.