The classic hi-tech material, Carbon Fiber has been used in everything from modern fighter jets, to Formula 1 race cars and Storm Trooper Suits (pretty sure it makes a better armor than that blaster magnetic called plastoid) Carbon Fiber was originally created in the late 1800’s by Thomas Edison for use in his newfangled incandescent light bulbs. Edison baked cotton and bamboo fibers at high heat in an oven with a controlled atmosphere devoid of oxygen using a process called pyrolysis.
These days carbon fiber is manufactured using a smiliar process, but instead of using cotton or bamboo as the starting material (also called the precursor) a blend of Rayon and polyacrylonitrile is used. By heating the precursor in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen, it does not burn. Instead the precursor starts a jammin’ Caribbean beat until all of its molecules form one crazy conga and begin to dance and shake. They party all night long until every atom has passed out and fell off the conga line, except for those Carbon atoms. They’re party animals. Carbon keeps the party rocking until somewhere around 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit. When it cools, you get a crazy strong fiber made from what is now basically pure carbon fiber. Who knew conga lines could science?
In most cases those carbon fibers are then woven in to a fabric and and hand laid in to a mold using a process very similar to laying fiber glass, only there’s a vacuum and a rather large oven at the end that is used to cure the resin impregnated fabric. The end result is a super hard shell like our friendly looking Storm Trooper helmet pictured above. The downside to all this awesome is that it’s insanely expensive. As to exactly why that is, check out this article on gizmodo.
In our case, a carbon fabric would not work as we are looking for a solid dice, not just a shell. That means we had to find a carbon fiber manufacturing process that produces a solid part. That process is called Filament Winding. In most cases carbon fiber threads are wound around a mandrel and then cured in an oven to make a lightweight, but hollow tube. Much like the process shown in this video. But as I’m sure you are well aware of, hollow tubes can’t be machined into dice. Fear not my friends, for through some magical wizardry I don’t even pretend to comprehend, a very small number of manufactures, (in fact as far as I can tell, that number is one) have done away with the mandrel all together and are able to produce very thick solid filament wound carbon fiber rods in excess of one inch. We use these solid rods to machine our dice, you can see that process in the video below.
What you can’t tell from the video is that 3 dice later I was changing the end mill out. Turns out carbon fiber is stupid amounts of abrasive and it loves to eat tungsten carbide like a fat kid loves cake. Once machined the dice are hand sanded to 1200 grit on each face then polished on our buffing wheels to a silky smooth finish. The carbon fiber is left bare and then laser engraved. As far as we are aware these are the first solid Carbon Fiber dice offered anywhere. Our first runs came in clear acrylic boxes but now all of our dice use our standard dice box. A much nicer upgrade from our older style laser cut acrylic boxes.