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Under Pressure- Testing carbon fiber intake tubes.

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  As the race season starts to wind down, orders for parts start to slow up as well. We've been doing this long enough to know its just the cycle of things. But rather than just sit back and relax, this little bit of breathing room allows us to accelerate the development of new parts and processes. Our recent exploits have lead me to want to develop carbon fiber intake tubing. With a twin turbo car, there is a lot of pipe work that can be replaced with lighter carbon tubes. One of our initial test tubes came in just under 80% lighter that the thin wall stainless steel one it replaced! With fine tuning the process and capabilities of producing carbon fiber tubing, we can expand our product offering to some more simple straight tubes, to more complex tubing and maybe even cold air intakes. This is a prime example of why I race. I utilize my car to develop new parts and processes so we can speak from experience. There is a lot of tubing on my car so I better get cracking.

  It became quickly apparent that we needed to figure out how to "cast" sensor bungs and ports. Todays cars have so many extra sensors, a simple straight pipe wouldn't cut it. Fortunately, the molding process to make a cast part is very similar to what we already do. The casing steps are just about as easy as pouring in the resin to make the part. I don't want to over simplify the process as there are still a lot of intricacies to it, but since we were familiar with the molding, mold prep, and part production, it was a fairly easy process for us to nail down. Below is a picture of the first Intake Air Temp Sensor port for the 3.5 EcoBoost engines. This part will be available shortly as is for anyone that wants to make their own intake piping. Just bond it to your intake pipe and your set. I remember this part was one of the trickier steps of doing my swap. This sensor port will really simplify that whole bit. We will be making blow off valve bungs very soon too, along with a 3/8 NPT bung, mass air sensor port (I know its not a mass air system, but its the one right behind the air filter) and the quick connect ports that are everywhere on these engines. With these handful of cast parts, we can make a lot of different, and vehicle specific tubes.

 Up next is the tubes. One of the very first questions I got asked was how much pressure they would hold. I was fairly confident they would work fine, but until I tested them, I wasn't sure. So I built myself some caps for 2" and 3" couplers. I put together a pressure manifold with a valve so I could slowly increase the pressure, shut off the pressure, and bleed off the pressure as I wanted. Below is our setup for the up coming tests. Whats cool about finally doing this is I will be able to pressure test the entire system, or individual parts if I want. These bits will also get some use doing QC on customer ordered parts in the future.

 We had 3 tubes to test initially. One was a 3" steel tube with our Intake Air Temp Sensor bung on it. When we initially posted the pictures of it online, several people asked if they could just bond it to their custom intake tube as is. This point was touched on in the opening paragraph. I didn't have a solid answer for them at the time. But now we do! We bonded the bung to the tube with JB weld. We wanted to use an epoxy that is readily available to just about anyone. No special epoxies here as we wanted our results repeatable by anyone. This initial test yielded a max pressure of about 52psi before the coupler just blew itself apart. I'll call 52psi a success! Below is the picture of the aftermath. I'm really surprised that the hose clamps with the beaded tube could hold that amount of pressure. The wetness is from me spraying it with soapy water when it was at about 15psi to check for any leaks. The bung and sensor were air tight. Onto the next one!

The coupler that broke open was not fiber reinforced. You can easily tell the two apart by looking at the sides of them. Even tho it burst around 50psi, do yourself a favor and get the fiber reinforced ones. I picked up all the ones I used on my intake system from siliconeintakes.com. They seem to be a good quality for the price, so a good value in my book.

Up next was a shorter tube I made the previous day. Its dull looking as I sanded it down to smooth it out, but didn't do all the steps to polish it as it could have been blown to smithereens during the test. This is a 2" tube and ultimately will end up on the drivers side turbo outlet. Since it was the smaller of the carbon tubes, this is the one I would really push to the limit to see where it is. My initial thoughts were that the hose clamps would slip off around 30-40psi. I was dead wrong on that one. It cruised right past 40, then 50, then 60. I decided to call it good enough at 70psi! The tube was laughing at me the whole time. I'm pretty sure that the weak link in the system would be the engine, as 70 pounds of boost is pretty much unheard of and would blow the engine to bits before this tube would fail. A fun side note is that I run my car at around 8psi. The stock tune is around 14 psi. And the 2.3's in the Mustangs I believe are somewhere in the mid 20's. So yeah, it can hold the pressure.

Last but not least, the tube that started it all. This tube is intended to be on the crossover to the inlet side of the passenger side turbo. That means this tube will never see any pressure, and never much higher than ambient temps. I brought this one up to 30psi just to double check it, and backed it down. This tube should suffice as is. This is also the tube we were able to gather some weight saving information from. Close to an 80% savings over stainless, and I estimate about a 40%-50% savings over aluminum.

 All in all, this was a good exercise. We are developing the skills and processes to make carbon tubes. We developed the techniques to cast very intricate sensor bungs. And most importantly, we got some answers to some important questions. Coming up soon will be some carbon tubes with the sensor bungs and finished bits for my car.