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The intricate savoir-faire of carbon fiber at Bugatti

Since the EB110, one of the world’s first production cars equipped with a carbon fiber monocoque, this material has been an essential part of Bugatti’s “Form follows performance” design philosophy. It was in the 2007 Veyron Pur Sang that the natural beauty of the fibers first came to light, with a transparent coating on this special edition to showcase the impressive raw materials that make up a Bugatti hypercar. Today, Bugatti offers its customers nine different shades and several levels of visible carbon fiber, but the process of creating a material that is both beautiful and resistant is a complex, handcrafted process.

The carbon fiber body panels are made of overlapping sheets of woven fibers that are extremely thin, about one-tenth the width of a human hair. But the way these fibers are arranged is absolutely crucial to the strength of the sheets, which are stiffer in the direction in which the fibers point. And while the process of aligning them can be difficult and time-consuming, the benefits speak for themselves; body components made from carbon fiber weigh 20-30% less than a corresponding aluminum element, or 50% less in the case of steel, while still being very strong.

As Bugatti did with the Veyron Pur Sang in 2007, it now offers customers a wide range of nine visible colors of tinted carbon fiber for the bodywork, in which the weave of the fibers is fully exposed, covered only with transparent lacquer, which can also be tinted in one of nine different finishes. But the process of creating this finish takes months of refinement and requires the skill of experienced craftsmen who understand both the visual and structural importance of carbon fiber.

The largest piece – a side panel about 2 m long – takes almost a week to produce, culminating in the placement of the raw materials in a mold and their subsequent “firing” in an autoclave at 120 °C (248 °F) at high pressure for about two hours.

For these panels, Bugatti engineers will have worked with materials experts to dictate exactly in which direction the carbon fibers should flow to give the car the necessary stiffness. But for customers who opt for a visible carbon fiber finish, it is the design team that decides the direction of the fibers in the first layer. The desire is to create a flowing pattern across the entire surface of the car, which visually reinforces its lines while aligning perfectly between the panels.

The design team requires the carbon fibers to be aligned at a 45° angle, with a perfect herringbone in the center. If it deviates more than 1 or 2°, the panel will have to be made from scratch. Any fibers out of position, any fraying or any bulges or kinks in the material and the panel will have to be redone. The materials experts and design team work hard to ensure that every millimeter of the surface is free of imperfections.

“Creating the perfect visible carbon fiber finish takes our expert craftsmen months, and we strive to offer one of the broadest ranges of dyes and finishes in the industry. The precision required to ensure that thousands of perfectly created fibers flow uninterrupted and at the ideal angle throughout the car requires a tremendous level of expertise, patience and talent. The bodywork is the most visible part of a Bugatti hypercar, and we want it to project the attention to detail we apply to every piece of engineering and design on one of our cars.” Christophe Piochon
President de Bugatti Automobiles

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