Case Study: Whiteley Composite Shears
We at Sheffield Formula Racing use carbon fibre across all of our cars – using both pre-preg and resin infusion techniques, we create custom bodywork, internal components and aerodynamic parts.
It’s a crucial aspect of our car – particularly the aero profiles, which were one of the main contributors to our success at Formula Student UK ‘21, where we were crowned only the second ever British champions.
We were lucky to be sponsored by William Whiteley & Sons during 2020, when the team was arguably at a low point. With a very reduced budget and tight restrictions, it was looking unlikely that we were going to be able to do much this year, but as a local firm, William Whiteley & Sons offered us not only critical financial support, but also a range of composite shears. Both helped us enormously on our way to victory at Silverstone, which wouldn’t have been possible without their support.
Our carbon-fibre production is very precise; the margins for error are very small or we risk ruining an entire skin. As we produce almost all of our carbon in-house, we do everything from cutting carbon-fibre cloth, mesh and bag to sanding and finishing ourselves. Our tools are therefore incredibly important to the quality of our finished product, and before this year, we had been using a single pair of old fabric shears!
The quality of the Whiteley shears was a genuine shock to the team; most of us didn’t realise cutting carbon was meant to be easy! We produce most of our composite parts ourselves, and so we’re more like hobbyists rather than professional manufacturers – as such the production process can sometimes be quite fraught. As we teach our members to make carbon, Whiteley’s DIY range was invaluable.
We cut a vast amount of carbon, and the speed increase alone with the Whiteley shears was drastic, but the accuracy was the biggest factor. The shears are of such high quality that they improved every aspect of the process, making it more efficient, quicker and easier.
For resin infusion in particular, achieving a vacuum is usually very difficult, with stray strands of carbon usually holding us back the most. We would usually spend many man-hours trying to achieve the perfect vacuum required. With the new Whiteley shears, cutting the carbon is so much cleaner and more precise. They helped us get rid of frayed edges and small fibers, which were the most common reasons for a poor vacuum. The cleaner cuts therefore provided a more reliable bagging and infusion process every time.
Another problem we have is deformation of the carbon cloth. When laying-up, keeping the weave of the sheet constant is key to both strength and aesthetics. With old, blunt scissors, it was very easy to pull certain areas of the sheet creating areas of distorted carbon, but with the Whiteley shears the cuts were far cleaner and kinder to the cloth.
The smaller shears also helped enormously – trimming small details is usually an imprecise nightmare, but the smaller, more accurate scissors made creating difficult profiles a dream. The range of composite shears are so well suited to dealing with carbon fiber it’d be difficult for us to use anything else.
Visiting the factory here in Sheffield was very eye-opening. The care and craftsmanship that goes into every pair is incredible, it explains the fantastic quality of the shears. We followed the production from start to finish and it was easy to see how the 250 year heritage couples with modern techniques developed with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to create the best products on the market.
We are very lucky to be partnered with William Whiteley & Sons – having the support of a company with such heritage and a commitment to craftsmanship is a large part of our recent success, and we can’t wait to see where the partnership takes us next.