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I am trying to find an excuse for a bunch of armoured characters running down zombies on the city streets. Medieval armour was not well received. So now i am thinking. There are some places where carbon fiber use is quite common. For example, in a boat building facility.

Scenario:

A bunch of teenagers during a zombie apocalypse find an abandoned boat building facility fully stocked with all that is needed to produce carbon fiber objects. One of them knows from memory how to use carbon fiber and build things out of it.

Question:

Can you make carbon fiber armour similar (but lighter) to medieval full plate armour ? Would it be effective ? If not, what other material could produce armour plates that are light and usefull against zombie bites ?

Assume: Some of the teenagers have technical school background, they are resourcefull. There are circa 10 teenagers at the start. The zombies are walking dead style zombies, slow and dumb.

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    $\begingroup$ Possibly, but I would recommend just getting something as close to these as possible. $\endgroup$ – wposeyjr May 15 '15 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ That's an interesting link. They claim carbon fiber is "penetrative resistant." They must have found some really cool new tricks. The carbon fiber I've seen actually invokes murphy's law to make sure something pointy strikes it at a weak direction, poking a hole in it with less than 1 week before the competition >.< $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 15 '15 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ That armor suit would work perfectly, though they would want something that covered the hand fully. I'd imagine if the person in the suit was completely overran, the zombies could eventually get into the shell (which means it's a great defence, but for story purposes it isn't immune to a complete overrun) $\endgroup$ – Twelfth May 15 '15 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, so that link was the coolest thing I've seen in a while. It says it use a number of materials including carbon fiber, so they may have found some new tricks, might not. $\endgroup$ – Necessity May 15 '15 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ It seems you really don't want to use motorcycle clothing... :-) $\endgroup$ – Burki May 18 '15 at 12:13
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You can make carbon fiber armor, but it would be difficult.

Making good armor isn't just about being able to shape the material in question, but about being able to shape it into armor.

First, you need to know what shape to make the armor. Armor smithing is a skill that was developed over millenia, not something a group of teenagers could easily discover is a post-apocalyptic boat shop. What armor pieces are needed, how they all link together, where to put straps, etc.

Of course, one of your heroes might have that knowledge, but even then, actually putting it to use would be tough. Each suit of armor would need to be fitted to the person that was wearing it. Furthermore, each piece of each suit of armor is going to need its own mold, which will have to be precisely shaped before the carbon fiber is laid over the top of it. Assuming they have all of the materials, and that the boat shop still has power during a zombie apocalypse, and that the group has the knowledge of exactly how to go about making armor and what all the pieces need to look like, this is going to take a while, probably at least weeks, if not months.

Other forms of armor would be better.

Zombies aren't attacking with swords or clubs. Zombies aren;t even attacking with kicks or punches. They have one weapon, biting, and they aren't event particularly good at it.

Humans, and by extension zombies, have short faces and weak jaw muscles. We have not evolved to use our teeth as a weapon, and as such our teeth make for terrible weapons. They lack both strength and penetrative power. Rather than going for something like carbon fiber, it would make more sense to build armor out of something like leather or ballistic nylon.

These materials could easily withstand a bite, and would be difficult for a zombie to rip with their hands. They're both fairly easy to mend, especially compared to carbon fiber, and would be easier to work with and move in. The materials also don't require power tools to work with, which is a plus over carbon fiber, in which such tools will be all but necessary for making molds.

My preference would be for a double layer of ballistic nylon coated with urethane everywhere but the insides of the joints. This would be all but impervious to zombies, and would be fairly easy to make. Luckily for your heroes, all of the materials for making such armor could be found in a boat shop, with ballistic nylon and other similar materials currently serving as the go-to material for sail making in the racing world.

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    $\begingroup$ Outside the scope of the question as written, but I think inside the scope of what you're looking for - a bunch of civilians who need quick protection should probably hit the biker shop first - helmet, full set of leathers (the stuff you use to keep your body together when you go off the freeway), and you're probably fairly warm but reasonably zombie proof at a decent weight limit. $\endgroup$ – Allen Gould May 15 '15 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ Full set of leathers - exactly the thing the big guy in "28 Days Later" used, did not work out in the end. But it still seems like a good idea compared to a satin shirt... $\endgroup$ – Ghanima May 15 '15 at 20:31
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If the available stuff is simply cloth and resin, then I think you could do it without molds and very easily like paper maché. Put wet strips over someone's clothes while being worn. In particular, you could make a neck protector like a high collar that way.

If it's a chop gun, and you have power, it might be more difficult to control. But in a good story you could "easily" make form-fitting shapes by hosing somone down over a protective undergarment. Make large pieces for individual plates, then trim them neat. Spray chop over makeshift forms made from other objects to form things like scoops to cover the outside of the joints.

If it's pre-preg, you could also hand shape it draped over a form or live model. That needs an oven to cure.

I think the chop gun would make an entertaining story, and be generally beleivable to the readers. But think sports equipment, not king arthor. Maybe you are supplimenting and adapting sporting equipment that was found wanting: less from-scratch work than starting from nothing!

The protective clothing used by the boatbuilders might be useful on its own, too!

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Other Materials would be far better.

ckersch suggestion of ballistic nylon is far better than carbon fiber. I disagree with him on how difficult it would be to make carbon fiber Armour as the boat building factory has "all that is needed to produce carbon fiber objects". It will take a couple of days though.

The problem with carbon fiber is that it is a very brittle material. Their wont be any sign of damage one moment and then the next it will be snapped, without any way to repair. It may be considered a strong material but the truth is that it is only strong while being pushed from a couple of directions, from any others it is quite weak(compared to something like steel).

Also remember that in a Apocalypse scenario, the zombies are probably not your biggest danger. People are far more dangerous, so your characters should at least wear a Kevlar vest. Zombie aren't attacking with swords, bats and guns but people might.

Whenever I talk about "what you'd do in a zombie apocalypse" with my friends, I joke about using cut open tin cans that I place other my clothes as my first makeshift armor on day 1 of the apocalypse before I leave my house. We got really in-depth on our plans after watching "High school of the dead", good show.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well-fabricated CFRP is stronger than steel in any direction. The main reason many CFRP goods are friable is that most of them a) don't use high-quality interwoven long fibre (many use mostly cheap recycled snippets, single-direction fibre or some chaotic chop gun stuff, or else aren't properly vacuum-oven cured) and b) are strongly weight-optimised – if you tried to reduce a steel equivalent to similar lightness, you'd end up with little more than tin foil. OTOH, if you sacrifice some of the weight advantage and make decent thick-ish CFRP plates, they're very sturdy indeed. $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout Mar 9 '16 at 23:16

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