Carbon-Fiber Reinforced-Polymer Optical Breadboards

Lighter, stiffer, vacuum-compatible, lower thermal expansion & inherently non-magnetic

Carbon fiber optical breadboards provide a similar thermal stability to Super Invar but at a lower cost and are inherently non-magnetic. For ages, steel breadboards have been the only choice; however, structures made from carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) have been used in the aerospace and space industries for many years due to their low weight, high strength, excellent thermal stability and low resonant frequencies. APS now brings this advanced technology to the world of photonics in the United States and Canada with carbon fiber breadboards from CarbonVision. Four grades of carbon fiber breadboard are offered: the economic EC-Series, the advanced AD-Series, the all-carbon AC-Series, and the slim SL-Series.

Why carbon fiber? Compared with regular steel breadboards, carbon fiber boards typically weigh a factor of four (4) less, exhibit 1/10th of the thermal expansion, possess damping coefficients that are up to 60% higher and provide a superior weight-to-stiffness ratio.

The low weight of carbon boards will be of particular interest to those working with “mobile” systems, as will the fact that you can mount breadboards on top of breadboards in complex set ups. Precision is also important and the raised mounting surfaces of CarbonVision boards are ground to a flatness of ± 50 microns, with lateral position controlled to within ± 100 microns.

Vibrations are minimized due to the physical properties of carbon fibers embedded into a resin matrix, which is complemented by the behavior of carbon fiber composites. Together, damping coefficients are up to 60% higher than regular steel boards. Supplementary elements placed inside the carbon fiber tubes which link the upper and lower faces of the boards allow the fine-tuning of resonant frequencies, which allows us to adapt the carbon boards to your specific requirements.

CarbonVision boards have an open design when configured for use in a clean room environment. The carbon fiber tube which is located below each mounting hole on the board allows easy cleaning by “pushing” contamination out. In the case of the CA-series, the side walls of the board can be completely removed, allowing thorough cleaning of the entire board.

The coefficient of thermal expansion for carbon fiber is typically 10% of steel. By selecting specific fibers or resins, and by optimizing the orientation of the fibers, the coefficient can be further reduced. A lower coefficient of thermal expansion enhances the accuracy and precision of your experiments but also reduces the stabilization time of the board, saving you time.

APS offers carbon breadboards in standard and custom sizes from 300 mm square up to 1.2 m x 2.5 m and with thicknesses from 25 to 100 mm. Non-standard sizes and shapes are available. The standard mounting system comprises stainless steel inserts with ¼-20 holes on a 25 mm grid.

  Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (* 10-6 K-1)
CarbonVision x direction y direction z direction
EC-Series 2.5 2.5 23
CA-Series 2.5 2.5 0.10
SL-Series 2.5 2.5 0.05

Compared to breadboards
made of:

Steel 10 – 12 10 – 12 10 – 12
Invar 0.7 – 2.0 0.7 – 2.0 10 – 12
Aluminium 23 23 12


The EC-series breadboard is a cost-effective solution based on honeycomb or sandwich panels with a thick CFRP cover plate. Stiffness and thermal stability can be adjusted by bonding additional CFRP plates on the top or bottom side of the breadboard. Weight ~ 14 kg/m2 (50 mm grid). 

EC-Series Datasheet    Application Examples

The AD-series breadboard is an enhanced version of the entry-level EC-series. At each mount location, a CFRP tube links the top and bottom shells providing improved heat transfer and allowing easy cleaning and installation of additional removable mounts on the bottom side. By inserting adaptive elements, the resonant frequencies can be tuned. Weight ~ 15 kg/m2 (50 mm grid).

AD-Series Datasheet    Application Examples

The CA-series breadboards are made entirely from CFRP. The top and bottom plates consist of thick CFRP shells, structurally joined by tubes and/or ribs also made from CFRP. In addition to the advantages of the AD-series, CA-series breadboards allow the integration of optical or electronic components inside the stiff carbon shell and easy routing of wires and optical fibers. Weight ~ 19 kg/m2 (50 mm grid).

CA-Series Datasheet    Application Examples

The Slim Line, SL-series, breadboards offer high stiffness at minimum thickness, and consist of a top and bottom CFRP plates. As an option, damping foil can be laminated in-between. SL-series optical breadboards are typically used as a supplement on top of large optical tables or breadboards.

SL-Series Datasheet    Application Examples