5 Reasons Your Company Should Think Composites It is fairly common for potential customers to contact us in hopes of learning more about composite materials. Often times they want to know why they should choose carbon or glass fiber over aluminum, steel, and wood. Needless to say we are more than happy to answer those questions.
Composite materials have actually been around for decades. They are an appropriate alternative for a lot of different applications. That said, there are plenty of applications for which aluminum, steel, and wood still make better choices. Each project has to be evaluated on its own merits to determine what materials are best. Is your company getting ready to embark on a new project? If so, we hope you are at least considering composites. Here are five reasons composites might be the better choice: 1. Strength-to-Weight Ratio The one property of both carbon and glass fiber that everyone knows about is its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. Carbon and glass fiber are much stronger than steel and aluminum inch-for-inch and pound-for-pound. It is one of the reasons the aerospace industry loves composites. You could never produce a Boeing 787 fuselage using wood. The material is just not strong enough. And while you could use aluminum or steel, you would need exponentially larger wings to support the weight. Both glass and carbon fiber give you the strength and rigidity you need with substantial weight savings to boot. 2. Strength and Rigidity Customization When you are working with steel and aluminum, you have very little flexibility in terms of strength and rigidity. The materials are what they are for the most part. Such is not the case with composites like carbon and glass fiber. Simply by manipulating fiber orientation and material thickness, you can customize composites for specific strength and rigidity needs. This is ideal for applications requiring higher strength and rigidity in key locations but not across the board.
3. Complex Designs Steel, aluminum, and wood are limited when it comes to complex geometries. Composites are limited as well, but not nearly as much. There is a lot you can do with glass and carbon fiber that you cannot do with those other materials. Thanks to manual layups and braiding, some pretty complex designs are possible. Moreover, additive manufacturing is pushing the limits of composites even further. Technologies like 3D printing make it possible to create composite parts that would otherwise be impossible via manual layups or braiding. 4. One-Piece Construction Next, composite fabrication allows for one-piece construction. To understand this, imagine a boat hull comprised of multiple steel sheets welded together and supported by a steel structure underneath. If the craft is small enough, a composite hull can be fabricated as a single piece. Larger hulls can start out as multiple panels only to become a single piece by way of vacuum infusion. One-piece construction makes an already strong and rigid material even stronger and more rigid. That alone is reason enough to choose composites for some jobs. 5. Composites Don't Rust Finally, composite materials don't rust like metals do. Aluminum and steel certainly have their place, but they require a tremendous amount of maintenance in order to deal with the damage of corrosion. Not so with composites. Build a bridge abutment with carbon fiber and you'll never have to worry about it rusting. Composites are by no means a complete replacement for all other materials. But the more manufacturers are working with glass and carbon fiber, the more frequently they are coming to the conclusion that composites are another option worth considering. Are composite materials right for your next project? Let's talk about it.