In our current world, characterized by technological advancements and disruptions, composite materials have greatly impacted our lives in several, unimaginable ways. Their strength, stiffness, and light-weight characteristics plus, of course, the right combination of the matrix and reinforcement material have provided solutions to most problems facing the modern world. Some of the things which used to be an impossibility some years ago are very much possible today, courtesy of composite technologies. Below are different ways these technologies have redefined our modern world. Please read on.
1. Consumer Goods:
Perhaps you must have come across, and possibly used, goods made using composite technologies, especially if you’re in the sport and/or leisure industry. The fiber-reinforced polymer composites (FRP) – carbon and glass – are largely consumed in these two industries, more so the leisure industries. And the market is constantly growing, owing to the materials’ stiffness and light-weight properties, which makes them convenient for use in most products.
Currently, there are quite a number of composite-established products which include composite archery bows, golf clubs, skis, racquets, helmets, masks, and fishing rods among other products. Modern bicycles, especially those used by professional cyclists, employ the use of composite technologies in their design. There are several other composite-established goods that you can find as well, and these include suitcases, jewelry, BBQs, wallets and purses, stacking chairs, and pens. You can learn more about how composite technologies can benefit you or your business today.
2. Automotive and Aerospace Industry:
The automotive and aerospace industries have benefited a lot from composite technologies in designing and manufacturing some of their products in terms of weight reduction, cost reduction, and recyclability. Unlike traditional steel, composite materials have quite a number of weight and structural advantages that have helped redefine these industries. In the aerospace industry, for instance, the light-weight but strong composites can handle high altitude pressures and frequent abuse.
Application of composite technologies come with advantages such as improved worker safety, reduced metal scraps, ease in molding and shaping, painting steps elimination, improved recyclability, and the possibility of automation. In terms of crash performance, traditional steel can only absorb about 35J/kg of energy, thermoset composites about 70J/kg, and thermoplastics about 230J/kg (making them excellent in crash performance). Composites can also sustain wide temperature ranges, ideal for application in some parts of the aircraft.
3. Medical Industry:
FRPs have greatly redefined the medical sector owing to their biocompatibility and high-stiffness, light-weight properties. Carbon fiber (it’s chemically inert) is preferred in most surgical operations instead or in conjunction with the polymeric or metallic materials. Recent developments of external components such as artificial limbs incorporate the use of FRPs not only as load-bearing structures but also with load-carrying links in the foot keels with sprung energy return, joint mechanisms, and hybrid designs. Carbon fibers can be added to bone repair materials to enhance their mechanical properties and also in tows used in the repair of damaged ligaments.
4. Construction Industry:
Composite technologies have greatly impacted the construction industry for decades now. These materials have found several applications in the industry owing to their characteristics which provide effective solutions to numerous construction needs. These materials are preferred for reasons such as:
- Durability – can last long even in harsh conditions.
- High-stiffness – fit for strengthening structures.
- Can be designed to obtain a particular shape and color.
- They can be repaired easily.
- Require low maintenance.
- Can be suitable for use where fire resistance is key.
The main areas where FRPs can be used in the industry include:
- Housing – in architectural moldings, sanitary ware, and some structures.
- Architectural – roofing, domes, cladding, and structures.
- Refurbishment – seismic retrofitting and strengthening of existing structures.
- Civils/Infrastructure – pipes, tanks, masts and towers, water control structures, access covers, and modular structures.
- Bridges – bridge enclosures, decks, and full-bridge structures.
5. Marine Industry:
For several years now, FRPs have found numerous, successful applications in the marine sector. Among the common applications includes workboats, superyachts, and leisure crafts. Previous were made of wood and metal, which could easily rot and rust, making the structure less convenient. FRPs are now applied in making propellers, bearings, topside structures, exhausts, and commercial hatch covers. Glass-fiber composites (GRP) have redefined the design and manufacture of different composite structures because of their outstanding properties like excellent durability and strength, low maintenance, and environmental resistance (to corrosion and rotting) among other advantages.
The main areas of composite technology application in the marine sector include the racing yachts (require materials with maximum stiffness and minimal weight), subsea wellheads and valves, boat hulls (cored with foam or honeycomb), shafting, poles and boom, masts, keels, and carbon winch drums.
6. The Renewables:
Composite technologies have had a vital role in improving the impact and functionality of renewables in the country through various applications in wind energy, power transmission, and fuel cells. In wind energy, FRPs’ ability to resist corrosion, excellent fatigue strength, durability, light-weight, and minimal maintenance characteristics made them suitable for replacing steel and aluminum. Light-weight FRP application in the blades has seen an increase in the efficiency of the turbines as more power per unit volume can now be produced – the lighter the blades, the easier it is to for the wind to rotate them. Composites can also stand the moist and harsh offshore environments, making them instrumental for offshore wind farms.
FRPs have redefined the handling of electricity because of their high dielectric strength and insulation (natural) characteristics. They are currently used in power transmission towers and distribution cables, poles, and cross-arms.
In the case of fuel cells, composites have gained significant trust for use in the making of fuel tanks, endplates, and bipolar plates among other fuel cell components. This is because of their dimensional stability, corrosion resistance, conductivity, and flame retardancy. Some compounds are being reinforced with carbon-fiber to enhance their functionality.
7. The Defense Industry:
FRP application in the design and manufacture of weapons, naval vessels, military aircraft, and land systems in the defense sector has been a success. These materials are preferred for their amazing properties which have solved most of the problems initially encountered in the sector. The following are some of the common reasons for their applications:
- Impact resistance – some composites have a high strain/failure ratio, making them shatter on impact hence less harmful to the people and property in the surrounding area.
- Monitoring systems can be successfully integrated into the materials.
- Less in field maintenance will be required since the materials are resistant to corrosion.
- They are lightweight hence excellent for vehicle components and for protective clothing.
- The materials can be easily coupled with other materials like ceramics and metals to increase their protected characteristics.
There are several benefits that you can get from composite materials in this technological era both as an individual or as a business. These materials have amazing properties that make them suitable for application in industries like the automotive, aerospace, marine, medical, sport, and defense industries among others. It’s vital to have the right matrix and reinforcement material combination for the best results. You can consult the professionals in your area to help you through the process. All the best in your project!