In combination with two or more distinct materials, composites offer users a lightweight yet stronger composition to enhance product applications and functionality. Once tested, validated and approved, composite parts can be extremely useful for industrial applications.
Introduction to Composites
The most common man made material used more than any other material is concrete, a highly durable composite. Composites have shifted over the years from natural materials such as wood in combination with plants, to highly advanced and modern materials for industrial applications, such as carbon fiber, providing users with lighter yet stronger structures for different applications.
In order to validate and ensure the structures are according to design requirements and preferences, users have access to advanced nondestructive testing methods for a quick and accurate internal and external structural analysis.
What is a composite material?
Composites are a collaboration of two or more distinct materials, referred to as constituent materials. Constituent materials are classified as a matrix or reinforcement, with a combination of at least one of each in every composite material. The matrix material is the foundation of the part, which surrounds the reinforcement material. Reinforcement material are included to improve properties of the matrix material. The purpose of this collaboration is to develop a material which is different than the individual materials, resulting in superior properties, such as stronger, lighter or in some cases, less expensive material.
Why use composite materials?
The major reason why most manufacturers turn to using composites is because it is lighter while simultaneously strong. Furthermore, the process of collaborating the different constituent materials is very flexible and customizable, allowing users to make the final material so that it meets or exceeds the requirements of a specific application. The stiffness and additional strength composite materials provide, allow users to expand the application of the materials. Often times, additional materials such as additives or fillers can be incorporated to further enhance the material, and application of the final product.
Benefits of composites
Using a material that is lighter than traditional materials and stronger provides many benefits to the user. It expands the application of the part, and provides additional value. Some of the major benefits of using composites include:
- Design flexibility
- Low maintenance
- Customized finish
- Dimensional solidity
Examples of composites
Some common examples of engineered composites for industrial applications include materials such as cement or concrete, for building and construction materials. Furthermore, reinforced plastics are also a very common form of composites, such as fiber-reinforced polymers. Carbon fiber-reinforced polymers or glass fiber-reinforced polymers are also frequently used for manufacturing of lightweight parts. The most common types of matrix include polymer based matrix composites, metal based matrix composites such as titanium or iron, and ceramic based matrix composites.
Applications of composites
Composites are a very versatile, flexible and compromising material which result in a superior final product. Composites are used regularly for industrial applications and can vary by industry. The following is a brief list of examples:
- Aerospace – Carbon fiber applications used in aircraft structures
- Automotive – Glass fiber, ceramic matrix composites for more fuel efficiency and light weight cars
- Machined tools – combination of composites to build stronger, lighter tools with better performance
- Medical Device – various composites based on polymers for flexible design and structure
- Construction – Cement and concrete for building structures
Testing of composites
Since composites are in mixed material form, often it becomes difficult to test and inspect the final product with accuracy. Moreover, developing these materials can become extremely expensive and using traditional testing methods which destroy the component should be avoided. Nondestructive methods such as Digital radiography can be utilized to access a visual inspection of internal composition of the component. For an extensive analysis, Industrial Computed Tomography (CT) scanning can be utilized to provide an encompassing evaluation of the internal and external structures, geometries, functionality of the component as well as highlight areas containing defects or failures.
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