Composite Advantages

Composites have actually been in use for thousands of years. Adobe bricks were made using a composite of mud and straw. It is the combination of the physical properties of each material that gives the composite material many of its physical characteristics.  Today’s advanced composites, like carbon fiber, bring together combined properties we’ve come to know – lightweight, strong, durable and heat-resistant.  Today, the benefits of components and products designed and produced in composite materials – instead of metals, such as aluminum and steel – are well recognized by many industries. Some of the advantages include:

High Strength-to-weight ratioCorrosion Resistance
Wear ResistanceStiffness
Fatigue LifeTemperature-Dependent Behavior
Thermal InsulationThermal Conductivity
Acoustical InsulationLow-Electrical Conductivity
Visual AttractivenessRadio translucent

Weight reduction using composites has created a huge market demand in automotive, industrial, aerospace and other industries.  None is more visible than the commercial airline industry.  Due to the high cost of aviation fuel, aircraft manufacturers are now competing based upon their aircraft’s fuel efficiency.  In recent years, these manufacturers have turned to the use of lightweight composites in their designs without having to compromise strength and durability for almost every component of their aircraft.  The resulting weight reduction that is realized by using composite materials translates into considerable cost savings in terms of fuel.
 
Aircraft
In aircraft design carbon fiber composites, hybrid composites, and composite reinforced plastics are being used in more and more sections of the aircraft, including:

  • Engine Nacelles
  • Seating and Interior Finishes
  • Horizontal and Vertical Stabilizers
  • Rudders
  • Ailerons
  • Floor Beams
  • Elevators
  • Front and Main Landing Gear Doors
  • Wing to Fuselage Fairings
  • Full Fuselage and Wing Assemblies

Composite Resources has played an important role in commercial aircraft design, developing and producing components for the commercial airline seat frame market.
 
Carbon fiber composites and hybrid composites are roughly one-half the weight of aluminum and one-quarter the weight of steel. As noted above, a lightweight composite component makes it more desirable to engineers developing a wide variety of products and parts. The days are long gone when it was considered that the heavier the product the better the quality.

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Durability is a property of composites that is often overlooked. Most who know about composites are aware of the strength and weight advantages. Stock and custom products developed and produced here at Composite Resources are manufactured from a variety of composite and hybrid composite materials. Composites are very versatile – our designers can select from a broad range of resins and fibers to attain the preferred material properties, in terms of strength, durability, and other characteristics.
Carbon fiber composites and hybrid composites have numerous advantages over steel, aluminum, and other metals. When compared to steel and aluminum, composites have superior mechanical properties, including higher specific strength (the strength rating divided by the density factor) and higher specific stiffness (stiffness rating divided by the density factor).
Composite materials deliver greater strength than various grades of aluminum, and equivalent strength to steel. In addition, composites’ strength can be improved, depending on the materials, fiber orientation (bi-directional or unidirectional), and various fiber lay-up angles that are used. Carbon fiber composites (as well as other hybrid composites) with high specific strengths can handle and carry very high loads.
For industrial and recreational projects and components, composites will outperform metals, offering more durability in any sort of harsh and corrosive environment. Composites’ strength and stiffness properties are also superior to aluminum and steel, and can be formed, machined and fabricated into practically any specification required.

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Along with benefits such as outstanding strength, excellent durability, and reduced weight when compared to metals such as steel and aluminum, composites also exhibit superb heat resistance.
When carbon fibers are placed into a resin matrix, producing a composite carbon fiber, one of its characteristics is an acceptable (in terms of heat resistance) Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE). Composites can be specifically designed and produced with practically a zero CTE, which means that when the composite material is heated (or is used in a heated environment), it will not shrink or expand. This characteristic means that composite components will retain their shape and mechanical properties, and continue to function in harsh environments with temperature extremes.
The table below shows the CTE for various composites and other metals. It should be noted that the type of fiber, type of resin system (polymer matrix), orientation, and pattern will result in variable coefficients.  This information should not be used as a final design guideline; it should only be used as a reference for preliminary or conceptual designs.

Carbon Fiber Composite (Commercial Grade) Carbon Fiber Composite (Aerospace Grade) *Mild Steel *Aluminum (6061 T6)
Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (inch/inch/°F) 1 x 10-6 to 2 x 10-6 -1 x 10-6 to 1 x 10-6 7 x 10-6 13 x 10-6

*Erik Oberg, F. D. (1996). Machinery’s Handbook. New York: Industrial Press Inc.  The temperature range (°F) for the values given in the table are from 32°F-400°F.  If you are considering a project using composite materials and are not an experienced composite engineer, please contact us for more information.
 
With a very low CTE, carbon fiber reinforced composites are used in a wide range of high temperature applications, including:

  • Gas Turbine Components
  • High Temperature Gas Filtration Parts
  • High Temperature Furnaces – Heat Insulators, Trays, Structural Components
  • Electronics Component Furnaces – Furnace Parts for the Manufacture of Silicon Semiconductors
  • Spacecraft and Missile Parts
      Composite parts can be developed with outstanding heat resistance – in fact, some aerospace grade composite components can be designed and manufactured to maintain their mechanical properties up to 3000° Centigrade (over 5400° Fahrenheit). For industrial applications, high temperature composite materials are available for operation temperatures up to 500° Fahrenheit.

Composite Resources has the extensive in-house capabilities to design, prototype and manufacture the stock or custom composite part or product that will meet or exceed your heat resistance specifications.

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