Composites: The Material of the Future

From coal in the 1800’s to plastic in 1907, materials have shaped our ability to innovate. In recent years, during the late 20th to early 21st century, the use of composite materials has changed the way we engineer everything – from office buildings to airplanes. By the mid-1990’s, composites became widely adopted in mainstream manufacturing and construction, as research continued, it was clear that composites could serve as a cost-effective replacement for traditional materials like steel and engineered thermoplastics. As research grew, so did the use of composites in cross-functional industries like sports, construction, electronics, and transportation. According to market research conducted by Lucintel, in the last 50 years, the United States composites industry has grown by 25%. In comparison, the steel industry has seen a growth of only 1.5 % and the aluminum industry just 3 %.

What are composites?

A “composite” is described as a combination of two or more differing materials to create a stronger, unique material. In recent years the term “composite” has become synonymous with reinforced plastics and carbon fiber.

Benefits of composites:

The most talked about advantage of composites is its lightweight properties. In many industries, including transportation, sporting equipment, and energy; less weight equates to improved efficiency. In transportation, lighter weight materials improve fuel efficiency and speed capabilities. Recently, composites have been used in sporting equipment, allowing for longer drives in golf or faster swings in tennis. In wind energy, the less a blade weighs, the more power a turbine can yield.

Composites have many other befits beside weight savings. Additional benefits include:

  • Non-corrosive
  • Design flexibility
  • Non-conductive
  • Low maintenance

What is the best cutting method for composite materials?

Your choice of cutting method depends on the unique material properties of the composite you choose. Composites of metals and other hard materials are best cut with abrasives, while softer composites are usually cut with less harsh methods like knife cutters. Each process, in combination with a certain material, needs to be tweaked to achieve the desired result. With SigmaNEST for waterjet and knife, you can achieve maximum results in the terms of cutting speed and part quality.

SigmaNEST is committed to helping fabricators stay at the forefront of the industry by not only providing premium software but notifying you of trends that affect your processes. Stay tuned for the month of August as we discuss the future of composites and best practices with the specific applications used to engineer composite materials.

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