An Introduction to Composite Materials

You’ve probably heard the term “composite” in any number of situations but when it comes to manufacturing or industrial purposes, you may have asked yourself, “what are composite materials?” In an effort to shy away from the heavy technical terms and definitions, at this point, composites are essentially combinations of components. While this is a very elementary definition of the word, composites themselves are actually extremely advanced and result in materials that are stronger, more efficient or durable as a sum of its parts.

When two or more natural or artificial materials (with different physical and chemical properties) are combined through in-depth processes, a new material is made that is intended to serve a specific purpose. The key to developing composites is choosing materials that won’t lose their desirable qualities when combined but instead contribute the best ones to improve the final product.

There are several types of composite materials that are found throughout a variety of industries today. Some examples include:

  • Concrete- perhaps one of the most common artificial composite made, concrete typically consists of loose stones (aggregate) that is held together with a matrix of cement. Concrete is very strong but due to the physical properties that do not allow it to stretch, steel rods are often used to help resist stretching.
  • Fiber Reinforced Polymers (FRP)- often made by incorporating reinforcing fiber in a polymer matrix. The reinforcing fibers can either be engineered, man-made or naturally occurring like glass, carbon, or aramid. The polymer matrix protects the fibers from environmental and external damage while helping to distribute and transfer the load between fibers.
  • Wood – plywood is the most commonly thought of composite material made from wood. It is made from thin layers (plies) of wood veneer that are glued to other layers of veneers with their wood grains 90 degrees to adjacent layers. Other common wood composites include medium-density fibreboard, particle board, wood plastic composite and pykrete.plywood
  • Shape Memory Polymers- these materials are prized for their (you guessed it) memory of shape. Typically made by combining a fiber or fabric reinforcement with a shape memory polymer resin as the matrix. When heated above their activation temperature, the resins can easily be manipulated into various configurations but when temperatures are lowered, these composites have high strength and stiffness qualities.
  • High Strain Composites- these are another type of high-performance composites that are specially designed to withstand large amounts of deformation. Similar to shape memory polymers, high strain composites get their desirable qualities from the fiber layouts rather than the resin matrix.
  • Sandwich-structured Composites- this is a unique class of composites that are manufactured by attaching two thin but extremely stiff layers to a thick but lightweight core. The need for these types of composites is because of their weight, low density and extreme stiffness. For example, NASA uses these composites for space shuttle panels.

While these are just a very few of the numerous composites that are produced today, it is important to know that even composites, like other materials, can be recycled. If you are unsure of how to prepare your business’s unused materials, call Consolidated Resources, Inc today. We have been serving Arizona’s industrial recycling needs for more than 25 years. Our comprehensive solutions will help make recycling easy and hassle-free.

By |2019-01-30T13:48:01+00:00September 24th, 2018|Blog|

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