The Future of Composites: Breaking Down the Barrier to Entry

The Future of Composites: Breaking Down the Barrier to Entry

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https://www.rockwestcomposites.com/materials-tools/fabrics-pre-pregs-tow/carbon-fiber-fabric - Rock West Composites will be the first to admit that the best way to promote composite products like carbon fiber is to talk about their high strength, stiffness and ultra-lightweight properties. Just about everyone in manufacturing knows that carbon fiber products have very high specific strength and stiffness. But there is more to it than that.

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Published 09 April 2018
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The Future of Composites: Breaking Down the Barrier to Entry Rock West Composites will be the first to admit that the best way to promote compositeproducts like carbon fiberis to talk about their high strength, stiffness and ultra-lightweight properties. Just about everyone in manufacturing knows that carbon fiber products have very high specific strength and stiffness. But there is more to it than that.
The future of composites relies on developing the products of the future rather than resting on the laurels of the past. While we make our money on complex molded composite parts, as well as carbon fiber tubes and plates, we also know that the future of composites holds the promise of many more applications. It's time our industry started looking toward that future. Making it to the future depends on solving some of the problems we currently face. Those problems include cost and waste. Finding effective solutions to bring down the cost of carbon fiber will widen its viable applications. Likewise, coming up with a way to recycle waste will bring down the cost of manufacturing and fabricating.
Finding New Applications for Composites
It is understood that the high cost ofcarbon fiber manufacturingis one of the key things preventing the auto industry from embracing composites. So what if we could bring down the cost and make recycling viable? We could probably convince car manufacturers to dive into the composite waters head first. If they are able to save money (or dramatically reduce weight at slightly higher cost), then automakers would likely jump at the chance to embrace carbon fiber. It is as simple as that. But let's move a bit further.
Reducing costs and improving recycling would open the door to research into new applications. For example, a number of high-heat applications are out of bounds for standard grade carbon fiber epoxies. This includes duct work in semi-conductor plants, waste treatment facilities, and even commercial painting operations.
High-heat applications require sheets of carbon fiber that are both heat-resistant and not prone to smoking. Such carbon fiber sheets can be produced, but they are very expensive. Bringing down the cost would inevitably lead to a lot more research into high-heat applications.
Another area of interest involves coming up with a manufacturing process that does not rely on manual layups to create complex shapes. Automating the layup process will expand the reach of carbon fiber into a much larger array of products. As the state of current technology stands, large-scale carbon fiber manufacturing is often limited to things like tubes and sheets. If you want anything more complex, you have to takecarbon fiber sheetsor prepregsand build your part with a ŵaŶual laLJup or utilize ͞tape laLJiŶg ŵaĐhiŶes͟ ĐostiŶg ŵillioŶs of dollars.
One huge potential advancement is in heavily in development now. By using thermoplastic resins in place of traditionally higher performing thermoset resins, companies are able to offset the cost of the carbon fiber material by reducing cycle tiŵes ďLJ ŶearlLJ 20dž! More oŶ that iŶ a future post…
Following in the Footsteps of Steel and Aluminum What our industry is currently going through is nothing new. Engineers were faced with similar problems when steel and aluminum were first introduced to industrial manufacturing. They had to come up with ways t o make them more affordable, more flexible, and easier to manufacture on a large scale. Once they solved those fundamental problems, the steel and aluminum floodgates opened. We are thrilled to be able to sell sheets of carbon fiber to fabricators who might use them to create everything from surfboards to skis. We are more than happy to supply customers with carbon tubing that will be used to create bicycles and office furniture. We are proud to have recently added carbon fiber prepregs to our inventory and we are even investigating adding in thermoplastic carbon fiber plates soon. But we understand that the future of composites is so much bigger.
The future of composites will get here in its own good time. Until then, it's fun to imagine what it will be like.