What You Need to Know About Advanced Composite Products

What You Need to Know About Advanced Composite Products

What are advanced composite products?

Before we can dive into what advanced composite products are, we first need to define a composite. A composite is a multiphase material, artificially made to obtain a certain set of properties not provided by the original constituent materials. That being said, advanced composite products are materials made from a layering of fiber layers used in applications where strength, stiffness, and lightweight properties are desired. Carbon, glass, or aramid fibers are layered onto a mold and then injected with a resin matrix to hold the fibers together. They are then cured by heat or chemical reaction to form the finished product. 

Examples of advanced composite materials

Advanced composite materials are used in a variety of industries, including the aerospace, automotive, and construction industries, where the products made are highly visible. Looking at the aerospace industry in particular, advanced composite materials are extremely important in the construction of aircraft structures like wings, fuselages, and aircraft components including landing gear and engine nacelles. Being strong, durable, and lightweight, is key to how well these products function in their usage. 

When are advanced composites used?

Since these materials are known for their high strength-to-weight ratio, they are used in situations where traditional materials like steel or aluminum might be too heavy and hamper functionality. Additionally, a manufacturer’s need for products that have high corrosion and fatigue resistance is important and is another use of advanced composites

What is the difference between a composite and an advanced composite?

A composite is made from a combination of two or more different materials that have significantly different chemical or physical properties. These materials take advantage of the unique properties of the individual material to create one with properties that are superior to those of the constituent parts. An advanced composite, on the other hand, has a high strength-to-weight ratio and is very durable. They are a specialized form of composite material and are used in applications where high strength, high durability, and low weight are required. These are very important characteristics in aerospace engineering and manufacturing, where the highest quality product needs to be made at the lowest cost. 

How to properly design advanced composite product parts?

Advanced composite products should be designed by first understanding the product requirements like performance and functional needs as well as any relevant design constraints. Once these have been identified, designers should brainstorm materials to take into account strength, stiffness, weight, corrosion resistance, and cost. The lay-up or molding process determines the final mechanical properties of the product. They determine the orientation, number, and thickness of each composite layer as well as the specific fiber and resin matrix materials that need to be used. Once additional element analysis to predict product behavior under various load conditions is completed, the product can go into scaled manufacturing.

At the end of the day, it is important to understand that advanced composites are lightweight, strong, and environmentally durable. Additionally, they are excellent insulators and can retain their shape in extreme conditions. Advanced composites like fiberglass have lower signal attenuation to make sure data connectivity is maintained wherever it is needed. Prior to scaled manufacturing and production, designers should brainstorm the ideal combination of materials that will lead to the most optimal usage of the composite products and how they will behave in real conditions under various load levels. 

TIGHITCO has been a leader in aerospace manufacturing for the last half-century. Our NADCAP, ISO, AS9100, and AS9110 certifications are just the tip of the iceberg. The combination of our climate-controlled layup rooms, ovens, laser projector system, non-destructive inspections, and freezer storage in addition to our composite engineering process is unmatched. If you are ready to get started on your next project, don’t hesitate to contact us today. 

 

An Introduction to Composite Materials and Their Benefits

An Introduction to Composite Materials and Their Benefits

What are Composites?

Composites are a combination of two materials with their own distinct chemical and physical properties. These combined components don’t completely blend with each other (as sugar and water would, for instance); rather, they are combined and joined together to create an improved material that can be used for one or more purposes.

What are Composite Materials Made of?

Composites can be made of just about any two materials. Some of the earliest ones include the combination of straw with mud bricks and pottery and combination bows made from wood, bone, cattle tendons, pine resin, and other materials. Plywood, which is still commonly used in construction, is one of the earliest composite materials and is still used in the construction industry to this day.

Natural and Synthetic Composites

Concrete is a common composite ingredient. It can be reinforced with metal rods or glass fiber, bonded with wood fiber, or used to encase optic fibers to create translucent concrete. Wood can also be used in a multitude of composite combinations. Examples include engineered wood, parquetry, and wood-plastic composite.

Bamboo, which is commonly thought of as wood but is actually a type of grass, is yet another natural composite material. It can be mixed with an adhesive or an adhesive and wood to create a type of plywood. It can also be mixed with bamboo to create a bamboo fiber cement composite board.

Are Plastics Composites?

Not all plastics are composites, but many are. Examples include fiberglass, which is a combination of glass fiber and plastic; carbon fiber reinforced polymer, which is made by setting carbon fiber in plastic; and syntactic foams, which are made by filling plastic with microballoons.

Plating on plastic is yet another way this versatile material can be used to create a composite. Some of the many types of plastic that can be plated on include polypropylene, polyetherimide, polyethersulfone, Urea formaldehyde, mineral-reinforced nylon, Teflon, and polyphenylene oxide. Nickel and copper are two common metals bonded with the above-mentioned plastics.

Why Use Composites?

There are many good reasons to use composites. Composite materials are typically stronger, more durable, and more resilient than a single material used on its own. They may also be more resistant to insects, moisture, and elements than single materials. Some types of composites, such as cement-bonded wood fiber, have insulating properties.

Composites are also frequently made to create an eco-friendly end product that does not use resources that are in limited supply or create emissions. This is particularly true of composites made using bamboo.

TIGHITCO has a reputation for creating high-quality, cutting-edge composite materials for leading aerospace firms. We have the resources, expertise, and tools on hand to create custom solutions for a range of businesses and industries. If you need one or more specialized composites or would like to learn more about what we can do for your business, get in touch with our team of experts at your convenience.

5 Advantages of Composite Materials in Aircrafts

5 Advantages of Composite Materials in Aircrafts

The advantages of composite materials over metal during the creation of aircraft are many. For example, as the cost of composites declines, design flexibility continues to improve. As such, year after year, composites are replacing traditional materials (e.g., steel and aluminum). Additionally, fiber-reinforced composites, such as fiberglass and carbon fiber, allow engineers to create new designs. Furthermore, the use of composites in product creation improves the design process and the end product. With these advantages, it is easy to see why the traditional metal materials are being left behind.

 

Advantages of Composite Materials in Aircraft

 

1. Composite Materials Offer Strength

Although the strength of metal is equal in all directions, composites can be designed and then engineered to provide strength in specific directions.

The strength of a composite is determined by the ratio of the resin to the reinforcement material (i.e., the fiber). Since there are numerous resins and reinforcement materials available, formulations can be created to meet any strength requirement.

 

Adding Strength With Reinforcements

Reinforcements help strengthen the resin matrix. Although one type of resin matrix is typically used consistently throughout a composite structure, there are three areas where reinforcements may be added to the laminate.

A synthetic surfacing veil consisting of fiberglass can be used to add strength to the inner surface of a laminate.

The next layer is thicker and consists of chopped fiberglass, which provides hardy backup for the veil layer.

The final layer is the thickest. This structural layer frequently contains fiberglass reinforcements. These reinforcements provide the structural layer with a high glass content (65% reinforcement and 35% resin). This final layer may be created using fabrics, choppable reinforcements or direct draw, single-end rovings.

 

2. Composites Are Lightweight

Strong, lightweight parts are crucial to numerous industries, including transportation, aerospace and infrastructure. Therefore, carbon fiber is a good option for these industries. For comparison purposes, steel weighs 75% more and aluminum weighs about 30% more than carbon fiber does.

 

The Importance of Lightweight Materials in the Transportation Industry

The weight of the materials used to construct transportation vehicles such as automobiles and aircraft determines their fuel efficiency. Heavier materials use more fuel than lighter materials do.

Airplane designers are always concerned about the weight of the aircraft because if it is heavy, besides using more fuel, it is unable to reach the speeds that a lighter aircraft can. Today, some airplanes (e.g., the Boeing 787 Dreamliner) have more parts made of composites than they do metal.

 

3. Composites Are Corrosion Resistant

One of the main functions of the resins used in composites is to protect the fibers that they surround.  Unlike metals, composites can be created that are resistant to chemical-laden environments, temperature fluctuations, as well as other environmental factors (e.g., exposure to UV rays). Isophthalic resins and epoxy vinyl ester resins are the core corrosion-resistant resins used today.

 

Unique composite formulations are created to protect against:

  • Acidic environments.
  • Caustic solutions.
  • High temperatures/Hot environments.
  • Oxidizing chemicals.
  • Alkaline environments.
  • Exposure to UV rays.
  • Water environments.

Isophthalic resins are resistant to chemicals and heat, which is why these resins are frequently used while creating aircraft.

Epoxy vinyl ester resins offer the highest resistance to heat, corrosion and water penetration. Therefore, epoxy vinyl ester resins are commonly used to create corrosion-resistant composites for automobiles, aircraft, pipes, tanks and marine vehicles.

 

4. Epoxy Vinyl Ester and Isophthalic Resins Offer Flexibility

The flexibility of composites is extremely beneficial because it allows materials to be molded into complex shapes. Since composites consist of a blend of resins, additives and reinforcing fibers, they can be customized to meet a range of requirements.

Additionally, these composites can be used to improve aesthetics and add specific properties. Applications for these composites range from vehicle creation to wind blades.

 

5. Composites Are Durable

Composites have high dimensional stability, which is what allows them to maintain their shape regardless of the environmental factors around them. Additionally, composites are resistant to UV radiation and hold up well when stressed.

Furthermore, composite structures require little maintenance and the structures created with composite materials last for a very long time. Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine a composites’ actual lifespan because original structures created 50 years ago are still in use today.

These five advantages of composite materials have resulted in composites becoming the material of choice for numerous applications, including aircraft construction.

To learn more about the composite material options for aerostructures that are available at TIGHITCO, please call our Charleston, South Carolina, office at 843-376-0409 or our Berlin, Connecticut, office at 860-828-0298. For our office addresses, please click here.

 

Three Types of Composite Manufacturing Processes You Need to Know

Three Types of Composite Manufacturing Processes You Need to Know

In today’s market there is a growing demand for robust, durable and lightweight materials. This has many industries turning to composites as an alternative to the materials they have been using.

Fiber-reinforced polymers often face challenges and composite fabrication provides a solution. There are various composite fabrication methods and your decision is dependent on the material, design, and the application of the composite.

Creating with Composites

Composite manufacturing refers to using fiber-reinforced with a resin matrix to create products that are both lightweight and strong. Alongside these impressive physical properties, composites offer great economic benefits and reduced fabrication costs. Excellent strength-to-weight ratios make composites ideal for use in aerospace and related industries. Composites are often used for aerostructures as they are  lightweight, weathertight, rust-resistant and unaffected by chemicals in the environment. With innovative, leading-edge composites, such as carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy, we can design and precisely fabricate complex parts for your aerospace needs.

Top-quality composite manufacturing is found in some of the most advanced satellites, rockets, airplanes and helicopters for commercial or military defense uses. Whether you require a fiberglass composite, an aramid (Kevlar) fabrication or other custom composite parts, we’re ready to help you create products to make your project soar.

Composite Manufacturing Process

There are three types of composite manufacturing processes which include open molding, closed molding, and cast polymer molding. 

Open Molding Processes

This method uses open air curing to create a composite (a resin matrix with fiber reinforcement). Procedures include:

– Wet Hand Lay-up: Wet hand lay-up is done manually with a roller/brush, making it an economical composite fabrication option for aircraft parts, from small components to huge items, such as storage tanks. An experienced technician is key to creating detailed composite parts, with complex shapes that would be more difficult to achieve using a more automated molding method.

– Chopping or Spray-up: Ideal for high-quantity projects, this automated open-molding process uses a specialized chopping gun to chop supporting fibers to size, while air pressure forces resin through the gun. A catalyst is used inside the gun to initiate hardening (curing). The catalyzed resin-fiber mixture is then sprayed onto the mold. Before curing is finished, the material is rolled to remove any voids or bubbles.

– Automated Filament Winding: This is a robotic method for fabricating high-strength, hollow items. Fiber filament (pre-coated with a resin matrix) is twisted around a spinning, cylinder-shaped mold. By adjusting the winding angle, engineers can adjust the performance specs for a specific tensile strength or other desired characteristics. Filament winding can be used to fabricate engine casings, piping and more.

Closed Molding Processes

In this automatic process, resin and fiber harden in a vacuum bag or an enclosed airtight mold. Closed molding is typically used to fabricate high-volume orders of components. Processes include: 

– Vacuum Bag Molding: Here, a vacuum process offers added strength when bonding multiple fiber layers and resin. The result is an efficiently compacted laminate without extra resin or air bubbles that might otherwise appear (if done by hand in open molding).

– VIP – Vacuum Infused Processing: Vacuum pressure pushes resin into laminate to create extremely large, yet low weight and resilient, product components. VIP is an economical process with lower emissions than open molding.

– RTM – Resin Transfer Molding (or Liquid Molding): To create intricate, smooth-surfaced components, this closed-molding injection process forces pressurized resin into a mold pre-loaded with fiber.

– Continuous Compression Molding: Compression molding produces consistently sized and precisely shaped fiberglass components in a quick, automatic cycle. The process involves high temperature pressure curing of the part between two molds. This type of molding is excellent for components with holes, for example, eliminating the need for later machining.

– Pultrusion: Continuous threads of reinforcing fiber are saturated by running them through a tub of resin and high-temperature metal molds to create lengthy, strong rods, shafts, pipes and more.

– RRIM – Reinforced Reaction Injection Molding: RRIM combines glass fiber with multiple independently heated resins, condensed and compacted through injection molding. This fast curing and quick cycling method produces little waste and is typically automated for further efficiency and cost savings.

– Centrifugal Casting: This fabrication method is ideal for large, smooth and hollow components, such as piping. Materials are placed into a revolving cylindrical mold and cured via centrifugal force.

– Continuous Lamination: This fabrication process traps resin and fibers in between two layers of plastic molding, with large rollers creating sheets of material. The product is then heat-cured and cut to the proper dimensions.

Cast Polymer Molding

This process is usually used to produce parts that don’t have fiber reinforcement and require a specific strength requirement depending on its application.

-Gel Coated Cultured Stone Molding: is a specialized polyester resin that provides a cosmetic outer surface on a composite product, this provides weatherability for outdoor products.

-Solid Surface Molding: are solid surface products or densified products, consisting of a cast matrix without a gel-coated surface. 

Aerospace Composite Manufacturing 

For large-scale commercial clients and small, specialized firms, our fully-integrated company offers a seamless flow through all phases of your aerospace, rotorcraft or defense project. Our expert team of engineers work efficiently and quickly, while delivering the high quality composite fabrication that commercial aerospace and defense industries require.