Barriers to overcome
The main barriers to widespread utilisation of composites are:
- High raw material cost
- Labour intensity in low volume production
- Lack of established high volume manufacture
- Lack composites design know how within many organisations
Cost: Fortunately, the commodity price is decreasing and global capacity is expanding rapidly to fulfil demand. New processes are also under development to make composite utilisation more economically viable in the foreseeable future. Cost per kg for composites may be more than their metal alternatives, but the reduced amount of material required partly mitigates this issue.
Labour: Whilst low volume manufacturer is likely to be labour intensive and require skilled laminators, the quality and consistency of the parts produced and the cost of the of associated tooling go some way to reduce the effect. Where the economics require production to be based in the lower cost regions of the world, this can yield highly beneficial costs savings and providing care is taken to select and work the design to fit into the production capability then there is not an implicit reduction in quality or consistency
Mass production: For high volume manufacturer automated production is the most viable route to market. Engenuity have been fortunate to be engaged in high volume projects and offers valuable experience in the use of composite materials in these applications.
Knowledge: Design processes and material information are rarely standardised at present. Many material suppliers suggest they have the “perfect” composite material without truly understanding the intended application. This places additional burdens on design and manufacturing teams trying to achieve the benefits of using these materials. Furthermore, organisations often do not have the experience necessary to integrate these materials confidently into the design of new components. Engenuity can offer expert advice and experience ensuring that the benefits of these composite materials are exploited effectively.