Engineering composite materials consist of two or more materials that have significantly different properties. The constituent parts are a matrix and a reinforcement. Choice of the optimum combination is essential for effective product design.
The principle load carrying reinforcement for high performance composites is a fibre-based material: typically carbon, glass, aramid or natural fibres such as flax, hemp and sisal. Initially, thousands of these fibre filaments are bundled together and have no defined shape. The bundles of fibres are often woven into multi-directional fabrics or aligned as unidirectional sheets.
Connecting the fibres together and enabling the loads to be distributed through a shear mechanism is the matrix. Most engineered composites use a polymer resin as the matrix to bind together the reinforcement material. There are two principle categories of polymer matrix: thermoplastic or thermoset. Thermoplastics soften or flow with increased temperature. Thermosets are usually liquid until being irreversibly cured to their rigid form generally through heat or the addition of a catalyst hardener.
When combined with resin and cured, the newly formed composite can have properties exceeding those of steel at a fifth of the density.
Engenuity can help you tailor selection of the reinforcement, matrix and manufacturing process to meet specific requirements. For example, the use of locally placed specialist fibres can dramatically improve the strength and durability of a structure with negligible effect on mass. In addition, careful selection of materials can facilitate optimum heat, chemical resistance or fatigue resistance or be used to achieve ultimate stiffness.