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History of composites

Updated: Nov 16, 2021


  1. Ancient Times

  2. Plywood principle

  3. Polymer resins

  4. Importance of bakelite

  5. Fibers made from glass

  6. Modern Day

Ancient Times

One of the earliest uses of composite material was by the ancient Mesopotamians around 3400 B.C. when they glued wood strips at different angles to create plywood. The concept of “composite” building construction has existed since ancient times.

The first known use of composites is credited to the Mesopotamians. These ancient people glued wood strips at different angles to create plywood in 3400 B.C.

Civilizations throughout the world have used basic elements of their surrounding environment to fabricate dwellings, including mud/straw and wood/clay. “Bricks” were and still are made from mud and straw.

The plywood principle

The story of industrial composites is, in part, the story of the industrial revolution. British engineer Samuel Bentham’s 1797 patent for wood laminate – laminating layers of veneer with glue to form a thicker piece – produced an early version of industrial plywood, in a process developed further still by Immanuel Nobel, father of Alfred Nobel. By 1928, standardized plywood sheeting was in use as a general building material. Composites had become a commodity item.

Polymer Resins

In the late 1800s, canoe builders began experimenting with different materials to make paper laminates. They tried gluing layers of kraft paper (sturdy, machine-made paper created from wood pulp) together with shellac. It was a good idea but ultimately flopped because the available materials were not up to the task. The first synthetic (man-made) resins that could be converted from liquid to solid (using a chemical process called polymerization) were developed between 1870 and 1890. These polymer resins are transformed from the liquid state