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Is the future filled with composites and are you considering joining the party?

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Democratize composites?

Fiber-reinforced plastic, like carbon or glass fiber composites, are hyped to be the material of the future due to the high strength/weight ratio. Indeed, composites have big potential, as the material properties in many ways outperform traditional material like steel or aluminum. However, these composites have been around for quite a lot of years, yet they are still associated with premium products and huge price tags. 

One might wonder why composites have not yet become a more mainstream material and what is needed to democratize composites? 

The hassle of producing composites

Producing components from composites has for many years been a highly manual and labor-intensive job for skilled people. The common process from design to finished product is generally divided into four different aspects: design, layup, infusion, and finishing. 

Once the engineer has finished the design of the component, the next step is to cut plies from dry flat fiber and place them onto a mold with the desired shape. The layup complexity can vary depending on the design and fiber material, and often results in quality variance due to human factors. Once the layup is finished, the dry fibers are bagged and infused with resin, then cured and finished.

For a more detailed description see our earlier blog on manufacturing Advanced Composites: Manufacturing Basics.
Manual layup

On paper, this might not seem like a complex process. However, the time-consuming layup and required skills to ensure consistency is found to be too great of a cost for companies to adopt composites manufacturing. 

So, the future might not be filled with composites or wha