Composites are used in a wide variety of markets, including aerospace, architecture, automotive, energy, infrastructure, marine, military, and sports and recreation. Read about interesting applications of composites in select industries below and check back often as we continue to add new applications to this site.
Major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) such as Airbus and Boeing have shown the potential for large-scale composite applications in aviation, and NASA is continually looking to composites manufacturers for innovative space solutions for rockets and other spacecraft.
Figure 1. The use of composites in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (Source: ResearchGate)
Each generation of new aircraft developed by Boeing has had an increased percentage of composite material, with the highest being 50% in Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The major structural elements of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner are made of more carbon 'sandwich' composites and advanced carbon laminate, a shift away from archaic fiberglass composites.
Aramid fibers, on the other hand, are widely used for constructing leading and trailing edge wing components and very stiff, very light bulkheads, fuel tanks, and floors. Advanced composites consisting of a combination of high-strength stiff fibers embedded in a common matrix material are also widely being used in the aerospace industry (Read more here).
The architecture community is experiencing substantial growth in the understanding and use of composites. Composites offer architects and designers performance and value in large-scale projects and their use is increasing in commercial and residential buildings.
Figure 2. An application of composite materials in architecture. Image Credit: Mighty Buildings
From a recent article, Palari Group builds sustainable 3D-printed communities and homes. Mighty Buildings is a construction technology company creating affordable and sustainable homes using 3D printing, robotics, and automation. The two innovators are partnering to build a community of 3D-printed zero-net energy homes in California.
The essential building block of the homes is the Mighty Panel, a 3D printed, 100% polymer composite panel complete with structure, insulation, MEP integration, air/moisture/fire barrier & interior/exterior finishes. Mighty Buildings prints the individual panels at its facility, and they are assembled into homes at the construction site.
As the largest composites market, the automotive industry is no stranger to composites. In addition to enabling groundbreaking vehicle designs, composites help make vehicles lighter and more fuel-efficient. Automotive requires reliable, synchronized mechanisms with parts that can withstand friction, corrosion, and temperature fluctuations. Inaccuracies in design or production will impact performance and can represent a loss of business for the manufacturer.
When compared to steel, the capabilities of composite materials provide the ability to meet and surpass automotive industry demands. These unique features include:
A low coefficient of thermal expansion for heat conduction
Excellent dimensional stability for shape retention and reliability
Resistance to corrosion for performance in wet and dry conditions
High-impact strength to withstand repeated use
Relatively low weight to reduce overall vehicle mass
Sound baffling for quieter performance
Receptiveness to paint, including the ability to meet Class A surface requirements, the paint, and bake process
Ease of manufacturing for a relatively lower cost