The possibilities offered by composite materials are seemingly endless… and yet they are not yet widely used. Discover the possibilities and the barriers to their use. | Agoria

The possibilities offered by composite materials are seemingly endless… and yet they are not yet widely used. Discover the possibilities and the barriers to their use.

Published on 31/08/21 by Kevin Poelmans
Did you know that the same object with the same functionality - or with improved properties – made from composite materials is up to 70% lighter than the steel version? In addition, mechanical properties such as stiffness, for example, can be adapted very locally to the needs of the design. It is something of a common practice to use such materials in the aviation industry since every kilogram counts in the quest for improved fuel efficiency.

However, weight reduction is not important in aviation alone; it is also a major factor in road transport where (electrically driven) vehicles can be made to drive a few kilometres further by reducing the vehicle’s weight, among other things. The fact that composites are more corrosion resistant is an additional advantage in winter conditions. 

The market structure of the automotive sector, however, does not allow for simply replacing steel parts with their composite counterparts on a one-to-one basis due to the inherently higher cost of composite parts. This brings us to the first of the barriers delaying their use: the cost that can or cannot be absorbed within the sector's business model. In order for composite materials to be an acceptable alternative, they must also lead to reducing the assembly time of a car, for example by reducing the number of parts through more complex designs. 

In other sectors, such as the construction sector, the weight (30% lighter than concrete), mechanical properties, long life (corrosion resistance) and low maintenance requirements can be decisive factors in opting for composite materials over the more traditional materials.

This is already happening in structures and buildings today, but is likely to become even more crucial in the future with smart & mega-cities or even floating cities as described by the American Society of Civil Engineering (Home | Future World Vision). The lower weight alone can have a huge impact on the load on the machines during construction. Much larger pieces could also be made "off-side" and brought to the site in one piece, drastically reducing construction time (and cost) as well as reducing the inconvenience to the surrounding area. 

This trend has been around for some time, but composite materials must become better known before being used to their fullest: current norms and standards must be adapted to leave room for innovation, workers must be trained, the supply chain must be scaled up (availability and cost), and so on. Generally speaking, further research is needed into the end-of-life dismantling of composite parts. Fortunately, this does not all have to start from scratch for every application, and it is certainly possible to seek out best practices in various sectors.

Composites learning network
That is why we, Agoria Composites and Sirris, are organising a Composites learning network. During these 4 workshops, the first of which is scheduled for Thursday 23 September 2021, we will try to address a large number of these barriers in group by providing inspiration and knowledge. “What added value can composites bring to your products and how can you incorporate them into your product?”

For more information and the registration link, please visit here
Looking for even more information? In that case, please contact Linde De Vriese (Sirris) or Kevin Poelmans (Agoria).

Plus: Within the framework of the Vlaio project "Industry Partnership", Flemish companies also benefit from a greatly reduced participation fee.

#industriepartnerschap #sterkondernemen

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