Composite Materials Features

Find in depth design and production features about composites. Our editors bring you a host of the latest thinking, innovation, materials views and opinions about new and exotic composites, how to design to get the most from them, and new methods to manufacture them as cost effectively as possible.

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Is the automotive industry about to give up on advanced materials?

The automotive industry is on the cusp of some drastic changes. According to a recent report by analyst IHS Markit, changes in personal transportation over the next 20 years will be more profound than anything experienced over the past century. The signs are clear as electric vehicle (EV) production increases, ‘mobility-as-a-service’ – such as ride-hailing app Uber – continue to disrupt and autonomous vehicles (AVs) begin to emerge.  Read More


Rail engineers are using advanced materials to improve operational efficiency

The buzz around metal replacement and lightweighting has become synonymous with automotive developments, with carmakers now spending millions to strip out excess kilos. The ultimate driver is, of course, efficiency and the push to meet impending EU tailpipe emission limits of 95g of CO2 per km across a manufacturer’s fleet. It is, and continues to be, a mammoth challenge.  Read More


Finding a suitable alternative material can be a daunting step into the unknown

For every engineer, specifying a new material for a product – especially if the product’s already in production – can be a daunting task. There is a worry of the unknown, that phone call to tell you about unforeseen production problems, or even worse, of a potential product recall. For that reason, material selection can be, somewhat, of a conservative process that’s slow going and largely driven by pragmatism. This is no truer than in the medical sector where a justifiably stringent amount of regulation restricts many materials and outlines all kinds of tests and requirements beyond simply strength or density, for example.  Read More


Composite to replace aluminium in gearbox housing design

When it comes to electric vehicles, keeping weight down is paramount in ensuring long range. In addition to the bodywork, drive components such as the housings, typically used in double reduction gearboxes, are of interest in terms of materials substitution and metal replacement.  Read More


Recycling carbon fibre

The recycling of carbon fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRPs) not only makes sense from environmental and economic perspectives, it could also be key in increasing the penetration of these lightweight but expensive materials in high-volume markets such as automotive.   Read More


Carbon fibre replacing metals and polymers as material of choice in medical applications

If you dig a little deeper into composite material application, you’ll soon uncover a hugely diverse range of less obvious uses in equipment for patient treatment and diagnosis, sometimes even beneath the skin of the patients themselves.  Read More


Will Ford's composites move finally crack the automotive industry's throughput dilemma?

Carbon fibre is making a slow but seemingly inevitable move into the automotive industry. But can engineers crack the throughput difficulties that have dogged uptake? James Bakewell reports.  Read More


Getting the right balance between innovation and commercialisation

Maintaining a creative culture whilst ensuring commercial success is an ongoing dilemma for many engineering and materials firms. So how can inventions be used more effectively to exploit commercial advantage and open up new opportunities?  Read More


UK vies to become carbon fibre hub as supply chain initiative begins

As Europe's automotive industry grapples to lightweight structures and meet impending emission regulations, manufacturers are still reluctant to use carbon fibre composites. So, can a recent UK project bridge the divide? James Bakewell finds out.  Read More


Dyson’s air purifier engineers fresh air like filtering water

The average pair of human lungs breathes 10L of air every minute. Air quality has an immediate effect on well-being and exposure to poor air quality can have lasting implications to health. A recent EU review estimates 50,000 Britons are dying prematurely each year from diseases caused by air pollutants, and six million working days are lost from air pollution-related illnesses. Among the most damaging pollutants are fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. These tiny particles are suspended in the atmosphere and when inhaled, can cling to the lining of the lungs and cause respiratory illness and other lasting health issues.  Read More


Low cost carbon fibre breakthrough

While its properties might be considered premium, so too is the price tag associated with carbon fibre production and processing, making the lightweight material out of reach of the mass market. James Bakewell finds out if this is about to change?  Read More


Getting the ‘wonder’ material Graphene to market

As much as Engineering Materials encourage the use of different materials, using the right material for the right application is rarely as straightforward as it sounds. And what happens when something better comes along like graphene?  Read More


Is it really feasible to engineer materials that will self-repair?

Fibre-reinforced plastics are rapidly becoming the materials of choice for applications where both high mechanical performance and low weight are required. Boeing and Airbus have used these materials extensively in the latest generations of their aircraft, and carmakers – most notably BMW – are working feverishly to find affordable ways of getting them into their vehicles.  Read More


The lightest solid on Earth

It is so light, it’s said that this material can balance on a Dandelion without even deforming the individual seed heads. Engineering Materials finds out more about this modern day marvel.   Read More


Carbyne: twice the strength of Graphene?

The weird and wonderful world of nano-materials is gathering pace with many showing genuine promise. But while graphene has been seen as king, has it now been usurped?   Read More


The secrets of why spider threads stay taut are inspiring the development of bio-inspired composite fibres

Like many before, scientists from the University of Oxford and the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris have taken inspiration from spider webs to create hybrid wire technology. The technique that’s been developed could be used in applications including microfabrication of complex structures, reversible micro-motors and self-tensioned stretchable systems.  Read More


Understanding failure

Joining composite together poses a number of very different issues from traditional materials. In automotive and those more use to working with metals the reliance on welding is no longer a turn to design staple. It is also not possible to drill and tap composite and honeycomb panels so standard fastener can be difficult to use too. And while bonding is also a popular option, it doesn’t bode well later in life for disassembly.  Read More


Process innovation now the focus of the composites industry

The JEC Show in Paris has become the annual must go to event for composite manufacturers. The talk was once all about the possibilities but this year that turned firmly on the practicalities. While the composites industry has always been inextricably linked to lightweight parts, this year’s show was keen to highlight that high volume composite parts aren’t a pipe dream, but a production ready reality.   Read More


Quartz fibre prepreg

To enable the manufacture of an intricately-shaped watch case for prestigious Swiss brand Richard Mille, North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT) has developed a unique thin ply quartz prepreg. The 52g/m2 material made its debut in the exclusive RM 27-02 Rafael Nadal watch first worn by the Spanish tennis player at the French Open in May 2015.  Read More


Staring at a tumour

Additive manufacturing is changing the way many sectors approach product development. However, outside of engineering, it is also being used by surgeons to revolutionise the way they approach major operations.  Read More


Natural fibre composites vs carbon fibres: Engineering lighter cars

A UK funded project is aiming to develop automotive structures using flax fibres and a bio-epoxy resin intermingled with carbon fibres. The project called CARBIO, is developing hybrid composite materials to produce lighter, cheaper, and environmentally sound parts.  Read More


Cheaper carbon fibre: injection moulding thermoplastic and recycled carbon fibre to make BMW clutch pedal

Carbon fibre remains a premium and expensive material, out of reach for most mainstream automotive manufacturers. However, recycling virgin fibres and mixing them with a thermoplastic offers an affordable alternative.  Read More


Composite volume production: lightweight material challenge

While everyone agrees composites could be a good fit for automotive – at least when it comes to lightweighting – producing parts in the volumes needed is an area that continues to challenge.   Read More


The Weighting Game

Automotive researchers and engineers are looking for ways to knock the fat off nearly every part of a vehicle in their efforts to achieve higher fuel economy.  Read More


Ceramic composites eye applications

The development of silicon carbide matrix composites is giving rise to host of initial applications in the aerospace industry and beyond. For example, General Electric (GE) is to ‘mass-produce’ ceramic matrix composites (CMC), following an announcement that the company will build two CMC factories in Alabama at a cost of $200million.  Read More

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