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Introduction of Composite Materials

The word Composite means consisting of two or more distinct parts. Thus a material having two or more different constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties is termed as Composite Material.

Most of the composites are made of the two materials. One is the matrix or binder. It surrounds and binds together fibers or fragments of the other material, which is called the reinforcement.

By choosing an appropriate combination of matrix and reinforcement material, a new material can be made that exactly meets the requirements of a particular application.

The biggest advantage of modern composite materials is that they are light as well as strong.

Composites also provide design flexibility because many of them can be moulded into complex shapes.

Features of Composite Materials

1. Good Specific Strength: The specific strength is the ratio of strength to unit weight. The composites now developed have specific strength about 40 to 60% more than aluminum( which is one of the lightest metal with high specific strength) .

2. High Corrosion Resistance: Comparing with metals composites have high corrosion resistance, and also are more chemically stable than metals. 3. Long Durability: Life of the composite material is higher than conventional materials. Thats why a trend is now setting; where the conventional materials are replaced by composites.

4) Cost: Cost of the manufacturing a composite material is quite high right now but as the trend of composite material is setting up into industry, the cost is certainly going to economical in near future.

5) High Specific Modulus: Specific modulus may be defined as ratio of Young's Modulus (E) and density (p). The specific modulus is high for composite material which means the rod cross section made of composite material could only be one third of steel of same strength. This reduction in cross sectional area and mass translates to reduced space requirements an lower energy and material costs.

Applications of Composite Materials

1) Automobile Parts: Composites being light weight and having high strength capabilities it improves the performance of the vehicle.

2) Aircrafts: Having high specific strength and lower radar signature, composite materials make around 50% contribution of total aircraft body. Use of composites has known to make aircraft structures 25 % stronger than conventional airframe aluminum but also 20 % lighter.

3) Space & Satellite Applications: Due to low weight and low thermal expansion characteristics of advanced composites, they are be used to significant advantage in space and satellite systems.

4) Defense Industry Applications: Composites are also used for the bulletproof jackets. The performs used for these applications are very tightly wounded and covered with resin so that they can absorb great amount of impact force created by bullet. Composite armors are used in military vehicles to provide bulletproof protection.

Classification Of Composite Materials


Particle-reinforced composites

Fiber-reinforced composites

Structural composites

A. Particle Reinforced Composites

In these composites the particles of various sizes and shapes or flakes are randomly dispersed within the matrix.

Particle Reinforced Composites

Non-metallic particles in nonmetallic matrix

Metallic particles in nonmetallic matrix

Metallic particles in metallic matrix

Non -Metallic particles in metallic matrix

1)Nonmetallic particles in nonmetallic matrix: E.g. Most common example is reinforced concrete where sand and rock are bonded by mix of cement and water that chemically react and harden.

2) Metallic particles in nonmetallic matrix: E.g. metal flakes suspended in paint. Silver flakes suspended in paint can be applied to give good electrical conductivity.

3)Metallic particles in Metallic matrix : E.g. Lead particles in copper alloys and steels to increase machinability; lead (natural lubricant) are used in bearing made of copper alloys.

4)Non-metallic particles in Metallic matrix: Ceramics suspended in metal matrix form cermets. E.g. Uranium oxide particles in stainless steel is used as fuel element and Boron carbide in stainless steel as control rods.

B. Fiber-Reinforced
The arrangement or orientation of the fibers relative to one another, the fiber concentration, and the distribution all have a significant influence on the strength. In situations when stress is applied in many directions, discontinuous fibers which are randomly oriented in the matrix material are used.

E.g. Carbon Fiber

Continuous fiber composites. It contains long continuous fibers as the reinforcing phase which is more efficient from point of view of strength. 1 2

Discontinuous fiber composites.

It contains short fibers. These fibers could be in one direction due to which composite materials has anisotropic property. Or they could be randomly distributed. 3 4

C. Structural Composites
It consists of layers of at least 2 different materials that are bonded together. It combines the best properties of individual materials layers in order to achieve more useful material.

Some types of these are; 1) Bimetals. 2) Clad metals. 3) Laminated glass. 4) Laminated fiber reinforced composites.

1) Bimetals : They are laminates of two different metals with different coefficients of thermal expansion. Under change in temperature, bimetals deflect by a certain amount and so are useful in temperature measuring devices.

2) Clad metals : Cladding of one metal with other is done to obtain the best properties of both. E.g.: 1 High strength aluminum alloys do not resist corrosion and pure Al and some Al alloys are very corrosion resistant. But high strength Al alloys covered with corrosion resistant Al alloy is a composite material which has advantage of both.

3) Laminated glass: Window glass is brittle and is dangerous as it can break into many pieces. The plastic which is very tough, but is flexible and is susceptible to scratching. So, safety glasses are made of plastic called polyvinylbutryal sandwiched between two layers of glass. The glass protects the plastic from scratching and gives it stiffness.

4) Laminated fiber reinforced composites: In this layers of fiber reinforced material are laminated with the fiber directions of each layer oriented in different directions to give different strength and stiffness in various directions. E.g: Aircraft wing panels, tennis rackets.

Manufacturing Of Composites
Following are most widely used methods of manufacturing composites in industry: Vacuum assisted resin transfer molding. (VARTM) Filament Winding. Hand layup.

Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding. (VARTM)

In RTM Process, first the pre-form is placed into the mold cavity as shown & a vacuum cover is placed.
Injection Gate

Pre-Form Placed Inside The Mould Cavity.


the mold is then closed and air is removed using vacuum pump. Then low viscosity resin is injected into the cavity under pressure. Once the liquid resin fills the mold cavity, it cures, during which the resin hardens and forms a firm bond with pre-form.
Injection Gate Air Removed By Vacuum Pump

Mould Gets Filled & Then Gets Cured


After curing, the component is taken out of the mould box.

Finished Component.

It allows one to obtain even very complex neat-shape parts with good surface finish. One of the example is automobile body panels are produced by this method.

General Layout of the VARTM process

Filament Winding
Process is used in the fabrication of tubular composite parts. Fiberglass roving strands are impregnated with a liquid thermosetting resin and wrapped onto a rotating mandrel. E.g. Composite pipes.

Hand Layup
Its a lowest-cost and most common process. First mould is waxed and sprayed with gel coat & cured with heating process (120C). Then resin with finely chopped fiberglass pieces is poured into this mould.

Hence we can conclude that, 1) Composite materials find wide applications as they have high strength to weight ratio. 2) They can be easily optimized as per application. 3) Composite materials are rapidly replacing conventional materials while providing the same strength but reduced weight.