Introduction to Composites
Composites are materials formed from a mixture of two or more components to produce a material with properties or characteristics superior to those of the individual materials.
Most composites are formed of two phases: Matrix and Reinforcement. The matrix is a continuous phase material which is usually less stiff and weaker than the reinforcement. It is used to hold the reinforcement together and distribute the load among the reinforcements. Reinforcements in the form of fibers, fabric, whiskers, or particulates are embedded in the matrix to produce the composite. They are discontinuous, usually stronger and stiffer than the matrix and provide the primary load-carrying capability of the composite.
The shape of the finished part is dependent on a mold, die or other tooling that controls the geometry of the composite during processing. Composites may be thought of as advanced materials, but they mimic the features of living organisms that have existed for millions of years such as the microstructures of wood and bioceramics like mollusk shells.
The fibers and matrix of advanced composites may be combined using a variety of fabrication processes, with the choice depending on the desired alignment of fibers, the number of parts to be produced, the size and complexity of the parts, and so on. Perhaps best known for their use in aerospace applications, advanced composites are also used by the automotive, biomedical, and sporting goods markets.
All of these developments mean a larger and more complicated materials-choice menu. This diversity has made plastics applicable to a broad range of consumer, industrial, automotive, and aerospace products. It has also made the job of selecting the best materials from such a huge array of candidates quite challenging.
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