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The importance of composites in Aerospace and Automotive industries

Posted by Geoff Haines on 05-Oct-2017 09:00:00
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Composite materials in aerospace and automotive industriesRaise your hand if you’ve ever sat down and asked yourself ‘what can we do to improve our product quality?’ but struggled to find the most cost-effective way to do this. 

As the complexity of product designs increases, so too does the need to find the right materials and techniques to bring these designs to life. This is where composite materials come into their own. 

Here’s how your organisation can benefit from the use of composite materials and how the aerospace and automotive industries are making strides in the use of composites. 

The benefits of composite materials

Composite materials have been widely adopted across industry sectors. One of the main attractions to composite materials is that they’re extremely lightweight, 30% lighter than aluminium and 25% the weight of steel. This is great for aerospace OEMs looking to boost their fuel efficiency.

The durability of composite materials is also quite impressive. In particular, composites are able to withstand impacts that would normally destroy steel. This strength extends to their ability to resist damage from corrosion from chemicals such as acid rain that would otherwise damage alternative metals. For example, a resin binder system can be used to increase the resistance of the composite part from corrosion.

Composites can also be moulded into a variety of complex shapes, without the need to use high-pressure tools. This is also why composite parts can be made to be stronger in a particular direction and resist bending.

The use of composites in the Aerospace sector

Composites have been used in the production of wing structures, fairings and the fuselage to great effect. One of the major benefits is that it helps to reduce the weight of the aircraft, and thus increases fuel efficiency.

The use of composites materials also pays dividends when it comes to cost savings. As composites are extremely durable i.e. less likely to crack under fatigue, this reduces the need for consistent maintenance and repairs on aircraft.

Composite materials can also be customised to build specific structures within the plane, catering for that structure’s particular purpose. For example, the type of composite materials used in the aircraft nose is likely to differ from the wing structure. The composites used in the wing structure will need to have properties that are able to withstand the lift forces during take-off as well as during turbulence.

Ultimately, composite materials increase the cost-effectiveness of running an aircraft, but also offer OEMs the flexibility to produce aircraft parts that are customised to perform at maximum effectiveness.

The use of composites in the Automotive sector

Composites have been welcomed with open arms in the automotive sector, providing benefits in in cost savings, reduced cycle time and improved efficiency of production.

For example, tooling for composite parts can cost as little as 20% of the cost of tooling for comparable metal parts. The reduced composite investment helps to lower the cost per build, enabling car-makers to achieve better margins.

Composite materials have also been used to boost the fuel efficiency of cars. For example, a component to a car seat can be 20-40% lighter helping to reduce the weight of the car. This is particularly important considering the UK government is cracking down on carbon emissions in the automotive industry.

Overall, composites enable car-makers to enjoy similar cost-saving and fuel efficiency benefits as aerospace manufacturers. 

The use of composite materials in the automotive and aerospace industry is enabling both the aerospace and automotive industries to expand into more environmentally friendly territory, as well as reduce their costs and boost product quality. 

To learn more about how you can improve your manufacturing productivity, download the eBook '5 Ways to boost efficiency in NC Programming and CNC Machining'.

5 ways to boost efficiency for NC Programming and CNC

Topics: ICAM Technologies, Automotive / Motorsport, Aerospace