Composite materials are now widely used in many industries and products including airplanes, sailboats, ski equipment, wind turbines, racecars, and medical equipment. Materials science and engineering continue to evolve with new classes of materials with new properties radically changing engineering and society.
Today, materials scientists work on the atomic scale, studying atomic bonding, bond energy, and bond stiffness to determine the elasticity of materials and their thermodynamic properties. Material scientists look at the structure of atoms and the types of interactions that occur in the material. The atomic structure of materials determines their mechanical properties.
Research and experiments on nanoscale and microscale structures are relatively new, but engineers are now able to manipulate materials and modify them at the nano or micro level. Researchers use X-ray diffraction analysis, transmission electron microscopy, and advanced scanning electron microscopy in state-of-the-art nano-laboratories.
Today, aerospace composites are machined using equipment such as the Becker MillCut TFC which diamond machines glass-filled plastic and carbon fiber materials. Critical to any composite structure is composite failure analysis. The emergence of new materials is changing the incidence and severity of cracks bifurcation that occurs in aerospace skin, for example. As a result, composite materials are improving safety wherever they are used.
The aerospace composites market is expected to grow nearly $6 billion between now and 2021 when it will exceed $32 billion.
Improving Efficiency Using Composites
Researchers from the University of Bath and the University of Plymouth are using stronger composites so that “wings can be constructed to change shape in flight, making better use of flying conditions and drastically improving fuel efficiency. Also, in the renewable energy sector, composites are essential for the manufacture of turbine blades which need to be light, strong, and durable.”
In the following video, CEO Graham Mulholland explains how composite parts are changing aerospace manufacturing.