Discover the top four benefits of composite materials for lightweight engineering.
Finding ways to produce products cost-effectively is challenging enough as it is. But now, Automotive and Aerospace manufacturers are under increasing pressure to comply with strict environmental regulations to reduce carbon emissions – which is compounded by the need to continually lower costs without sacrificing strength or quality.
One method these companies have employed to combat high costs and high carbon emissions is their use of composite materials in the development of parts and components. Due to their lightweight structure, composites can increase fuel efficiency and hence reduce a vehicle’s carbon footprint.
Composite Material Advantages
But there are additional advantages that using composite materials in design and manufacturing delivers to support cost reduction and boost the integrity of the structure of your parts.
1) Strength-to-weight ratio
Compared to alternative metals such as steel and aluminium, composites are extremely strong and can be engineered to be strong in a specific direction. For example, the high strength of carbon fibres is important for structural components of a vehicle/aircraft such as floor beams, wings and stabilisers. The combination of their high strength and light weight means that composites also have one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of all materials.
This is particularly important when we consider the fact that composites can be engineered to be strong in a particular direction. For example, when a composite part needs to be stronger in a specific direction, materials are required to be thicker which naturally adds weight.
But the advantage with composites is that their light weight means that they can be strong in a specific direction, without being heavy.
Composites can resist damage from moisture and 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 to corrosion.
The advantage here is that this reduces the need for maintenance and repair of parts due to moisture damage etc. which in turn helps to reduce costs.
3) Ability to create complex designs
Composites can 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. And because complex geometries can be achieved, single-part composites can then replace the assembly of a series of unit parts that are developed from alternative materials such as steel, consolidating the assembly process.
4) Thermal conductivity
Composite materials are also poor conductors of heat and electricity, making them very good insulators for parts where insulation is necessary.
However, if thermally conductive parts need to be produced, thermally conductive materials can be developed into the composite part, meaning this property is not lost in the development of composite parts.
So how can you achieve these benefits of composite materials?
The CATIA Composites Design 3 (CPD) is a software solution that helps to produce high-quality composite parts. This solution covers the preliminary, engineering and manufacturing detailed design phases, delivering a powerful composites design solution within a 3D environment.
A great time and cost-saving benefit of CPD is that CPD uses CATIA knowledgeware capabilities during the initial design phase, enabling automatic updates of parts during the engineering design phase. So, if any design changes do occur, you don’t have to begin the design process all over again, saving you time and money.
There you have it. The top four advantages of composite materials are that can help to reduce costs and boost product integrity in the design and manufacturing of parts.
- Strength-to-weight ratio – composites can be extremely strong without being heavy, boosting the structural integrity of parts and overall fuel efficiency
- Durability – composites can withstand damage from various chemicals such as acid rain, reducing the need for repair and maintenance of parts
- Complex design capabilities – composites can be moulded into different complex shapes, which can then replace multi-unit assemblies, consolidating the assembly process
- Thermal conductivity – composites are poor conductors of heat, so can be used for parts where thermal insulation is required.
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