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Difference with other materials

Advantages of composites

Type of Composites

High Strength Fibers




This page gives general introduction of composites for people and companies who are interested in the possible use of composites for their products, or are first time users and want to know a little bit more (by example: are interested in  solving engineering /product problems with composites materials).

What are composite materials (definition) ?

A combination of two or more materials (reinforcing elements, fillers and composite matrix binder) differing in form or composition on a macro-scale. The constituents retain their identities: that is, they do not dissolve or merge completely into one another although they act in concert. Normally, the components can be physically identified and exhibit an interface between one another. [ref: ASM International, engineered materials handbook volume 1. "Composites"]

History facts / Did you know !

Plywood (invented by the Egyptians, approx. 1500 BC), and reinforced concrete (invented by the Romans , approx. 1000 BC), but also natural fiber reinforced clay (used by Men before iron was invented) are in essence composite materials. And now we (re-)develop new advanced technologies using natural fibers in composites again !


The basic difference of composite materials with by examples metals is that they have a An-Isotropic behavior, which means that the habits of the composite material or formed laminate are directional depended. Metals have in general an Isotropic behavior, which means that their habits are in all directions the same. Some other differences are:

  • End material is formed during production process, in most cases in the end form of the end product.

  • Materials habits are also determined by production/curing process

  • Fibrous composites are more versatile than metals and can be tailored to meet performance needs and complex design requirements.

  • Higher specific strength (material strength/density material). Aramide and Carbon Fiber reinforced epoxies have approx. 4 to 6 times higher spec. tensile strength than steel or aluminum

  • Great fatigue endurance especially for aramide and carbon reinforced epoxies, compared with metals.

  • etc.

ADVANTAGES OF COMPOSITES                             TOP

  • Very high specific strength. Which means very high strength and low weight

  • Great freedom of shape.  Double curved and complex parts can be simple produced.

  • High degree of integration possible. Which means simple integration of stiffeners, inserts, cores, and production of self supporting structures in one or two production cycles.

  • Material can be tailored. Which means fit for the loads / performance the end product has to perform during its lifetime

  • Excellent fatigue endurance concerning number of load cycles (many times higher than with metals) and residual fatigue strength (aramide and carbon epoxy laminates retain more than 60% of their residual static strength, which is far more higher than is possible with metals.)

  • Excellent chemical resistance against acids, chemicals etc.

  • Excellent weather/water resistance. Material has almost no corrosion, takes on little water which leads to low maintenance cost especially on the long run. 

  • Composites have excellent RAM features (Radar absorbing materials). It's also possible to make special laminates which are radar and sonar transparent.

  • Excellent impact habits

  • Excellent electrical habits, concerning isolation but also conduction, dielectric habits, EMS shielding etc. Structures can be tailored on RF transparency but can also be made RF reflecting. Great for telecom especially UMTS frequencies. 

  • Great thermal isolation habits, fire retardancy habits, and high temperature performance

  • etc.

TYPES OF COMPOSITES                                            TOP

The most known type of composites are the fiber reinforced plastics. However there are more types of composites, in which also metals are used !. 

Types of composites are:

  • Fiber reinforced plastics

    • Fiber reinforced thermo set plastics (like polyester, vinlyester, epoxy, BMI/Polyimide, phenol, etc.)

    • Fiber reinforced thermoplastics (like PPS, PEEK, PEI, PAI, etc.)

  • Sandwich structures

    • FRP facings, aluminum facings, steel facings and foam (PUR, PIR, PVC etc.) and/or honeycomb (nomex, aluminum, carbon, etc.) core's 

  • Fiber metal laminates (FML's like ARALL and GLARE)

  • Metal Matrix Composites (MMC's)

  • Glass matrix composites

  • Ceramic Matrix Composites

  • Ceramic Ceramic Composites

  • Carbon Carbon Composites

  • etc.

HIGH STRENGTH FIBERS (most known)                  TOP

  • glass fiber (E-glass, S-glass, C-glass)

  • quartz fiber

  • organic fibers 

    • aramide (Twaron / Kevlar)

    • zylon

    • polyethylene fiber (Dyneema / Spectra)

    • M5 fiber (under development at Magellan) http://www.m5fiber.com/

  • carbon fiber (HT and HM)

  • boron fiber

  • ceramic fibers, alumina, carbide and nitride fibers

MATRICES (most known)                                              TOP

  • Thermo set resins like:

    • polyester (ortho, isothr, bisphenol)

    • vinlyester

    • epoxy

    • phenol

    • BMI and Polyimide

    • etc.

  • Thermoplastics like

    • PPS

    • PEEK

    • PEI 

    • PAI

    • etc.

  • Metals (aluminum, titanium etc.)

  • Glass

  • Ceramics

  • carbonized phenol (carbon/carbon applications)

PRODUCTION METHODS (most known)                   TOP

  • hand lay-up (thermo sets and prepregs)

  • spray up (thermo sets)

  • cold press (thermo sets)

  • GMT and BMT (SMC and BMC)

  • injection molding (thermoplastics)

  • vacuum infusion and vacuum injection (VI-RTM)

  • Resin Transfer Molding (RTM of thermo sets and ceramics, fiber preforms 3D woven and braiding )

  • compression molding (prepregs and thermoplastics, glass, ceramics and metals)

  • pultrusion (thermo set and thermoplastics)

  • filament winding (thermo set, thermoplastics and ceramics)

  • vacuum bagging (prepregs lay-up and cure in oven)

  • autoclave (cure under pressure and high temp, thermoplastic, thermo set, ceramics, MMC's, FML's)

  • etc.



Some Examples

To be included

Graph and diagrams

specific strength
comparison of fiber

table of some
 mechanicals values

reference / links / literature


CTP paper (PDF)
Use of phenol for marine, offshore, building and construction industry

Fire Hard Composites for Architectual Applications

Fire retardant composites for Marine industry