Compared to traditional materials such as wood, steel, iron, aluminium and concrete, the composites industry is relatively young. The era of composite manufacturing dates back to the late 1950s, although it was not until the 1990s and early 2000s that the industry really began to mature and develop.
Composites are new, even 'strange' to some engineers, if evangelists can convince their customers to give composites a chance - mainly by replacing traditional materials in existing applications, especially if the application is likely to benefit from the lightweight/strength properties offered by composites - then composites will develop early on.
A good example of this is the golf club, which for decades was made almost entirely of steel or aluminium. 1969 saw the development of the first carbon fibre golf club shaft by Frank Thomas, which gradually became the standard material of choice for golfers around the world. It also sparked the use of carbon fibre in other sporting goods products made from mainly traditional materials. Think tennis rackets, hockey sticks, fishing rods and bicycles.
Even in the aerospace sector, known for its use of composites, growth has been incremental and dependent on the substitution of traditional materials. This has led to the infamous phrase 'black aluminium' - used to describe the practice of replacing aluminium parts with carbon fibre composite parts (black).
In other markets, such as automotive, the use of composites still relies on the incremental substitution of steel and aluminium. With the exception of wind turbine blades, composites have only survived as one of several material options in a wide range of markets and applications.
However, this is all changing. In the last five years we have witnessed the growth and birth of composite applications where composites are not just an option, they are the only option. Not only that, but I think these applications cannot be separated from composites.
Example 1: Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aircraft entering the air taxi market. This is the emerging field. OEMs serving this market are designing and producing all-electric aircraft that require a 100% commitment to vehicle lightweighting to maximise range. Composite materials are the only material choice for the primary structure and rotor blades.
Example 2: Hydrogen storage. The hydrogen economy is rapidly moving to a high-growth model, which is putting pressure on the entire supply chain, particularly the demand for carbon fibre pressure vessels for hydrogen transport and on-board storage. Again, composites are the only material choice here.
Example 3: Wind blades. The use of composites is not new here, but it is important to note that wind blades are the world's largest consumer of carbon fibre (by far). As blades get longer, the demand for carbon fibre will only increase. Once again, composites are the only option here.
In short, composites have moved from being optional to being essential. We need to start thinking this way.
GRECHO, as a supplier of composite materials, offers composite materials including carbon fiber that have been used in many industries. If you are looking for composite materials, please contact us.
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Post time: May-12-2023