Composites fly high around the world
High strength and low weight remain the winning combination that propels composite materials into new arenas, but other properties are equally important. Composite materials offer good vibrational damping and low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), characteristics that can be engineered for specialized applications. Composites are resistant to fatigue and provide design/fabrication flexibility that can significantly decrease the number of parts needed for specific applications - which translates into a finished product that requires less raw material, fewer joints and fasteners and shorter assembly time. Composites have proven resistance to temperature extremes, corrosion and wear, especially in industrial settings, where these properties do much to reduce product life-cycle costs. These characteristics have propelled composites into wide use. The push for fuel economy in the face of rising oil prices, for example, has made lightweighting a priority in almost every mode of mechanical transportation, from bicycles to large commercial aircraft. As the The Boeing Co.'s (Seattle, Wash.) 787 Dreamliner entered production, composites for the first time took center stage in the aerospace world. As the following will demonstrate, composites - available in increasing diverse material forms and manufacturable by an extensive array of molding and forming processes - have taken or are poised to take the spotlight in manufacturing arenas all over the globe.