Composite Materials: All About Their Properties, Uses & Types

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Composite materials are an integral part of numerous industries, revolutionizing the way we design and manufacture products. These materials are engineered by combining two main components: a matrix and reinforcing fibers. The matrix, typically a polymer, ceramic, or metal, serves as the binding substance, providing support and transferring loads to the reinforcing phase. Meanwhile, the reinforcing fibers, commonly made of materials like carbon, glass, or aramid, are embedded within the matrix to enhance strength and performance. Essentially, composites are a synergy of materials, leveraging the distinct properties of each component to create a unified structure that surpasses the individual characteristics of its parts. Understanding the relationship between the matrix and fiber is crucial to comprehending the immense potential and diverse applications of composite materials across various fields.

4 Reasons To Choose Composite Materials: A Look into Their Properties

Composite materials have gained substantial acclaim across various industries for their unparalleled characteristics, making them an exceptional choice for diverse applications. Here are several reasons why composite materials stand out:

Strength and Lightness: Composites offer an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, surpassing many traditional materials like steel and aluminum. Their ability to maintain robustness while remaining significantly lighter makes them invaluable in industries where weight reduction is critical without compromising structural integrity.

Durability: These materials exhibit outstanding durability and resilience, capable of withstanding harsh environmental conditions, corrosion, and wear, which extends their lifespan far beyond that of conventional materials. Their resistance to moisture and chemicals further enhances their durability.

Safety: Composites often offer enhanced safety features, particularly in applications where impact resistance is crucial. Their ability to absorb energy makes them ideal for applications ranging from automotive to aerospace, ensuring greater safety in the event of collisions or high-impact scenarios.

Fatigue and Creep Resistance: Composite materials showcase impressive fatigue and creep resistance, meaning they can withstand prolonged stress or repeated loading cycles without significant deterioration. This property makes them highly sought-after in applications where consistent, enduring performance is essential.

Composite materials excel not only in these aspects but also in their optical characteristics, thermal resistance, and specific engineering properties tailored to meet the diverse and stringent demands of modern industries. Their continued evolution and adaptability continue to position composites as a cornerstone in innovation and technological advancements across all kinds of industries and applications.

Common Uses and Applications of Composite Materials

Composite materials, with their exceptional properties, have found widespread use in a myriad of applications, not only confined to specialized industries but also in various everyday products. Their versatility, durability, and diverse characteristics have made them an integral part of numerous sectors, from construction to sports equipment, automotive manufacturing to medical devices.

Some common industries where composites play a pivotal role include:

Aerospace: Utilized in aircraft structures to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency.

Automotive: Employed in car bodies, interior components, and structural elements for enhanced strength and reduced weight.

Marine: Used in boat hulls, masts, and components due to their resistance to corrosion and strength.

Construction: Found in bridges, buildings, and infrastructure for their durability and design flexibility.

Sports Equipment: In products like tennis rackets, golf clubs, and bicycles due to their strength and lightweight nature.

Here at SendCutSend, our customers use our online CNC machining services to cut a huge variety of composite parts in many different available composite materials. Most commonly, we have seen our composite materials used in:

Lightweight Paneling: Our CNC routed ACM is an ideal material for any paneling, framing, or structural reinforcing you may need to do at a low weight

Electronics: Materials like our high quality G10 have superior electrical properties, making it a great material to use in custom circuit boards

Carbon Fiber Components: Such as brackets, plates, and fixtures due to carbon fiber’s high strength-to-weight ratio.

Gaskets and Seals: Cork is a perfect composite material choice for gaskets and seals due to its strength and hydrophobic properties

Each composite has a totally unique set of advantages and disadvantages, lending themselves to vastly different applications. If you’re struggling to pick a composite for your project, check out our article on Choosing the Right Composite Material for Your Project

6 Types and Examples of Composite Materials

Creating a comprehensive view of the world of composite materials involves delving into the diverse and intricate nature of their types, compositions, and applications. There are many different types of composites, with a myriad of combinations when it comes to the materials being used in each composite’s make-up. Let’s take an extensive look at six prominent types of composite materials, emphasizing their compositions, characteristics, and real-world applications.

1. Polymer Matrix Composites (PMCs)

Polymer matrix composites (PMCs) are a broad category of composites characterized by their use of a polymer-based matrix reinforced with fibers. These composites are renowned for their versatility, ease of manufacturing, and cost-effectiveness, making them highly popular across industries. A prime example is G10, which consists of glass fibers embedded in a polymer matrix, often epoxy or polyester. Our waterjet cut G10 is laminated with epoxy. The resulting material is prized for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, resistance to corrosion, and low cost of production. G10 is ubiquitous in the construction industry, where it is used in the production of lightweight, durable structures such as boat hulls, swimming pools, and building facades. G10 is used where durability and strength is of the utmost importance.

2. Metal Matrix Composites (MMCs)

Metal matrix composites (MMCs) are materials that combine metal alloys with reinforcing elements such as ceramics or fibers. These composites are engineered to deliver improved mechanical properties, including enhanced strength, stiffness, and wear resistance. One standout example is aluminum reinforced with polyethylene, commonly known as ACM (Aluminum Composite Material). This composite material is highly sought after in aerospace and automotive industries, where its superior strength and lightweight nature make it ideal for critical components. In aerospace, MMCs are used in components like rocket nozzles and aircraft engine parts, while in the automotive sector, they find applications in brake rotors and engine components. We offer CNC routed ACM in two thicknesses here at SendCutSend (.118” and .236”) with the tightest possible tolerances (only +/- .005”). 

3. Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs)

Ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) are known for their exceptional resistance to high temperatures and extreme hardness. These composites consist of ceramic fibers embedded within a ceramic matrix. An exemplary material in this category is silicon carbide reinforced with silicon carbide fibers, which exhibits remarkable thermal stability and hardness. CMCs are indispensable in the aerospace industry, where they are employed in the manufacturing of components for gas turbine engines, exhaust systems, and leading edges of hypersonic vehicles. Their ability to maintain structural integrity under extreme conditions makes them essential in these applications.

4. Carbon Matrix Composites (CAMCs)

Carbon matrix composites (CAMCs) comprise carbon fibers in a carbon-based matrix. This combination results in materials with extraordinary strength and exceptional lightness. Carbon-carbon composites are prime examples of CAMCs and are known for their high-temperature resistance and low thermal expansion properties. They are extensively used in aerospace structures, including aircraft brakes, nose cones, and heat shields. The unique combination of high strength and heat resistance makes carbon-carbon composites indispensable in applications where safety and reliability are paramount. 

5. Polymer Matrix Composite with Ceramic Matrix

Combining the benefits of polymer matrix composites with ceramic elements results in materials that exhibit high-temperature resistance and superior strength. Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) with a ceramic matrix is a notable illustration of this hybrid approach, and one of the more well-known and recognizable composites available. CFRP is a lightweight, high-strength material used in a wide range of applications, from aerospace components like aircraft fuselages and wings to high-end sporting equipment such as tennis rackets and golf club shafts. The hybrid nature of this composite allows for tailored performance, striking a balance between strength, weight, and thermal resistance. Our high quality, 2×2 twill weave carbon fiber is waterjet cut here at SendCutSend, giving you superior edge quality on all your carbon fiber parts with a lower risk of delamination.

6. Hybrid Composites

Hybrid composites are composite materials that combine two or more different types of fibers or matrices. By doing so, they aim to leverage the strengths of each material, creating a material that excels in multiple aspects. A common example is aramid fibers combined with glass fibers in a polymer matrix, which offers a balance between strength, flexibility, and lightweight construction. These composites are notably used in the production of bulletproof vests, where a blend of aramid and glass fibers provides protection against ballistic threats while ensuring wearability and comfort for the user.

Composite materials encompass a wide variety of types, each tailored to meet specific industrial needs. The examples discussed above illustrate the diversity and adaptability of composites, as well as their critical role in advancing technology, improving efficiency, and enhancing safety across various industries. Whether it’s in the construction of lightweight and durable structures, the development of high-performance aerospace components, or the creation of innovative sporting equipment, composite materials continue to shape the world we live in and drive innovation in engineering and design.

FAQs About Composite Materials 

  • What is A Composite Material?

A composite material is a material that joins two or more unique substances to create a material with enhanced characteristics. Polymers are often used to bind the substances together, although other binding agents are also used. Carbon fiber, fiberglass, and cork are common examples of composite materials.

  • Is Composite Plastic?

Plastics are sometimes used in composites, but not all composites contain plastic. However, polymer is a common binding agent in composites. G10 is an example of a composite which utilizes a polymer (epoxy) to bind its composites together.

Find Your Composite Match at SendCutSend

In the realm of composite materials, the spectrum of possibilities and applications is continually expanding. As industries evolve and technological advancements progress, the significance of these materials becomes increasingly pronounced. 

Whether you’re developing a brand new technology or working on a simple side project or creating a new line of products, we are here to help you make your composite parts a reality. With our commitment to precision and innovation, our composite materials are waterjet cut or CNC routed to your exact specifications with the best possible tolerances. We can accommodate projects of any size thanks to our no minimum order quantity policy, ensuring accessibility and flexibility for both small-scale endeavors and large industrial applications. And our fast, free shipping enables seamless access to high-quality, precisely cut composite parts without the burden of added costs and hidden fees. 

If your waterjet cut composite designs are ready to go, all you have to do now is upload them and get a free, instant pricing today.

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We proudly use hardware by PEM

Flush Standoff, 4-40, .250" Zinc plus Clear Chromate

Aluminum: 5052, 6061, 7075 Steel: Mild, G30

Thread Size4-40 x .250″
Hole size in sheet (+0.003/-.0.000).168″
Minimum sheet thickness0.040″
Maximum sheet thickness.125″
Fastener materialSteel
Minimum distance hole C/L to edge0.230″
When determining the distance between two or more fasteners, you can calculate the distance by the formula, C/L to edge + 1/2 the diameter of the second mounting hole..345″
Recommended panel materialSteel/Aluminum
Coating typeZinc
Aluminum material ranges (5052, 6061, 7075)0.040″-0.125″
Steel material ranges (CRS, HRPO, HR)0.048″-0.119″

We proudly use hardware by PEM

Flush Standoff, 4-40, .250" Passivated

Stainless Steel: 304, 316

Thread Size440
Hole size in sheet (+0.003/-.0.000).166″
Minimum sheet thickness0.04″
Maximum sheet thickness.125″
Fastener material400 Stainless Steel
Minimum distance hole C/L to edge0.230″
When determining the distance between two or more fasteners, you can calculate the distance by the formula, C/L to edge + 1/2 the diameter of the second mounting hole. Example shown with x2 of the same hardware..313″
Recommended panel materialStainless Steel
Coating typePassivated
304 Stainless Steel material ranges0.048″-0.125″
316 Stainless Steel material ranges0.060″-0.125″