Composite materials

Composite materials are also referred to as composition materials or simply composites. If you have a specific requirement regarding a material you cannot find in its standard version, a composite material is the right choice. The base material is modified to meet your requirements and then combined with other materials. In essence, a composite material should add to the advantages of the structure as a whole.

Composite materials are combinations of two or more material components. A composite material therefore gains additional properties that the individual base products do not have on their own. Ideally, the negative properties of the respective materials are also neutralised in the process. In composite materials, the various components are referred to as the “matrix” and the “reinforcement”.

Classification of composite materials

Whereas alloys and polymers are inseparable compounds of materials, in composite materials the various substances remain individually preserved. However, the structure is usually no longer discernible with the naked eye.

Composite materials are divided into four categories:

  • Fibre-reinforced composites (e.g. a honeycomb made of polypropylene and polycarbonate)
  • Particulate-reinforced composites (e.g. carbide)
  • Multi-layered composites (e.g. DIBOND® and plywood)
  • Penetration composites (also known as contact materials)

Examples of application for composite materials

Formula 1 racing cars provide us with a practical example of the use of composite materials. In this context, the material requirements need to take two aspects into account: the driver’s safety and the speed of the vehicle.
One of the key factors determining speed in the world of motorsports is weight and a particular aspect that contributed to the development of the composite known as carbon. Carbon is a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic, which is used to make the chassis in motorsport applications. This composite is extremely light and highly robust at the same time. It is very difficult to find a single material capable of meeting these two requirements.

Further examples of application for composite materials:

  • Beverage packaging (paper-coated aluminium)
  • Swimming pools (fibre-reinforced composites as an alternative to galvanised steel)
  • Construction (reinforced concrete)

Composite materials are not only required in professional sports but also for certain applications in everyday life. For example, composites are used for making advertising signage. A few decades ago, those signs were still made of wood, which is considerably lighter than metal and can be painted by hand. However, wood is not weatherproof. In addition to that, digital printing has long since replaced painting by hand, making composites the ideal solution.

One of the main reasons for using composite materials is to add to the advantages of the respective composite structure. This not only applies to weight but also to resistance to corrosion and chemicals, electrical and thermal insulation, and many other properties.

DIBOND® composite at materials4me

For this reason, many advertising signs are meanwhile made of DIBOND®. DIBOND® is a highly durable composite made of plastic and aluminium. The plastic core makes the material lighter, giving the composite a key edge over other materials. Furthermore, DIBOND® is an extremely durable product. As the outer shell consists of practically corrosion-free aluminium, the signs can be easily exposed to the weather for years without losing any of their properties. The material’s strength is another major advantage over many plastics, which deform in extreme weather conditions in the course of years.

Many online shops now offer printing processes for DIBOND® not only for industrial purposes but also for private use. Holiday memories and family photos can therefore be printed in high quality as presents, for example.

Advantages and disadvantages of composites

Due to their modification, composites are often more expensive than buying the individual materials, which also applies to carbon. You might be able to complete your project using aluminium, which is also a very light material and a more affordable solution.

Composite materials are also often chosen because of their optics. You should therefore consider whether the visual appearance of the product plays a role in your project. That is another point which may help you save a lot of money. For example, chipboards are cheaper than solid wooden boards.
Apart from optics and costs, various mechanical properties of course are also key factors in your decision, including the weight and strength of the material.

If you wish to find out more about a certain composite material, please send us a message using the comments box or contact via our contact form.