Spreading the word on composites
By Barry Copping
Posted 3 August 2012
PRW looks at the latest on biocomposites, innovative metal/polymer design, and boosting the UK’s skills profile in composites.
Composites consisting of bio-derived resins combined with natural flax fibre are a hot topic these days. Their mechanical and thermal properties are promising, not only because their disposal can be environmental friendly, but also because of the intrinsic performance of the flax. For example, natural flax fibres have been found to have strength and fire-resistance properties comparable to those of glass fibre, with 10-30% less weight.
There are limitations in processing technologies and moulded part performance for these materials, but these are being addressed with support from the European Union under the Biocomp project. The jury is still out on biocomposites’ diffusion, permeation and corrosion behaviour under water-contact and humid conditions. But this hasn’t stopped them scoring a hit with the snowboarding community in a collaboration between Canadian company Magine Snowboards and Skis and Composites Evolution of Chesterfield. The dynamic performance of a biocomposite snowboard was so good that a tester didn’t want to hand it back.
Metal/polymer composite construction has hit the spot for a very different project, inboard fuel tanks for Aston Martin Racing’s competition cars. “Money no object” is seldom a valid costing assumption these days, and the aluminium sheet/expanded polypropylene combination scores through costing considerably less than carbon fibre, being more cost-effective than a honeycomb configuration, and capable of secure and easy assembly in a difficult, confined space.
Expertise on all types of composite for all sorts of applications cannot be taken for granted if the UK composites industry is to thrive. The Composites Skills Alliance has got off to a flying start in devising and implementing a range of general awareness and hands-on skills courses, earning plaudits in the process as a model of co-operation between industry and academe.
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