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The Wonderful World of Composites

August 29, 2018 Composites 0 Comments

 

The first question you might be asking yourself at this point is – “what exactly is a composite?”

Well, by definition, a composite is a combination of two or more materials or substances that create properties greater than their own separate properties.

 

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Extensive exposed carbon fiber composite on a Pagani Huayra.  Photo by Alex Vongnhay

 

Some examples you say? In all likelihood, you don’t realize the amount of composites that revolve around your world on the daily, even if you aren’t an F1 driver surrounded by a multi-million dollar carbon fiber chassis.  So, what are you surrounded by everyday? Buildings? Homes?  Maybe you live in a mud & straw hut…. a fine example of 2 materials that improve structural properties when slapped together.

Maybe you live in a nice town home, built using wood studs and wood floors – one of the most commonly used composites in the world.  Much of the wood used is man-made, such as Particle Board, or MDF, where they take wood chips, shavings or dust and use a sort of resin to bond it together.

Or maybe you feel like driving across the city, crossing over those decomposing 50 year old bridges.  You know, the ones built using steel re-bar, and concrete.  Imagine a bridge built using purely concrete, and watching it crumble to bits the first time an 18-wheeler tries to make a delivery across town.

 

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A plethora of composite use on a Mazda LMP3 chassis.  Photo by Alex Vongnhay

 

The point is, composites have an immense job in keeping our world together, let alone making gearheads go faster around a track or down the drag strip.  You’ve imagined a crumbling bridge, now imagine a Le Mans Prototype, a Formula 1 car, top fuel dragster, or even a monster truck without use of composites…. it doesn’t exist.  Composites in the form of fiberglass, aramid, and carbon fiber began to take over high-tier motorsports in the 80’s and have trickled down to the rest of the world for cars, bikes, boats and aircraft since then.  And the reasoning is simple – composite parts are simply the best way to create a very lightweight, incredibly rigid and robust product.

Though, like everything – there are cons.  The main downside of composites being the production costs – tooling must be manufactured to create a surface to lay the composites into, the reinforcement fabric itself usually has a high value of currency, and the resin matrix can be on par, or even higher in cost than the fabric.

On another note, the pros of composite materials far outweigh the cons.  Largely the most common reasons for composite use, is for its huge weight savings and excellent strength properties.  Furthermore, the ability to manufacture incredibly difficult and complex parts that can be one single piece, sans seams, bonding or fastening is a very likable attribute amongst the world.  Temperature resistance can be phenomenal – we’ve all seen some sort of racecar enter a braking zone with glowing red Carbon-Carbon brake rotors….and then do it for the next 98 laps.

 

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A large amount of composites utilized in this photo.  Photo by Alex Vongnhay

 

So I’m sure by now you have some sort of picture why we’re obsessed with composites here at Spage Sport, and we plan to remain obsessed with them until the world is ruled by composites.  Till then, we’ll keep making things to help y’all find a few more tenths.

 

Alex Vongnhay



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