Composites Are Everywhere
by Drew Vipond on August 26, 2019
Look around you and you will notice that composites are everywhere. When you woke up this morning, you (hopefully) brushed your teeth with a bundle of polyamide fibers. Then you stepped into a fiberglass box, pulled a curtain of polyvinyl chloride, and watched the water drain down a tube made of the same stuff. After, you cooked breakfast in a pan coated in polytetrafluorethylene to prevent sticking. On your morning commute, you can thank polyurethane foam for insulating you from the roar of your car’s engine and the polypropylene bumper for insulating you from the other cars themselves. The device that you’re reading this on is encased in either a polycarbonate or an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene shell. Get the idea?
Composites have become so common, we often take them for granted. That is, if we notice them at all. Composites are quickly becoming the engineers’ medium of choice because they’re stronger, lighter, and more flexible than traditional building materials.
- Composite decks can have up to twice the lifespan of treated wood and won’t rot or produce splinters.
- Aluminum window frames are out, and fiberglass is in! Fiberglass expands & contracts at the same rate as the glass window, preventing leakage and broken windows. Also, fiberglass doesn’t conduct heat the way that aluminum does; lowering your utilities bill.
- Wooden doors are being replaced with composite ones that are better insulated and are so light that they won’t warp or slam.
- Amateur baseball leagues are transitioning to composite bats. Composite bats are lighter, more durable, and have less vibration than aluminum. Professional teams still use wood though; some traditions never die.
- Composites make up over 50% of modern commercial aircraft.
Composites are used every day, and in every industry. This week, take a moment to appreciate all that they have made possible.