When and how did composites become all the rage in manufacturing? Our comprehensive story on the subject in the November issue of Smart Manufacturing explains it all—and quotes experts from Airbus, BASF, Barrday, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Today’s composites include glass, carbon and aramid reinforced thermoset and thermoplastic polymer matrix. They have many advantages over metal, but because each type offers different pros and cons, companies like Airbus are “in a continuing process of monitoring and developing the best composite materials and technologies for the benefit of our operators,” Airbus’s José Sanchez Gómez told us.
The use of advanced composites cuts across a great many industries. But we chose to focus on aerospace for this feature because, after more than 100 years of innovation, composites in aerospace now not only touch the lives of the flying public but also come to the aid of those exploring deep space.
Composites now comprise up to half of some aircraft. And a team at Lockheed’s Space Systems Co. recently used them to manufacture the largest composite heat shield ever built. At 16.5 feet in diameter, it will protect the Orion spacecraft during an uncrewed mission set to launch in 2019 and include about three weeks in deep space and reentry temperatures higher than 4500°F.
Why should you care?
Besides the fact that Lockheed Martin is playing a key role in the development of NASA’s plans to send humans to Mars, the company is poised to help take manufacturing to new heights—one being what it calls “pointwise composition control.” As a supplement to our in-depth report, I recommend watching a Lockheed Martin video (tinyurl.com/LM-detail) in which the company explains why you would want to control the material properties of a part used in manufacturing.
Many readers well understand that 3D printing a small UAV with all the electronics embedded in its wings is not dreamy stuff. But Smart Manufacturing is also in the business of educating—both people new to the industries we cover and people busy making their own breakthrough discoveries that do not involve composites or additive manufacturing.
To all three groups, we raise a glass: May other innovators rise to meet you, and may the wind be under your wing.