Category Archives: Composites

Are You Aware of the Composites All Around You?

When many people hear the term, “composite materials,” their eyes glaze over a bit. But for professionals like us, who create automated equipment for composite extrusions and molding, composites are just another material we see on a daily basis – and not just in the shop. See which common items are now being made with composite materials.

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the highest trafficked areas in a house, so take a good look around and see if you can spot any composites in yours. In addition to natural stone and laminate countertops, solid surface countertops, which is a fancy term for composites, are gaining popularity in the kitchen. Because these countertops can be custom mixed and molded, homeowners have many more color options than they would have with a natural stone. And unlike laminate, the countertop will be seamless. So, are your countertops composite?

In Your Pocket

Wherever you go, you’re likely taking one device with you – your cell phone. It’s your personal assistant, portable note pad, and connection to all the world’s information. And because it’s so important, you probably want to protect it. Composite cell phone cases can put up with just about anything, which is why they’ve become so popular. When’s the last time you saw a naked cell phone? If you can’t remember, you can likely thank those composite cell phone covers.

On the Field

Are you a fan of field hockey? If so, you’re looking at a field full of composites every time you watch a game. Though early hockey stick models were made from wood, modern hockey sticks are made from composite materials. The new sticks are lighter than their wood counterparts and less flexible, which provides players with more power. There are a few different material options including fiberglass, carbon fiber, and aramid fiber (Kevlar), each with its own unique benefits.

On Your Commute

Whether you’re driving to your destination or taking a plane, you’re definitely benefiting from composites somewhere along the journey. Cars are increasingly being made with newer, lighter composite materials to boost efficiency. And aircraft manufacturers are taking note and investing in more material research as well. But more than just the vehicle body, many interior components are already being crafted with this multi-purpose material.

As you look around and take an inventory of everything around you, how many items can you spot that are made of composites? Let us know in the comments, or take a picture and share it with us on Twitter.

Moving to Composites: Why Investing Now Means Future Success

According to Composites Manufacturing Magazine, demand for composites has been steadily growing, with the market growing 6.3% last year and expected annual sales of $12 billion by 2020. As of last year, the top three markets for composite materials were transportation, aerospace, and construction.

Transportation, which includes the automotive industry, should come as no surprise on the list of top growth drivers. Sales of automobiles remain strong in North America as many people are swapping out their older vehicles for more fuel efficient models. In addition to consumer pressure, industry regulations across North America and Europe make it necessary for automakers to increase efficiency and reduce carbon footprints. Composite materials such as fiberglass are becoming increasingly popular in all facets of automotive manufacturing thanks to their strong, lightweight properties.

Much like the automotive industry, the aerospace industry has begun to invest in research of composites to reduce aircraft weight in order to provide better fuel efficiency, thereby bringing costs down while reducing the environmental footprint.

So why do companies need to invest in composites now?

The market is looking stronger than ever. Significant research has been done by industry leaders that have made new composite materials that allow for reduction of capital cost, rapid production and less waste of raw materials – this means composites are becoming much less expensive for manufacturers to adopt. The market is gaining more confidence in the strength and durability of composite materials. The demand for composite materials in 2014 was $21.2 billion overall, with steady growth expected in coming years. Investment in composites now will mean long-term growth in the marketplace.

As an experienced designer and manufacturer of automated systems, including those involved in plastics and composites forming and molding, TCA Technologies is constantly on the lookout for news and trends in the composite material sector. For more industry news on this topic, please feel free to follow TCA Technologies on Twitter.

The Role of Composites in Modern Electronics

Composites in Consumer Electronics

New Materials in Consumer Electronics

As new developments in consumer electronics continue at the speed of light, different materials are being selected to improve functionality. With each generation of mobile devices comes more complex technology housed in a relatively delicate package. Anyone who has dropped a phone without a protective cover knows just how fragile these computing powerhouses really are. And with such a high price tag on replacement devices, it’s no wonder so many products are now on the market to protect them.

Perhaps the most obvious way to protect your mobile devices is by putting them inside a protective case or cover. A downside is that traditional rubberized cases are often bulky, making them difficult to get in and out of a pocket. By incorporating composite materials, manufacturers are able to provide the same level of protection in a slimmer product design. In fact, Urban Armor Gear’s Outland composite iPhone 6 case meets military drop test standards without taking up too much space.

But what if we could build mobile devices that didn’t require any additional protection? Currently, Samsung is leading the charge with carbon-fiber composite housings for smartphones. The materials are already being used in other major industries, including energy, construction, and aerospace. In the consumer electronics space, the carbon-fiber materials will provide an ideal combination of electrical conductivity, increased strength, and reduced weight. And because this is a composite based phone housing, the phone is inherently protected against a fall or impact without needing an extra case.

Composite materials are useful in much more than basic phone housings, however. Currently, a team is using composites to create flexible solar batteries. We’ve all been in a situation where our batteries were running dangerously low without a charging station in sight. Having flexible solar batteries on hand means that as long as there is sunlight, there’s a reliable source of energy available for harvesting. We look forward to seeing more news about this exciting research.

What other uses for composites have you seen in the consumer electronics industry? Let us know on Twitter. We’re always on the look-out for innovations in this fast-changing field.

Plastics Offer New Solutions to Old Problems in Infrastructure

Rusted Pipes, Rusty Pipes, Aging Infrastructure, Old Metal Pipes

Aging Pipes Needing Replacement

By now, you’ve likely read countless stories about bursting pipes wreaking havoc on natural gas infrastructure. These pipes are often more than 50 years old and are made from cast iron or steel, which used to be standard materials though they are subject to corrosion over time. A CBS investigation found that nearly a quarter of gas pipelines in Florida fall into this category of pipes that are more than half a century old and in need of replacement or repair.

To address this aging infrastructure and prevent future failures, many utilities and private companies are replacing cast iron and steel pipes with plastic gas lines. In states like New Jersey that were hit hard by storm surges in recent years, it is especially important to consider factors such as corrosion when selecting new materials. The threat of salt water exposure and pressure changes must be factored into the infrastructure replacement strategy.

Even in states without major flood zones, aging cast iron and steel pipes represent a major problem. More than 20% of Pennsylvania’s gas distribution pipe is older than 50 years, and has exceeded its anticipated lifespan. With gas line replacement plans continuing through the next few decades, most replacement lines will be made of durable plastic.

According to the American Gas Association, as of 2007, plastic natural gas service lines accounted for 63% of those installed in the United States. This is a step in the right direction as we work to improve the durability and cost efficiency of infrastructure throughout North America. The Association has long been collecting data to ensure the safety and effectiveness of materials used in natural gas pipelines, and is satisfied with the results of plastic pipe performance.

As more pipelines are updated with plastic materials, it will be interesting to witness the benefits of the updated systems over time. We look forward to working with manufacturers of plastic and composite piping. TCA Technologies has a wealth of knowledge in the development of processes and machinery systems for the plastics and composites sector. To discuss your project, please contact us online or call 519.824.8711.

New Composite Combinations That Are Gaining Attention

New Auto Materials

New Materials in Automotive Sector

For quite some time, research groups have been looking for ways to reduce the amount of petroleum-based plastics in the supply chain. Recently, automaker Ford took a major step toward achieving that goal by teaming up with Heinz Ketchup. The plan is to use excess tomato fibers from stems, peels, and seeds to create a more sustainable plastic for automotive production. The partnership is already 2-years in the making, but has only been officially announced recently. The research responsible for turning tomato by-products into a durable plastic is still in its early stages, though the public announcement suggests that both parties are optimistic.

This isn’t Ford’s first venture into sustainable material integration; their other applications include the use of coconut-based composite materials, rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets, recycled cotton carpeting and upholstery, soy foam seat cushions, and more.

And the collaboration between Ford and Heinz isn’t the only example of new bio-materials being explored for industrial applications. Researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology recently announced the development of cellulose fibers that are stronger than steel relative to the weight of the material. This material can have potential applications ranging from ultra-strong textiles, to a substitute for the glass component in fiberglass. And because it’s biodegradable and easily renewable, it represents a huge stride in sustainability.

But creating super-strong, sustainable composite materials can only take us so far. If something does manage to crack the composite components, how can the effects be minimized? Researchers from the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology sought to answer this question, and came up with a method for self-healing composite materials. The team designed 3-D vascular networks that contain chemicals that act as a glue when combined. These chemicals are kept separate in the network until a break in the structure occurs, at which point they are released and combine to act as a healing agent. The process is very similar to blood clotting after an injury. After testing the process, the team found that cracks were healed “at nearly 100 percent efficiency.”

While implementation of these advanced materials is years away, composites as a whole have been widespread in numerous industries for quite a while now. To learn more about these materials and their uses in manufacturing, contact the experts at TCA Technologies. We are experienced in creating custom automated assemblies designed to accommodate any material needs.

A Look at What’s to Come in the Composites Manufacturing Industry

airliners,jets,planes,transportation,aerospace manufacturingComposites are the result of two or more materials blending the desired properties of each of the original materials into a completely new product. Over the years, they’ve gained popularity thanks to the endless possibilities of a product that can be strong, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, etc., depending on the resources being used.

In a previous blog, we discussed the benefits of composite materials. Today, we’re looking into what’s new in the industry and what we can expect in the future. At the moment, getting manufacturers educated about this growing manufacturing trend is a major priority. In New York, for example, the Long Island Forum for Technology (LIFT) has been established to encourage local aerospace and defense suppliers to consider swapping out metal parts in favor of plastic composites. Long Island is home to between 400 and 500 aerospace manufacturing companies, a relatively large market for this small area. This represents a great opportunity to promote the benefits of composites in the aerospace manufacturing sector. And thanks to LIFT’s Composite Prototyping Center, the transition will be that much easier.

Another initiative to promote the use of composites in manufacturing is the upcoming “A Winning Edge: the difference is design” event being hosted by Bentley Motors next month. The event will take place at Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe, North West England on April 29th. The main purpose of the event is to foster innovation in the manufacturing supply chain by introducing attendees to lower cost production techniques and materials. Using composites for large-scale transportation vehicle and equipment manufacturing can reduce vehicle weight and fuel consumption, thereby increasing efficiency.

Hopefully, with these new initiatives spreading the word about composites, we’ll see greater adoption in the aerospace and defense, and automotive manufacturing sectors. What other trends are you seeing in composites lately? Let us know by tweeting us!