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Composite materials or composites are materials made from two or more constituent
materials having significantly different physical or chemical properties, that when combined,
produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components. The
individual components remain separate and distinct within the finished structure. The new
material may be stronger, lighter or less expensive when compared to traditional material. It
is man made.
The two distinct phases of composite materials are.
Reinforcement phase (e.g., Fibres)
Binder phase (e.g., compliant matrix)
Interface is the distinct region that separates the reinforcements and the matrix. It plays
significant role in controlling the properties of the composites. Sometimes it can give
synergistic properties to the composites.
If the composite contains one type or kind of reinforcement it is called as mono-composite
and if it contains more than one type or kind of reinforcements it is called hybrid
Examples of naturally occurring composites
Wood: Cellulose Fibres bound by lignin matrix
Bone: Stiff mineral Fibres in a soft organic matrix permeated with holes filled with
liquids. Collagen fiber in apatite matrix
Granite: Granular composite of quartz, feldspar, and mica
Based on Matrix
Polymeric Matrix Composites [PMCs]
Metal Matrix Composites [MMCs]
Ceramic Matrix Composites [CMCs]
Carbon matrix composites commonly referred to

as carbon-carbon

Based on method of Reinforcing Plastics:

The classification of composites shown in figure, based on the
reinforcement is as follows:
Particle reinforced composites
Fibre Reinforced Composites
Discontinuous or Short Fibre /Flake/Whiskers reinforced Composites
Sandwich Composites
Reinforcements in composites can be fibers, fabrics, particulates or whiskers.

Particulate Composites are composed of particles distributed or embedded in a matrix

body. The particles may be flakes or in powder form. The length to diameter ratio in particles
do not 2-3 range. They also do not have preferred orientation in structure or properties.
Whisker Composites contain also come under particulate composite category. However,
whiskers are Single crystals grown with nearly zero defects and they are usually
discontinuous and short fibers of different cross sections. Typical length of the whisker is in 3
to 55 N.M. ranges. They also have preferred orientation and structure. They have a definite
length to width ratio greater than one. Whiskers can have extraordinary strengths upto 7000
MPa .
Nano Composites are new class of composites contain nano size reinforcements can offer
exotic properties with much lower percentage of reinforcements.

Single Layer
Fibre Reinforced

Multi layer

Angle Ply Laminate

[/-//-] 0
or 90.
Cross Ply Laminate



Laminar Composites are composed of layers of materials held together by matrix.

Sandwich structures fall under this category.
Fibre reinforced Composite Materials:
Fiber Reinforced Composite materials consists of Fibres of high strength and modulus
embedded in or bonded to a matrix with distinct interfaces between them. The length of the
fiber is such that any further increase in length does not further increase, the elastic modulus of the
composite, the composite is considered to be continuous fiber reinforced. On the other hand a
composite is considered to be a discontinuous fiber or short fiber composite if its properties vary

with fiber length. Fibers are small in diameter and when pushed axially, they bend easily although
they have very good tensile properties. These fibers must be supported to keep individual fibers
from bending and buckling.

Constituents of FRP (Fiber reinforced polymer) Composite Materials

Major constituents are:

a) Fiber
b) Matrix
c) Fillers
d) Coupling agents
e) Coatings
Fibers are circular of nearly circular and have structural orientation in the longitudinal
direction. Fibers are most popular and demanded reinforcements in the advanced composites
because of their high strength and flexibility in handling. The synthetic fibers normally have
few micrometers in diameters, have preferred orientation and shape and have smaller
diameter and length compared to fibers.
The high strength comes due to the direct effect of size effects. Smaller the diameter, lower
the probability of having the imperfections or defects in the material. Besides, the orientation
of the bond in the longitudinal direction makes them stronger and stiffer. During application,
the high aspect ratio (length/diameter, l/d) allows very large fraction of the applied load to be
transferred via matrix to the stiff and stronger fiber
The high modulus associated with the high flexibility helps in shaping of components.

The flexibility of fiber increases with the decrease in the diameter of the fiber

However, the cost of the fiber increases with the decrease in the diameter of the fiber.

Different methods available for spinning of the fibers are wet spinning, Dry spinning,
melt spinning and dry jet wet spinning.

Role of fibre:
In a composite material, the fibre material serves the following functions:

Principal load carrying member.

Main constituent and occupy largest volume fraction.

The diameter of a fiber will be around 10m.

Commercially available Fibres are of various types such as glass, carbon and kevlar

Fibres may be of Continuous or Discontinuos (chopped lengths) in lengths


The importance of matrix material cannot be underestimated as it provides

support for the fibers and assists the fibers in carrying the loads. It also provides
stability to the composite material. In PMC, resin matrix system acts as a binding
agent in a structural component in which the fibers are embedded. In PMC, when too
much resin is used, the resin rich part is more susceptible to cracking due to lack of
fibers support. On the other hand if there is too little resin, the part becomes weaker
because of void areas and the fibers are not held together and they are not well
Selection criteria for Matrix materials:

Considerations in the choice of the matrix include potential reinforcement/matrix

reactions, either during processing or in service, which might result in degraded
composite performance; thermal stresses due to thermal expansion mismatch between
the reinforcements and the matrix; and the influence of matrix fatigue behavior on the
cyclic response of the composite.

The behavior of composites under cyclic loading conditions is an area requiring

special consideration.

In composites intended for use at elevated temperatures, an additional consideration is

the difference in melting temperatures between the matrix and the reinforcements.

A large melting temperature difference may result in matrix creep while the
reinforcements remain elastic, even at temperatures approaching the matrix melting
point. However, creep in both the matrix and reinforcement must be considered when
there is a small melting point difference in the composite.

The matrix must have a mechanical strength commensurate with that of the
reinforcement i.e. both should be compatible. Thus, if a high strength fibre is used as
the reinforcement, there is no point using a low strength matrix, which will not
transmit stresses efficiently to the reinforcement.

The matrix must stand up to the service conditions, viz., temperature, humidity,
exposure to ultra-violet environment, exposure to chemical atmosphere, abrasion by
dust particles, etc.

The matrix must be easy to use in the selected fabrication process.

Smoke requirements.

Life expectancy.

The resultant composite should be cost effective.

Role of Matrix materials:

In a composite material, the matrix material serves the following functions:

Holds the fibers together.

Keeps fiber in desired location and orientation.

Protects fiber from environmental damages due to elevated temperatures and


Distributes the loads evenly between fibers so that all fibers are subjected to the same
amount of strain.

Enhances transverse properties of a laminate.

Improves impact and fracture resistance of a component.

Helps to avoid propagation of crack growth through the fibers by providing alternate
failure path along the interface between the fibers and the matrix.

Carry inter-laminar shear.

Matrix material may be

a) Metal matrix
b) Polymeric matrix
c) Ceramic matrix
Properties of Matrix:
The needs or desired properties of the matrix which are important for a composite structure
are as follows:

Reduced moisture absorption.

Low shrinkage.

Low coefficient of thermal expansion.

Good flow characteristics so that it penetrates the fiber bundles completely and
eliminates voids during the compacting/curing process.

Reasonable strength, modulus and elongation (elongation should be greater than


Must be elastic to transfer load to fibers.

Strength at elevated temperature (depending on application).

Low temperature capability (depending on application).

Excellent chemical resistance (depending on application).

hould be easily processable into the final composite shape.

Dimensional stability (maintains its shape).

Coupling Agents and Coatings:

These are applied on the fiber to improve their wetting with matrix

To promote bonding between the fiber-matrix interface

Protect the fiber from moisture and reactive fluids

Coupling agent used with glass fiber is silanes (Organo functional silicon compound)


To reduce cost

Dimensional Stability

Increase modulus

Reduce mold shrinkage

Control the viscosity

Produce smoother surface

Common filler material Ca Co3

Interface in composite materials:

In fact, the mechanical characteristics of a fiber/resin composite depend primarily on

the mechanical properties of the combined material, the surface of the fiber, and the
nature of the fiber/resin bonding as well as the mode of stress transfer at the interface.

Among the many factors that govern the characteristics of composites involving a
fibrous material, such as carbon, glass, or ceramic, and a macromolecular matrix, it is
certain that the adhesion between fiber and matrix plays a predominant part.

The stress transfer at the interface requires an efficient coupling between fiber and
matrix. It is important to optimize the interfacial bonding since a direct linkage
between fiber and matrix gives rise to a rigid, low impact resistance material.

Terminologies Involved in Composites:

Lamina or Ply incorporation of fiber into a thin layer of matrix [ 0.1 1 mm thick]
Thus a lamina (laminae) is any arrangement of unidirectional or woven Fibres in a
matrix. Usually this arrangement is flat, although it may be curved, as in a shell.

Laminate obtained by stacking a number of thin layer of Fibres and matrix (Ply) for
desired thickness.
Thus a laminate is a stack of lamina arranged with their main reinforcement in
at least two different directions.

Strand Commercial form of fiber, produced by gathering number of filaments

(10m) 204 or more

Roving a group of untwisted parallel strands wound in cylindrical forming

YARN a collection of long continuous and interlocked fibers.

Tows - The yarns for carbon-fiber fabrics are called tows.



Spectra -

General Characteristics of Composites:

Composite materials offer low density, the strengthweight ratios and modulus weight
ratios and they are markedly superior to those of metallic materials. In addition, fatigue
strength as well as fatigue damage tolerance of many composite laminates are excellent. For
these reasons, fiber reinforced polymers have emerged as a major class of structural materials
and are either used or being considered for use as substitution for metals in many weightcritical components in aerospace, automotive, and other industries.
i) Substitution for Metals due to
Low Specific Gravity

High Strength to Weight ratio

High Modulus to Weight ratio

Aniosotropic in nature

ii) Properties depend strongly on direction of measurement (directional dependent)

For example, the tensile strength and modulus of a unidirectionally oriented fiberreinforced polymer are maximum when these properties are measured in the longitudinal
direction of fibers. At any other angle of measurement, these properties are lower. The
minimum value is observed when they are measured in the transverse direction of fibers, that
is, at 90 to the longitudinal direction. Similar angular dependence is observed for other
mechanical and thermal properties, such as impact strength, coefficient of thermal expansion
(CTE), and thermal conductivity. Bi- or multidirectional reinforcement yields a more
balanced set of properties.
iii) Greater design flexibility
The non- isotropic nature of a fiber -reinforced composite material creates a
unique opportunity to tailor its property according to the need for example selectively
reinforcing to attain maximum stress, increased stiffness in a preferred direct ion,
fabri cate curved panels without any secondary forming operation, or produce
structures with zero coefficients of thermal expansion.
iv) Heterogeneous nature provides mechanism for high energy absorption comparable to
yielding. Therefore composite exhibit gradual deterioration
v) Coefficient of thermal expansion are lower than metals therefore exhibits higher
dimensional stability over a wide range of temperature
vi) High internal damping resulting in reduced noise and vibration
vii) Non corroding behavior
Applications of Composites:


and Dynamic frequency tailoring]
Carbon Fibres and Kevlar 49 used in wing, fuselage and empennage components
Fiber reinforced epoxies are used in rotor blades for military and commercial
helicopters [Manufacturing flexibility]
Kevlar 49 or S-glass fibre reinforced epoxies used in filament wound
motor cases
Because of its Lighter, stronger, temperature resistance, smart structures, wear resistance
characteristics composites is widely used in aerospace industries for
Boron fiber reinforced Aluminium tubes for mid fuselage trusss structure
Aluminum honey comb in combination with Carbon fiber reinforced epoxy face
sheets for pay load bay door
Carbon fiber reinforced epoxy tube for manipulator arm, Artificial satellites
Kevlar 49 Fiber reinforced epoxy pressure vessels

Because of its Lighter, stronger, wear resistance, rustfree, aesthetics characteristics
composites is widely used in automotive industries for
Car body, Brake pads, Drive shafts, Fuel tanks, Hoods, Spoilers and especially EGlass Fiber is used to Replace Leaf Spring
SPORTING GOODS [ Better damping and to store elastic energy]
Because of its Lighter, stronger, toughness, better aesthetics, higher damping properties
characteristics composites is widely used as sporting goods for Tennis, Bicycles, Badminton,
Boats, Hockey, Golfing, Motorcycles. For example, in tennis racket Carbon or Boron fiber
reinforced epoxies as Skin material and Urethane foam as core material leads to weight
reduction as well as greater stiffness.
Boat hull, deck, bulk head ,frames etc
Total Hip replacement- It is the most common artificial joint in humans.
Metal is the most popular material for Hip replacement but has stress shielding
problem. Proposed composites as an alternate for Hip replacement
Polyether-imide reinforced with glass and carbon Fibres.
Polysulfone reinforced with carbon Fibres

High strength and stiffness

Low weight ratio
Improved Fatigue resistance
Excellent Vibration damping
Resistance to wear
Resistance to corrosion
Improved Electrical conductivity
Improved Thermal conductivity
Excellent Behavior at extreme temps.
Improves Acoustical insulation

Material can be designed in addition to the structure

Can manufacture structures and eliminate joints

Limitations of Composites:

Like all things in nature, composites materials have their limitations as well. Some of the
important ones are:
Anisotropy: A large number of composites have direction dependent material
properties. This makes them more difficult to understand and analyse.
Nonhomogenous: Further, these materials by definition are not homogenous. Hence
their material properties vary from pointtopoint. This factor as well makes them
difficult to model, and analyze.
Costly: Composite materials are in general expensive. Thus, they are used only in
applications where their benefits outweigh their costs.
Difficult to fabricate: Further, fabricating structures from such materials is difficult,
time taking, and expensive.
Sensitivity to temperature: Laminated composites are particularly sensitive to
temperature changes. They come in with residual thermal stresses, because they get
fabricated at high temperatures, and then cooled. Such a process locks in thermal
stresses into the structure.
Moisture effects: Laminated composites are also sensitive to moisture, and their

performance varies significantly when exposed to moisture for long periods of time
Composites are more brittle than wrought metals and thus are more easily damaged.
Transverse properties may be weak.
Matrix is weak, therefore, low toughness.
Reuse and disposal may be difficult.
Difficult to attach.
Repair introduces new problems, for the following reasons:
o Materials require refrigerated transport and storage and have limited shelf life.
o Hot curing is necessary in many cases requiring special tooling.
o Hot or cold curing takes time.

Types of Fibre

Glass Fibre

Carbon Fibre

Graphite Fibre

Aramid Fibre

Boron Fibre

Ceramic Fibre

Glass Fibre are most commonly used Fibres. They come in two forms:
Continuous Fibres
Discontinuous or staple Fibres
Chemically, glass is sillicon dioxide (SiO2).
Types of Glass Fibre:
E-Glass E stands for electrical

S-Glass S stands for high silica content

High thermal expansion coefficient
High fatigue strength
C-Glass C stands for Corrosion
Used in Chemical applications
Storage tanks
R-Glass R stands for Rigid
Structural applications
D-Glass D stands for Dielectric
Low dielectric constants
A-Glass A Stands for appearance
To improve surface appearance
For ornamental works
E-CR Glass E-CR stands for Electrical and corrosion resistance
AR Glass AR stands for Alkali resistance

The types of glass fiber most commonly used are mainly E-glass (alumino-borosilicate glass with
less than 1% w/w alkali oxides, mainly used for glass-reinforced plastics, FRP), A-glass (alkali-lime
glass with little or no boron oxide), E-CR-glass (alumino-lime silicate with less than 1% w/w alkali
oxides, has high acid resistance), C-glass (alkali-lime glass with high boron oxide content, used for
example for glass staple fibers), D-glass (borosilicate glass with low dielectric constant), R-glass
(alumino silicate glass without MgO and CaO with high mechanical requirements), and S-glass
(alumino silicate glass without CaO but with high MgO content with high tensile strength.

Glass Fibres used for structural applications are EGlass, and SGlass. Eglass is produced
in much larger volumes than Sglass. It is commonly suitable for polymer matrix.
Principal advantages:
Low Cost
High tensile strength
High chemical resistance
Excellent insulating property
Low Modulus
High specific gravity (relatively)
Sensitive to abrasion( due to handling)
Low fatigue resistance and high hardness leads to wear
Poor adhesion to specific polymer matrix materials
Poor adhesion in humid environments
Glass Fibres are coated with chemicals to enhance their adhesion properties. These
chemicals are known as coupling agents.
Many of coupling agents are silane compounds

Manufacturing of Glass fibre:

Raw materials (sand, limestone, alumina) are mixed and melted in a furnace at
approximately 1260 C. Molten glass then Either flows directly into a fiberdrawing
facility. This process is known as directmelt process. Most of fiber glass in the
world is produced this way or gets formed into marbles. These marbles are later fused,
and drawn into fibers. For producing continuous fibers, the molten glass is extruded to
the bushing to be formed into fiber. In the direct melt process, the molten glass in the
furnace goes directly to the bushing for formation. The bushing plate is the most
important part of the machinery for making the fiber. This is a small metal furnace
containing nozzles for the fiber to be formed through. It is almost always made of platinum
alloyed with rhodium for durability. Platinum is used because the glass melt has a natural
affinity for wetting it.

When bushings were first used they were 100% platinum, and the glass wetted the
bushing so easily that it ran under the plate after exiting the nozzle and accumulated
on the underside. Also, due to its cost and the tendency to wear, the platinum was
alloyed with rhodium. In the direct melt process, the bushing serves as a collector for
the molten glass.
It is heated slightly to keep the glass at the correct temperature for fiber formation. In
the marble melt process, the bushing acts more like a furnace as it melts more of the
material. Bushings are the major expense in fiber glass production. The nozzle design is also
critical. The number of nozzles ranges from 200 to 4000 in multiples of 200. The important
part of the nozzle in continuous filament manufacture is the thickness of its walls in the exit
region. It was found that inserting a counter bore here reduced wetting.

Today, the nozzles are designed to have a minimum thickness at the exit. As glass
flows through the nozzle, it forms a drop which is suspended from the end.
As it falls, it leaves a thread attached by the meniscus to the nozzle as long as the
viscosity is in the correct range for fiber formation. The smaller the annular ring of the
nozzle and the thinner the wall at exit, the faster the drop will form and fall away, and
the lower its tendency to wet the vertical part of the nozzle. The surface tension of the
glass is what influences the formation of the meniscus. For E-glass it should be
around 400 mN/m.
The attenuation (drawing) speed is important in the nozzle design. Although slowing
this speed down can make coarser fiber, it is uneconomic to run at speeds for which
the nozzles were not designed.
In the continuous filament process, after the fiber is drawn, a size is applied.
This size helps protect the fiber as it is wound onto a bobbin. The particular size
applied relates to end-use.
While some sizes are processing aids, others make the fiber have an affinity for a
certain resin, if the fiber is to be used in a composite.
Size is usually added at 0.52.0% by weight. Winding then takes place at around 1000
For staple fiber production, there are a number of ways to manufacture the fiber.
The glass can be blown or blasted with heat or steam after exiting the formation
Usually these fibers are made into some sort of mat. The most common process used
is the rotary process. Here, the glass enters a rotating spinner, and due to centrifugal
force is thrown out horizontally.
The air jets push it down vertically, and binder is applied. Then the mat is vacuumed
to a screen and the binder is cured in the oven.

These fibers are quenched through a light spray of water. Subsequently, fibers are
coated with protective and lubricating agents.


High tensile strength to weight ratio

High tensile modulus to weight ratio (due to graphitic form of carbon)

Low cost

Low specific gravity

Low thermal coefficient of expansion (Dimensionally stable)


Low impact resistance

High electrical conductivity

Carbon Fiber 93 to 95 % of Carbon

Graphite Fiber - > 99 % of Carbon
A precursor material, which is rich in carbon, is subjected to pyrolysis to extract its carbon
Pyrolysis Thermo chemical decomposition of organic material when it is subjected to
elevated temperatures, but no oxygen. Through such a process, the precursor organic
material breaks down into gases, liquids, and a solid residue which is rich in carbon.
Precursor Material used for manufacture of carbon fibre are:
o Polyacrylonitrile (PAN)
o Pitch: It is a viscous substance produced by plants, and also extracted from
o Rayon: It is regenerated cellulose fiber produced from naturally occurring polymers.
A good precursor material should have following characteristics.
o Sufficient strength and handling properties so that it can hold together fibers during
carbon fiber production process.
o Should not melt during production process.
o Should not be completely volatile, as it will drastically reduce yield of carbon fiber.
o Carbon atoms should selfalign in graphite structure during pyrolysis, as this will
enhance fibers mechanical properties.
o Inexpensive
PAN precursor material is initially spun into fiber form.
These precursor fibers are then stretched through application of tensile load.
During stretching, they are also subjected to high temperatures (200 240 C), for
approximately 24 hours in an oxidizing atmosphere. This process is called stabilization.
These stabilized fibers are next subjected to pyrolysis at 1500 C in inert atmosphere. This
process is called carbonization. During this process, most of noncarbon elements are
driven out of PAN fibers.
Next, these fibers are graphitized by heating them at 3000 C in inert environment. This
improves tensile modulus of fibers as graphite crystals develop in carbon.

Characteristics of Carbon Fibre:

PAN based carbon fibers:
Low cost
Reasonable mechanical properties
Very popular in aircraft, missile and space applications
Pitchbased carbon fibers
Higher stiffness
Higher thermal conductivity: This makes them particularly useful in thermal
management systems and satellite structures

Rayonbased carbon fibers:

Not used much in structural applications
Low thermal conductivity: Useful for insulation materials, and heat shields
Used in rocket nozzles, missile reentry nose cones, heat insulators

Kevlar fibre:
Principle Constituents of Kevlar Fibre are C, H2, O2 & Nitrogen

Low Density

High Tensile Strength

Low Cost

High Impact Resistance


Low Compressive properties

Degrades under Sunlight

Two Types of Kevlar fibre are

Kevlar 29

Kevlar 49

The Specific Stiffness of Kevlar 49 is high when compared with Kevlar 29.Kevlar 29
is used in bullet proof vests, ropes and cables. Kevlar 49 is used in Aircraft Industry
Characteristics of Kevlar Fibre

Though tensile stress strain curve is linear fiber fracture is preceded by fragmentation,
splintering and even localized drawing.

In bending Kevlar 49 fiber exhibit yielding on compression side. This noncatastrophic failure leads to damage tolerance against impact or dynamic loading.

Use temperature recommended is 160 c

Chemical resistance is good.

Sensitive to ultra violet (add fillers to reduce)

Prolong direct exposure to sunlight causes to dis- coloration and loss in tensile
strength ( problem is less in laminates)

Hygroscopic and can absorb 6% moisture, however has less effect

Low thermal conductivity and high damping coefficient


High tensile Modulus

Resistance to buckling

High cost therefore restricted application.


By chemical vapor deposition of Boron on heated substrate [Tungsten or carbon


Tungsten wire(0.0127 in dia) is pulled through a reaction chamber[

2Bcl3+3H2=2B+6Hcl] in which boron is deposited on its surface at 1100-1300c

Fiber diameter is controlled by pulling speed or deposition temperature.


Silicon carbide and aluminum oxide fibers are examples of ceramic fibers

Best suited for Metal and Ceramic matrix

High temperature application

Monofilaments that are produced by Sic on a 25 m dia carbon filament substrate (

coated with pyrolitic graphite for smoothening the surface

Incorporation of Fibre into matrix:

Finished Structure

Ready to mold sheets

Ready to mold fiber reinforced polymer sheets are available in two forms


Sheet Molding Compounds

Prepregs are thin sheets of fibers impregnated with predetermined amounts of
uniformly distributed polymeric matrix
Qualities of prepeg:

Width of prepregs sheets vary between 25 mm to 457mm

Sheets wider than 47 mm are Broad goods

Thickness range from 0.13 0.25 mm

Resin content is between 30 45 % by weight

Normal Shelf life 6 8 days at 23 deg c

When stored at 18 deg C it can prolong upto 6 months

Manufacturing of prepeg

Schematic diagram for the PREPEG manufacturing


Chopped glass fiber added to polyester resin mixture

Schematic diagram for the SMCs manufacturing

Different manufacturing process has been used for different matrix and fiber
combination. Usually manufacturing processes are divided into 4 major types according to
the composites manufactured
Polymeric Matrix Composites (PMC)
Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC)

Metal Matrix Composites(MMC)

Carbon-Carbon Composites (C/C)

Manufacturing of Polymeric Matrix Composites:

Thermoset composites are fabricated either using wetformingprocesses, or
processes which used premixes or prepregs. In wetforming processes, resin in fluid state is
used, while forming thefinal product. The resin gets cured in the product while the resin is
wet.This curing may be aided by application of external heat and pressure.
Typical wetforming processes include:
Hand layup
Bag molding
Compression Molding
Filament winding
RTM (resin transfer molding)
Hand LayUp: This method is also known as contactlayup. It is the oldest,most commonly
used, and the simplest method for fabrication of thermoset composites.
This method is appropriate for low volume production, and when capital costs need to be

This method is frequently used to fabricate boats, ducts, pools, furniture, shells and sheets
(corrugated or flat).
This method essentially requires a flat surface (for making sheets), or a mold and cavity for
providing shape to the final product. The molding tool may be made from metals, plastics,
wood, or some other appropriate material.

Fibers and resin premixed with curing agent are

manually placed against
the molding surface.
The placement of fibers and resin can happen in two
ways. These are:
While fabricating composite products with long fibers, reinforcing
fibers (in form of mats
or fabric)are placed layerbylayer over the surface, to ensure
appropriate stacking
sequence, as well as requisite thickness of the final product. Once a
particular layer of
fiber is placed, it is coated with a layer of resin either through a spray
gun, or through a

brush. Care is taken to ensure that resin is devoid of air bubbles, as it

is applied to
reinforcing fibers. For this, serrated rollers may be used, which help
remove air bubbles,
as well as ensure increased wetting of fibers. This manual method of
layup may also be
used for short fiber composites.
While fabricating composites with short fibers, resin and chopped
fibers are placed
simultaneously on the molding surface. Quite often, the deposition
of this fiberresin
mix is conducted using a sprayup process. Here, a spray gun with
two nozzles is used.
While one nozzle is used to feed chopped fibers onto the molding
surface, the second
nozzle feeds a mix of resin and hardener simultaneously.

In either of these processes, quite often, the composite

product is covered
with a thin layer of randomly oriented fibers, known as
surfacing mat. This
layer provides a better surface finish to the product,
and may also protect
inside of composite against corrosion, if surface mats
fibers are corrosion
In many cases, especially for large sized products, the
mold has only one
part (either the cavity or the male part). In such cases,
the process is
called open molding.

Schematic diagram for Hand Layup process

Schematic diagram for Spray Layup process

Advantage of Hand Layup Process

Appropriate for large and products with contoured surfaces

Requires limited capital expenses
Setup costs, and production lead time are less.
Does not require highly trained and skilled personnel
Flexible in terms of accommodating changes in design
Complex feature can be fabricated through used of moldedin inserts.

Limitations of Hand Layup Process

Inappropriate for large volume production

Labor intensive
Requires long cure time, as material hardens at room temperature
Quality control is difficult as many processes are highly dependent on manual skills
Products produced through open molding process yield on one good molding surface.
The other surface is rough and coarse in surface finish.
Wastage of materials may be high.
Producttoproduct variations in quality may be high.

Bag molding process

It is most extensively used for composite manufacturing using prepregs. Almost a standard
procedure in Aerospace industry.
Flat cleaned Aluminum plate is used as a tool
Free coat and non-porous Teflon are added on the surface of the Al plate for easy removal of
A layer of bleeder paper and porous Teflon are then added.
Prepregs are cut into desired size and shape, and stacked with the required orientation, one
above another
Then a porous Teflon and a few layers of bleeder papers are placed on the top of prepregs
The complete lay up is then covered with the Teflon-coated glass fabric separator, a caul
plate and then with a thin heat resistant vacuum bag.
Vacuum ports are installed near the Al tool
The bag is closed around the periphery and sealed.
The entire assembly is placed inside an autoclave where both the pressure and temperature
can be applied.
Once the curing is complete, the assembly is demolded and the panel is extracted.

The first stage in the in the cure cycle consists of increasing the temperature up to

130 C.

Dwelling at this temperature for nearly 60 min.

During this temperature dwell, an external pressure is applied on the prepreg stack.

It causes the excess resin to flow out in to the sleeder papers.

At the end of the temperature dwell, the autoclave temperature is increases.

The cure temperature and pressure are maintained for 2 hour or more.

The flow of excess resin from the prepreg is extremely important in reducing the void
content in the cured laminate.

The maximum temperature inside the lay-up depends on,

Maximum cure temperature.

The heating rate.

Initial lay-up thickness

Resin flow depends on,

The maximum pressure

Lay-up thickness

Heating rate.

Pressure application rate.

Compression Molding Process:

It is mostly used for transforming sheet molding compounds (SMC) into finish products.

Complex shapes or parts can be fabricated at a faster rate using this process

As a whole , this is a simple process

It allows the possibility of eliminating a number secondary finishing operations.

It begins with the placement of a precut.

Usually a stack of several rectangular plies called the charge.

The ply dimensions are selected to cover 60 70%.

The top half of the mold is lowered at a constant rate until the pressure on the charge
increases to a pressure level.

Increasing the pressure, the SMC material in the mold starts to flow and fill the cavity.

The molding pressure very from 1.4 to 34.5 MPa.

The mold temperature is in the range of 130 1600C.

After a reasonable degree of cure is achieved under pressure, the mold is opened and the
part is removed.

During molding, a complex heat transfer and phenomenon takes place in the cavity.


Pultrusion is a fabrication process used for composites, which is similar to

the conventional process of extrusion. In this process:

Pultrusion is a continuous molding process for producing long, straight structural members
of constant cross section.

Pultruded Products are solid rods, hollow tubes, flat sheets, and various types of beams,
including angles, channels, hat-sectioned and wide-flanged beams.

The major constituent in a pultruded product is longitudinally oriented continuous strand


The total fiber content in a pultruded member may be as high as 70% by weight.

Continuous strand rovings and mats are pulled from one end of the line into a resin path.

Resin path contains liquid resin, curing agent, and other ingredients.

Thermoplastic polyester surfacing veil are added to improve the surface finish

The fiber resin stream is then pulled through a series of preformer where fiber bundle are
evenly distributed through mechanical means. The preformer brings the fiber bundles into
the final form

The stream then enters on to a long pre-heated die. Final shaping and curing takes place in
the die

Once the stream leaves the die, it is cooled and cut into desired length.

The ratio of continuous strand rovings to mats or woven rovings determines its mechanical

Entrance of die is water cooled to prevent pre-mature gelling.

Infrared heating used to speed the curing process.

Die temperature, Die length, and pulling speed are controlled to allow the resin to cure

The most important factor controlling the mechanical performance of a pultruded member
is the fiber wet-out.

Filament winding is a very popular g y p p method to produce composite parts which are axi
symmetric. Composite pipes, tubes, tanks, cylinders, domes, spheres are fabricated using filament
winding technique.
In a filament winding , a band of continuous resin-impregnated rovings is wrapped around a
rotating foam mandrel and cured to produce axisymmetric hollow parts

Care is taken, that there is sufficient tension in fiber so that the winding remains taut

on the mandrel.
Also used to manufacture prepreg sheets

A hollow steel mold was used to prepare the foam mandrel.

Non-silicone wax release agent, Chem trend mold release wax, and Frekote were used for
easy removal of foam mandrel

The two components of liquid foam were mixed together and the mixture was then poured
into the mold container through the pour hole

The mandrel is grooved using the winding machine as a lathe. The grooves are cut at 00 and
600 to a certain depth depending on the size of the desired ribs.

Once the grooves are machined it is filled with prepreg tapes using the same winding
machine in a 600 fashion

After grooves are filled, the skin of the cylinder is wound at 00 orientation

Then the whole setup is vacuum bagged with Teflon, bleeder cloth and finally the bagging

The setup is then kept inside an autoclave for curing. The temperature was maintained at a
constant value (350o F) for 6 hours to achieve complete cure

After cure, the foam can be removed by hydroblast

Applications: automotive drive shaft, helicopter blades, oxygen tanks, pressure vessels,
conical rocket motor cases

Filament winding process has specific advantages and limitations. These are listed below.

Easily prone to automation and thus amenable to high production volumes.

High strength products are produced due to fine and continual control of fiber angle.

Various sizes can be produced using this method.

Directional control of modulus and strength is feasible.


Winding at angles when fiber is almost parallel to axis of symmetry is difficult.

Reverse curvature parts cannot be produced easily.

Complex shapes, particularly parts with twodirectional curvatures are difficult to produce.

External surface finish is not always high.


Metal matrix composites require embedding of reinforcing fibers into a metallic matrix. This
requires either melting the matrix material, or hot pressing matrix into fibers. In either case,
high temperature are required to produce these specialty composites.

A direct consequence of application of high temperatures is increased reactivity between

specific fibermatrix combinations. For instance, glass fibers react with aluminum at high
temperatures. Such a reactivity may lead to degradation of composites properties.

Further, metal matrix composites are frequently used at elevated temperatures. Under
those conditions the specific matrixfiber combinations may react leading to reduction of

materials performance. Thus, appropriate methods have been devised to manage such
For nonreactive fibermatrix systems, molten matrix material is simply poured to impregnate the
However, in case of reactive fibermatrix systems, fibers are individually coated with matrix
material, by drawing them rapidly through molten metal, such that there is very little time for fiber
matrix reactions to occur. These coated fibers are subsequently hotpressed to form composite
In other cases, fibers are precoated with a nonreactive material, and only them immersed in the
matrix material bath. For instance, nickel is used to coat graphite fibers, before the fibers are
immersed in aluminum matrix.
In another method, matrix material is alloyed with substances that reduce the matrix melting
point, and thus composites processing temperature. Reduction in processing temperature
significantly reduces rate of reactionbetween fiber and matrix. For instance, addition of 12% silicon
to aluminum, reduces its melting point from 660C to 580C.
Plasma spraying is one more method used to minimize reactions between fibers and matrix. Here,
fibers, supported on a be s a d at e e, be s, suppo ted o thin foil, are exposed to spray of matrix
material. Such a process produces a think tape of metalmatrix composite. This tape is porous, easy
to deform, and amenable to hotpressing for production of final product. In this method, metal spray
cools very rapidly, thereby reducing the time for fibermatrix reactions to occur.
In still other cases, solid matrix, in sheet or powder form, is hot pressed onto fibers. Such an
approach works only for fibers with large diameters (e.g. boron). The process requires tight control
of temperature and pressure to ensure minimal mechanical damage and chemical interaction. Such
a process is used to produce tapes, which have matrix sheets on either side of fibers. These tapes
may be subsequently used to produce final components.
Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is another method, through which metal matrix composites are


Ceramic matrix composites: These composites are fabricated using a 2stage process.
First, fibers are coated with green matrix material. This is accomplished by passing a filament
tow through a bath of slurry which contains matrix powder, an organic binding agent, and a liquid
medium. The fiber tow, post infiltration of the slurry is wound on a drum, and dried.
Next, the tow is cut, stacked, and laid as per design requirements. At this stage, it is either hot
pressed, or fired at temperatures exceed 1200 C. Exposure to high temperatures ensures rapid
diffusion and compaction of the composite.
Care is taken, while fabricating ceramic matrix composites, to minimize porosity. For this, it is
ensured that matrix powder particles are smaller than fiber diameter, as this ensures increased
removal of binding agents during the firing process.