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Why Composites?

What are composites?


By the broadest definition, a composite material is one in which two or more materials that are different
are combined to form a single structure with an identifiable interface. The properties of that new structure
are dependant upon the properties of the constituent materials as well as the properties of the interface.
In the more familiar world of metals, the mixing of different materials typically forms bonds at the atomic
level (alloys), composites typically form molecular bonds in which the original materials retain their identity
and mechanical properties.
Additionally, where metal alloys (steel, copper bronze, etc.) have
isotropic characteristics (the same in all directions), composites can
have very selective directional properties to meet specific application
needs. Thus, composites are typically highly engineered materials
targeted at specific applications.
Note: Throughout this web site, we will frequently refer to "structures" as the larger, purposeful structure
created to meet an application need. Thus we refer to sonar domes, ship hulls, etc. as structures.

History of Composites
One of the earliest known composite materials is adobe brick in which straw (a fibrous material) is
mixed with mud or clay (an adhesive with strong compressive strength). The straw allows the
water in the clay to evaporate and distributes cracks in the clay uniformly, greatly improving the
strength of this early building material. Another form of a composite material is the ubiquitous
construction material we call plywood. Plywood uses natural materials (thin slabs of wood) held
together by a strong adhesive, making the structure stronger than just the wood itself. In nature,
bamboo is often cited as an example of a wood composite structure, combining a cellulose fiber
and lignin, with the lignin providing the adhesive to hold the fibers together. Of course, you
probably drive a car across a composite highway every day. Reinforced concrete is a combination
of two remarkable materials, concrete (a composite by itself) and steel that takes advantage of
the strengths of each material to overcome their individual limitations in each. Steel has very high
tensile strength, while concrete has very high compressive strength. In combination, they make a
superior material for road and bridge construction.
Today, when we speak of composite materials, or just "composites", we are referring to the highly
engineered combinations of polymer resins and reinforcing materials such as glass fibers. A
fiberglass composite structure is a combination of glass fibers of various lengths and resins such
as vinyl ester or polyester. The term FRP is often used, meaning Fiber Reinforced Plastic. FRP is
a very general term for many different combinations of reinforcement materials and bonding
resins. Thus, the term "composites" is used extremely broadly to describe many materials with
many different properties targeted at an even larger number of applications. To show how
composites have changed our world, look no further than under the hood of a modern car and
realize that most of what you can see are components made of composite materials. If the car is
a Corvette, the entire body is made of fiberglass or carbon reinforced composite materials. At
Goodrich Engineered Polymer Products, our similar composite applications are for huge Sonar
Domes for Navy ships and submarines.

Goodrich Corporation began as a maker of rubber products in the 1800's. You may have known
us as the BFGoodrich Tire Company. Tires are a composite of rubber and a reinforcing material
such as steel or nylon. The BFGoodrich tire business and brand were sold to Michelin in the
1980's. The current Goodrich Corporation is a multi-billion dollar aerospace and defense
business. We continue to manufacture modern composite materials throughout our businesses to
serve the demanding needs of our customers. At Goodrichs Engineered Polymer Products (EPP)
division, our specialty is composite materials for marine applications, or just Marine Composites.

Benefits of Composites
Composites offer many advantages over other materials. Within aerospace and marine markets,
where exceptional performance is required but weight is critical, composites continue to grow in
importance. The many advantages of composites may be summarized as:

Stronger and stiffer than metals on a density basis


o For the same strength, lighter than steel by 80% and aluminum by 60%
o Superior stiffness-to-weight ratios
Capable of high continuous operating temperatures
o Up to 250F in many composites
o Up to 2000F with FyreRoc composites, Goodrich's new inorganic resin
Highly corrosion resistant
o Essentially inert in the most corrosive environments
Electrically insulating properties are inherent in most composites (depending on
reinforcement selected).
o Yet composites can be made conducting or selectively conducting as needed.
Tailorable thermal expansion properties
o Can be compounded to closely match surrounding structures to minimize thermal
stresses
Tunable energy management characteristics
o High energy absorption or high energy conductivity at designers choice
o Frequency selective acoustical and electromagnetic energy passage
Exceptional formability
o Composites can be formed into many complex shapes during fabrication, even
providing finished, styled surfaces in the process.
Outstanding durability
o Well-designed composites have exhibited apparent infinite life characteristics,
even in extremely harsh environments
Low investment in fabrication equipment
o The inherent characteristics of composites typically allow production to be
established for a small fraction of the cost that would be required in metallic
fabrication.
Reduced Part Counts
o Parts that were formerly assembled out of several smaller metallic components
can be fabricated into a larger single part. This reduces manufacturing and
assembly labor and time.
Corrosion Resistance
o The non-reactive nature of many resins and reinforcements can be custom
selected to resist degradation by many common materials and in corrosive
environments.
o Benefits include lower maintenance and replacement costs.
Low Observable

Radar works by sending out directional radio waves (electromagnetic radiation)


through the air, then listening for a reflected return from an airplane or other
object. Composites are normally transparent to electromagnetic radiation, but
can be seeded with appropriate materials to absorb such radiation and divert its
energy away from the source. This low observability is called stealth in the
popular press, and is a vitally important capability to our war fighters.
Composite materials can also be used to reduce transmitted mechanical noise
from a ship or submarine to the surrounding water, thus making it more difficult to
detect vessels using acoustic means. This capability is of particular importance in
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)

Composite Applications
Each year, composites find their way into hundreds of new applications, from golf clubs and
tennis rackets to jet skis, aircraft, missiles and spacecraft. Composite materials offer designers an
increasing array of as a material and system solution. At the same time, composite cost trends
are highly favorable, especially when the total cost of fabrication is considered. Processes such
as pultrusion offer the means to convert composite materials into finished products in a single trip
through the machinery. Composite sheet molding compounds allow the formation of complete
automobile skin panels in a single stroke of a press.
At Goodrich, composites are used in numerous aerospace and marine applications where weight
reduction is the primary driver. As aircraft designers look to increase the performance of aircraft,
composites are playing an ever-larger role.

Fireproof Composite Materials


One weakness often cited for composites is their resistance to fire when compared to metals. In
many composites, the resins burn at relatively low temperatures. This has led all maritime
organizations to impose challenging requirements on composites used in marine applications.
Composites have been able to meet these challenges by careful design and material selection.
As composite material development continues, the issue of combustibility is being addressed. In
an important breakthrough, Goodrich has begun production of FyreRoc Resin, a new material
that will not burn and will not generate smoke or toxic fumes even at very high temperatures.
FyreRoc resins are new, and like their predecessor materials, the first applications are where
extreme performance is required. FyreRoc resins are currently being used in fireproof doors for
building safety. In this application, FyreRoc flat panels must withstand nearly 2000F for up to 90
minutes as part of a door structure. At the end of this test, the structure must withstand a direct
two minute 30 psi continuous blast from a fire hose. Click here to see the test. FyreRoc resins are
also being used in Formula One racecars to protect other composite structures from the extreme
exhaust temperatures of these exotic machines. Watch for FyreRoc materials to appear in ships
of the future to protect the men and women who serve aboard them.
Composites are all around us today. We invite your inquiries as to how Goodrich Engineered
Polymer Products can help your application. Click here to contact out team of composite experts.