Products made from composite materials can offer significant environmental benefits because of their characteristically low weight, good mechanical properties and excellent resistance to corrosion. For example, composites used in cars can reduce the overall weight of the car and so offer fuel savings through the lifetime of the vehicle. However, although the in service environmental benefits of composites are known, there is far less understanding of the environmental and social implications associated with the manufacture of composite materials and products.
Issues affecting the industry include health & safety, the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), energy consumption and toxicity from manufacture. Alternative materials and technologies (such as closed mould processes, natural fibres and low-styrene resins) have been developed to address these problems, but to date there has still been confusion within the industry as to the detailed benefits of these alternatives.
Composites Evolution, Bercella and Element Materials Technology (Element) have successfully completed the development and testing of a composite cantilever support for rail passenger seating.
Boeing and Thermwood have employed additive manufacturing technology to produce a large, single-piece tool for the 777X programme. The project is demonstrating that additive manufacturing is ready to produce production quality tooling for the aerospace industry.
UK company Prodrive Composites has developed a process for manufacturing recyclable composite components that can satisfy future end-of-life requirements without any compromise in the performance of the original parts. The company says the P2T (Primary to Tertiary) process not only simplifies recycling, but endows a composite material with the potential to fulfil three or more useful lifetimes.