The advantages of using composite materials include
1. Resistance to a wide range of chemical agents including acid rain and salt spray, conditions under which metal parts would suffer. This results in much reduced maintenance and repair costs.
2. Resilience – the ability to deform and spring back to their original shape without major damage. Shape memory and impact tolerance are two of the biggest advantages of composites, particularly within the transport industry.
3. Low weight – with substantial savings in weight over similar metal parts (25% the weight of steel, 30% lighter than aluminium) cost savings are noticeable with installation, handling and particularly fuel consumption, when in service. Even greater weight savings are achieved when two components, previously manufactured out of steel or aluminium, are combined in one composite structure. This also gives savings in the installation process.
4. Adhesive and coating compatibility – since composites and adhesives/coatings share a similar polymeric make-up, they are widely compatible with one another.
5. Thermal properties – composite structures act as very good insulators, whilst retaining their shape while not becoming brittle in cold temperatures.
6. Strength – comparable to aluminium and steel, strength characteristics of many materials can be reproduced through research and development with reinforcements, eg. glass.
7. Innovative designs which were previously impractical can be achieved with composites with no loss in performance or strength.
8. Safety – fibre-reinforced composites are low in electrical conductivity and are efficient fire retardants, which makes them a good choice for covering electrical parts.
9. Reduced cost – effective techniques have been developed which produce a post-mould paint-finish type surface which requires no further processing, thus eliminating the need for time consuming and expensive finishing. For composites which have been designed to be painted, the part manufacture can include allowances for a surface finish suitable for the keying-in and adhesion of the finish.