Composite Materials are becoming the "Norm"
Enhanced Product Performance
My next-door neighbor owns (or should I say owned) an Aluminum Mountain bike. I use the term “owned” because just a month after he bought it, he had a crash. He was wearing a helmet and all the other appropriate gear so no real injuries. Just a mangled $5,000+ bike.
What happened next was both interesting and a reflection of the changes we are seeing in performance equipment design, manufacturing and repair. My neighbor took the treasured but wrecked machine back to the shop with a repair request. The talented team at the bike shop noted that while it was a recent purchase, it was for an outdated version of the bike. The new model was no longer constructed from Aluminum. The updated frame and forks (which they replaced for free) were now only available in carbon composite materials.
The team at Performance Engineering Solutions (PES) in Sheffield, Yorkshire UK provide insight into the rapid adoption of composite materials as well as the impact that composites have on design innovation.
“Composite materials are gaining ground within manufacturing due to the ever-present drivers of weight, strength and cost. These materials may well become ‘the norm’ in many industries as they are used more and more.
Composites offer compelling opportunities to meet today’s increasingly cost-driven market requirements and environmental concerns. Uses include aircraft fairings, automotive and motorsport structures, boat hulls, wind blades, and high-performance sports equipment” (i.e. mountain bikes).
From a design and manufacturing perspective, a generic composite lay-up will enable most parts to perform adequately, and probably show some improvement. Such lay-ups are often not fully optimized and so do not exploit the performance that composite materials really provide. Digital design and patterning technologies provide manufacturers with the tools needed to take full advantage of these materials.
Digital Design and Patterning Advantages
The transition to a digital tools-based environment allows equipment manufacturers to simulate and observe product performance and manufacturability aspects of the product early in the process.
With ExactFlat, the 3D composite design model can be flattened into 2D patterns in just a few minutes. Tools to ensure optimum results include:
- Grain line features which are used to define fiber orientation.
- Bias flattening tools to simulate actual materials behavior during flattening.
- Strain and sag analysis displays used to determine if or where relief cuts are needed.
- Nesting capability to ensure the optimal material usage before cutting by a CNC machine.
The combination of these features ensures the accurate contour of the model, lay-up of the material plys and subsequent performance of the part. To learn more about how ExactFlat can help your team make better use of composite materials, click on the link below and ask to speak with one of our experts.