Composite problems solved

Foster-Miller has invented a process that, it claims, increases delamination resistance of composites by 100% and makes parts 50% stronger as part of the bargain.

Fibre composites are made from layers of fabric bonded together under heat and pressure by resins. Because of their strength and comparative lightness, they are becoming popular alternatives to metal in aircraft, bicycles, golf clubs, engine components, boat hulls and many other products.

Exciting as these materials are, they are not perfect. Under stress or extended use, the layers can split apart, causing a dangerous phenomenon called delamination.

To combat delamination, composite parts are often ‘over-designed’ with extra thickness (and weight) built in for safety. They may also have additional stitching or riveting. This adds to cost, can compromise strength and may provide only marginal improvements in delamination resistance.

Now, there’s a better solution, courtesy of US-based Foster-Miller. That company has invented a process that, it claims, increases delamination resistance by 100% and makes parts 50% stronger as part of the bargain.

Called Z-FIBER, it is manufactured and sold by a related company, Aztex, Inc.

The patented Z-FIBER process inserts small diameter composite or metal rods through the thickness of the composite item without damage. The result is a product that is stiffened and reinforced, either in its entirety or in local areas. It can be done in the autoclave as part of the standard cure cycle, or with a special benchtop or hand tool.

The process can be integrated with standard production equipment. It can be applied to most thermoset matrix resins and dry fibre preforms. Pins can also be driven into cured laminates, creating a new alternative for repairing damaged parts.

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