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What are composites?

Visit our award-winning website, CompositesLab, to learn more about what composites are.

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Composites are two or more materials with markedly different physical or chemical properties – categorized as “matrix” or “reinforcement” – combined in a way that they act in concert, yet remain separate and distinct at some level because they don’t fully merge or dissolve into one another.

Not all plastics are composites. In fact, the majority of plastics today are pure plastic, like toys and soda bottles. When additional strength is needed, many types of plastics can be reinforced (usually with reinforcing fibers). This combination of plastic and reinforcement can produce some of the strongest materials for their weight that technology has ever developed...and the most versatile.

Therefore, composites, also referred to as fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites is a combination of a

  • Polymer matrix resin, sometimes referred to as plastic, (either thermoplastic or thermoset resin, such as polyester, isopolyester, vinyl ester, epoxy, phenolic) and
  • Fiber reinforcement such as glass, carbon, aramid or other reinforcing material

such that there is a sufficient aspect ratio (length to thickness) to provide a discernable reinforcing function in one or more directions. FRP composite may also contain:

  • fillers
  • additives
  • core materials

that modify and enhance the final product. The constituent elements in a composite retain their identities (they do not dissolve or merge completely into each other) while acting in concert to provide a host of benefits such as:

  • Lightweight
  • High strength
  • Corrosion resistant
  • High strength-to-weight ratio
  • Directional strength - tailor mechanical properties
  • High impact strength
  • High electric strength (insulator)
  • Radar transparent
  • Non-magnetic
  • Low maintenance
  • Long-term durability
  • Parts consolidation
  • Dimensional stability
  • Small to large part geometry – styling/design – sculptural form
  • Customized surface finish
  • Rapid installation