Composite materials have taken many industries by storm in the last few decades, as advanced composites created for specific purposes are replacing previously used materials. But composite materials have been used by human societies for millennia, dating back all the way to the use of straw and mud to form bricks in Ancient Egypt. In modern times, highly specialised materials like carbon fibre composite (CFCs) and wood plastic composite (WPCs) are employed for their high levels of tensile strength and resistance to weather, rot, or oxidation. Composite materials can be found in everything from high-speed supercars to the cladding on our homes and office buildings. So what do you need to create composite products? Take a look below:
Two Main Components
Most composites are crafted from two major components. These usually comprise a base material, known as the matrix, with a fibre material inside providing boosted strength and stability of the composite. The four main classifications of composites are polymer matrix composites (PMCs), metal matrix composites (MMCs), ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), and carbon matrix composites (CAMCs). For WPCs, which are used to create strong wood-effect products such as composite decking or fencing, a plastic matrix is reinforced with wooden fibres.
Additives for Desired Features
Once you have your two main components for your composite, you need to consider any additional features you may wish your final product to have. The composite process usually produces a strong and durable product, but more specific needs of the product will require some additives. For WPC products that are installed outside, these tend to include anti-ageing and anti-UV additives, to protect from colour fade in direct sunlight and maintain the appearance of the product.
Specialist Composite Machining Tools
Now you have a completed composite material, you still need to shape it into your desired products! Specialist tools are required for the drilling, cutting, and machining of composites. This is due to the layered interior of composite materials, which can be disturbed by traditional drill bits and other tools not created for use with composites. Precision polycrystalline diamond (PCD) milling cutters and carbide end mills are designed for tooling composites without causing damage. Always ensure you’re using machining tools specially rated for the materials you are working with!