Composites are blends of different materials, engineered to retain and take advantage of the constituent materials’ properties; the potential for material combinations is endless. The ancient Egyptians were probably the first to use composites, reinforcing soil with rush stalks to build stronger houses 6,000 years ago.
Composite materials serve to increase the strength of pipes. (Illustrative photo: Shutterstock)
Strength, weight and lifetime
Today’s composites are often highly advanced materials, prized for their combinations of strength, light weight and long lifetime.
One good example is the mix of fibreglass, which is stiff and strong, with thermoset plastics, which are malleable. Together these two materials make it possible to produce products in complex geometric shapes.
The Norwegian leisure boat industry makes extensive use of composite materials. (Photo: Hydrolift AS)
When producing composites, it is essential to properly dimension the various materials. This was the focus of the project “Safe, cost-effective basis for dimensioning and qualifying composite structures”, which received funding under the Research Council’s programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (BIA).
The project has resulted in a database for use of standard materials in the composites industry.
Reliable data boosts competitiveness
“Using a comprehensive testing programme we have assessed the stretching, bending and compression characteristics of the various materials, to find out how much they can withstand,” explains project manager Reidar Stokke of SINTEF Materials and Chemistry.
“New, effective testing methods have enabled us to generate reliable data and a methodology for calculating the properties of any reinforcement framework to be used in real-life structures.”
The project results will help an industry comprised of many small players with limited engineering expertise in dimensioning materials to work out how to use various materials properly. The results will also facilitate more rapid and cost-effective development of new products, which in turn will enhance the competitiveness of Norwegian-produced composites, and the country’s composites industry in general.
This foot bridge in Fredrikstad is a structure that combines concrete with modern composite materials. (Photo: Brick)
Better documentation means improved safety
The project also serves to promote greater safety and reliability in the use of composite materials.
Ever more stringent requirements are being set for documenting materials data. Thanks to the project, companies that use composites will now have a better foundation for documenting the quality of their products. This is vital when composites are used to construct lifeboats and petroleum installations, for example.
Title: “Sikkert og kostnadseffektivt grunnlag for dimensjonering og kvalifisering av komposittstrukturer” (Safe, cost-effective basis for dimensioning and qualifying composite structures)
Project period: 1 September 2006–1 January 2011
Partners: SINTEF Materials and Chemistry, FiReCo AS, Reichhold AS, Devold AMT AS, Umoe Mandal AS, Umoe Schat-Harding AS
Funding under the BIA programme: NOK 5.5 million
|Norway’s composites industry
Norway’s composites industry consists of some 200 companies with a total of 2 500 employees. With an annual turnover of roughly NOK 2.5 billion, the industry occupies a relatively strong position on the international market.
Norwegian composites companies are particularly active in areas such as transport, equipment for the offshore industry, marine activities, construction, the defence industry, and equipment for sport and leisure.