* Design pour une innovation créative

Nantes Shanghai Pune São Paulo Montréal Cotonou
Back to search

Composites in the Limelight

Composites in the Limelight

The collaborative material library of L’École de design, which boasts no less than 2000 items (samples, books, CD’s etc.), introduces you to a new family of materials: composites.


Several composite patterns (extrusion, pultrusion) – photo credit: Exel Composites

A “composite” is a material composed of at least 2 immiscible – i.e. non mixable – constituents: a skeleton called reinforcement and a surrounding, supporting material called “matrix.” Theoretically concrete is a composite (matrix made of cement and reinforcement made of steel).

In the greater picture, composites are made of fiber (with a glass or carbon reinforcement) and resins (they use a polymer matrix). These fibers can be extracted from glass, carbon or aramide, like Kevlar®.

Most of the composites currently used (no less than 99 %) use an organic matrix extracted from plastics. They are called Thermosetting composites or Thermoplastic composites.

Compared to traditional metal materials, composite materials are light, robust, resistant, easy-to-shape and non corrosive. They do not need to be tooled, their tremendous ability to take the right shape ensures optimum use of the matter and best fiber orientation depending on the targeted efforts.

Specific functions can be added right into the material: for instance, right from the shaping one can plan a specific route for a fluid to go through the item later on, thus avoiding to bore a hole for a pipe, which could weaken the piece.

A piece made of carbon is 5 times as thin and 10 times as light as an equally resistant piece made of steel.



Tubes made of composite materials - photo credit: Exel Composites


Composites are manufactured in a way that dotes them with extreme flexibility. They can enhance product design and make products more attractive, structures lighter (as in energy-saving and more technologically advanced) and all in all shorten the manufacturing process by integrating functions early in the production process, which is impossible with metals.


Photo: Evonik
Overhang, robustness, flexibility, strain-resistance - Photo: Salon Composite Europe Photo: Salon Composite Europe
Inserts molded from a casting to fasten components to sheets - photo: LPSC Grenoble