4 Advantages of Composite Materials for Final Production

measuring composite materials

Composite materials are present in almost every item we use today. From the shoes and clothing we wear to the gym, to the cars and bikes we ride. Our lives would be significantly different without the presence of composite materials. The cutting-edge engineering processes that stem from the innovative blending of multiple materials and chemical compounds into the final product results in five significant advantages that give composites a permanent place in today’s manufacturing.

#1 Strength Without the Weight

Composites have a well-earned reputation for being lightweight and robust, making them ideal materials to be used in multiple ways. Developing an understanding of the various strength aspects within a composite will help you choose your project better. Some of these aspects include:

  • The high comprehensive strength of composites, which measures material performance when under pressure, gives these materials a natural edge. However, this also means that matching the right composite material to your product specs is crucial.
  • Shear strength, or how resilient material is to shifting layers, indicates overall weight load. A composite can be designed to control shear properties in many ways without adding weight to the material, resulting in additional product strength.
  • Specific strength, the measurement of a material’s strength-to-weight ratio, tells you just how capable a material is. Composites are at the higher end of these ratio numbers.
  • Tensile strength is how much stress a material can undergo before failing. Although composites are typically twice as strong as non-composites, this is vital to consider when selecting the right composites for your project.

The above attributes of composites give you a more comprehensive range of material choices that will endure far longer than non-composites. And although these can be used in an almost endless amount of manufacturing applications, each composite will have its pluses and minuses and may require the guidance of an outside consultant to select the best mix of strength and durability for your specific application.

#2 Resistance to External Elements and Environmental Factors

measuring composite materials

Material degradation is an important area when trying to build a superior product. Composites can be designed to resist multiple environmental factors or exposure to chemical elements that would cause seemingly strong materials such as steel to disintegrate. Some of the most notable external causes of material breakdown that a correctly designed composite can resist are:

  • Chemical resistances to items known to cause deterioration, such as paints, adhesives, or exposure to daily chemical elements, leads to reduced maintenance and adds to the product’s lifespan.
  • Improved thermal properties, such as long-term exposure to U.V. rays, higher melting points, or holding strength in frigid temperatures or broad temperature shifts.
  • Composites bring improved resilience to regular usage wear and tear and will hold up better when placed under sudden, unexpected stresses.

The improved resistance to both anticipated and unexpected exposures to chemical agents or extreme temperature shifts is one of the most sought after advantages of composite materials. These serve to give composite materials improved versatility in any application.

#3 Durability Equals Reliability

Manufacturers value composite materials for their fortitude. A reliable product aids in building a strong reputation and an equally strong customer base. The high durability among composites reduces wear and tear maintenance and significantly reduces the risk of unexpected product failure.

The attributes of composite materials, as discussed above, helps designers build products that are resistant to weather or material fatigue caused by long-term stress or heavy usage. However, obtaining the knowledge and specifications of all possible composite materials that could apply to your project requires expertise. Utilizing a manufacturing consultant will free you from those concerns to focus on building the perfectly designed product.

#4 Composites Add Enhanced Design Flexibility

To say that composites provide a high degree of design flexibility would be a disservice to composites. One of the most significant advantages of using composites is their application to a  limitless assortment of products. Product designers aren’t limited by the composites’ structural specifications, which can be molded and redesigned to create the perfect mixture of materials to make any project possible.

A design team can expand the breadth of their visions to include complex shapes and contours. Aesthetically pleasing, eye-catching products will endure the test of time and the customer’s regular use and are both cost-effective and straightforward. The use of powerful CAD tools and low-cost and production-ready prototypes allow for practical testing and accelerates the speed to market.

Use the Advantages of Composite Materials in Your Projects

The overall attributes of composite materials result in greater design freedom and high-quality products. When properly designed and used, composites accelerate prototyping phases and production runs. With these advantages in place, you can achieve significant cost savings in production and post-production while still building affordable, durable products. An experienced manufacturing consultant can help you choose the right composite materials for your next project.

Determining the most effective use of composite materials in your projects starts with understanding what they bring to the production table. The product design experts at Pacific Research Laboratories will thoroughly examine your design. They will guide you through your composite material choices to help you create an ideal production model. To learn more about our services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.

Composite Materials Examples: Using the Right Materials for Your Product

Determining the right composite materials for your next product

Composite materials are popular because they’re strong, lightweight, and versatile. The market for these materials will grow to more than $112 billion in value by 2025, indicating that we’ve only begun to break the surface of what composites can do. They’re in virtually every industry, from packaging for consumer goods to building the bodies of airplanes and automobiles. Creators developing new products will find that composite materials are likely to play a role. 

That’s because the range of composite materials examples is virtually endless. They’re versatile, coming in well-known staples like plexiglass and carbon steel as well as custom-made materials for specific projects. Understanding composites will go a long way towards helping creators build cost-effective, easy-to-manufacture products that will please consumers.   

Composites: A General Overview

Determining the right composite materials for your next product

Composites have a long and storied history. The first example of these materials is traceable to Mesopotamia in 3400 B.C. Those early people created a primitive version of plywood by gluing wood strips at different angles to create more flexible, moldable panels. Modern uses started with the military, and the creation of glass-fiber reinforced composites. Military airplanes were under a lot of stress, so materials had to be strong. At the same time, using heavy metals made them weigh more so they were unable to carry a lot of cargo. By reinforcing the materials, they enjoyed the strength of heavy metals while cutting down on the weight. 

To summarize, a composite combines two distinct manufacturing materials to gain the benefits of both, while avoiding their inherent weaknesses. These unique materials have since gained attention in the private industry and now play a prevalent role in just about every market. 

Breaking Down Composite Material Examples 

It would be impossible to list all the different composites as the combinations available are near-infinite. However, most composites are developed using a specific method that falls into one of the below three categories. 

Description

Used for

Laminar

Laminar composite is a process where thin sheets of materials bond together. The layers will have opposing orientations to build in strength, flexibility, stiffness, or some other attribute.  A laminar composite is suitable for making large, flat objects or reinforcing parts. A typical example of this type is plywood. 

Fiber-reinforced

A type of polymer is reinforced with fibers to give it strength and help it resist shattering. This material is especially popular when the part has to be thin or translucent, but must also be durable.  This is useful for thin-walled designs where lightweight is vital. Plexiglass is a good example because it is used heavily in the automotive industry. 

Particulate (both Flake and Filled) 

In this, particles are suspended in a carrier material to provide strength and durability. There are two subcategories of particulate composites: flake and filled. Flake means the particles are large and suspended in the material itself. Filled indicates the particles are filling an internal skeletal structure.  An example of flake particulate composite would be concrete, where flakes of gravel and sand provide strength. A filled composite may be insulation that uses an internal honeycomb structure filled with fire-resistant materials. 

A product may have several different types of composite structures within it. Consider airplanes that include fiberglass bodies, plexiglass windows, and filled insulation. All these composites work together to make the plane more efficient and safer for passengers. When creators are considering composites for their project, they shouldn’t just limit themselves to one. They should meet with someone who can go over all the options for the best possible products.  

Which Composite is Right for Your Project? 

The decision on the composite material best for a project will depend on what the creator wants to accomplish. Are they looking for an extensive, light material that must be fuel efficient? Do they need a thermal or electromagnetic resistant film to protect a part? Is the goal noise suppression or a realistic, life-like feel? All these different goals require different composite materials. 

In some cases, a composite that already exists will be ideal for the project. In others, they may need a custom material. This is especially true when it comes to noninvasive medical device product development, where the materials must be life-like yet cost-effective. 

It’s imperative to work with an experienced partner who has a broad portfolio of completed projects to inform decisions. Different composites require different processing methods, so they should also have wide access to manufacturing machinery and a deep understanding of production methods. Finally, they should take a design for a manufacturing approach which considers how the product’s production process will layout as they’re developing it. 

Composite materials examples run the gamut from simple, existing materials like plexiglass to complex, custom created options. Creators trying to decide must work with a partner familiar with their industry. This allows them to get the best, most cost-effective material for their product and ensure an easy transition to manufacturing.

Pacific Research Laboratories provides a wide range of composite material examples to consider in developing your concept. Visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603. to learn more about our process. 

What is the Polyurethane Casting Process?

We rarely go through our daily lives without coming into contact with a polyurethane product. It is a very resilient product, thanks to the concise combination of various urethane polymers that add flexibility and strength to an almost limitless array of applications. A synthetic-based resin, polyurethane can be found in household products, such as adhesives, paints, and varnishes. In many cases, it can be used in place of sturdy yet inflexible materials, such as wood.

The influx of polyurethane into manufacturing has opened the doors to new potential applications for this powerful product. As the popularity of polyurethane increases, the polyurethane casting process continues to evolve towards becoming more efficient and less costly. When choosing a polyurethane product for your purposes, it is important to consider how it was cast. This will yield important data that will give you the insights and data needed to select the best product for your applications.

What Are the Advantages of Polyurethane Casting?

Polyurethane casting provides a handful of advantages including flexibility in design and production and reduced production costs. This can be especially beneficial when creating product prototypes or enhancing an already existing product without reinventing the wheel. The most common benefits of choosing polyurethane casting over-molding will catch the eye of engineers and project managers alike.

Some of the key advantages we have seen with polyurethane casting include:

 Rapid turnaround of molds

 Increased flexibility in the designing of master patterns

 Expanded pigment color selection

 Lower initial costs

 High-fidelity molding options for exquisite surface detailing

This shortlist of the advantages of polyurethane casting barely scratches the surface of what can be accomplished using this process. As exciting as these may sound, knowing these benefits is just a part of understanding how polyurethane casting works.

What Exactly is Polyurethane Casting?

Polyurethane casting

To fully understand what polyurethane casting is, we need to break it down into a few parts. The overall versatility of polyurethane opens the doors into a wide range of casting options, many of which involve a molding process. This speaks volumes to the overall versatility using polyurethane, which is made possible in that it begins as a liquid before any casting or molding can take place. Being a liquid allows engineers to form polyurethane material into a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some of the most common methods of casting and molding include the following:

Blow molding

Polyurethane liquid is shaped with a small hole in one end. From here, air is blown through it, forcing it to match the contours and design of its mold.

Compression molding

The mold and compression material is heated before the pressure is applied to force the polyurethane to match the design of the mold.

Injection molding

This is the method primarily used for high volume manufacturing due to its scalability. Injection molding involves infusing polyurethane into a mold and curing it, and it is ideal for complex shapes and contours.

Polyurethane casting

On the surface, polyurethane casting is very similar to the process in injection molding. This involves having a mold filled with polyurethane and cured. The key difference is that this method is not suited for high volume production, due to the lower durability of the silicone molds used.

While these may show an overall dependence on molding in order to use polyurethane in robust or higher volume production, that is not at all the case. In fact, there is one form of casting that bridges the gap between reliance on molding and volume polyurethane casting.

How Vacuum Casting Revolutionizes Polyurethane-Based Production

Perhaps the most common casting process of polyurethane is vacuum casting. Also known as resin casting, vacuum casting is an adaptable form of production used to create parts for practical use. Using polyurethane and sometimes small plastics and cast nylon, this polyurethane casting process is used in cases where injection molding is not cost-effective, but when there is the need to show precision detail on a product’s surface areas.

One important advantage of using vacuum casting as a polyurethane casting process is the range of casting polymers available. This presents a large field of options to build products with almost limitless combinations of hardness and texture, as well as game-changers such as color matching or transparent component casting. Having these options available presents engineers with options to match their ingenuity and design creativity.

The versatility that vacuum casting offers comes with cost-saving and efficiency building characteristics, especially when engineers are facing short turnaround times for prototypes or building master models. Overmolding can be used as well, allowing you to blend different types and hardness levels of plastic into a single project. This methodology of polyurethane casting can easily be implemented into any engineering workflow and will deliver consistency in your finished products.

Maximizing the Benefits of the Polyurethane Casting Process

The polyurethane production market is continuing to evolve at a rapid pace. Staying on top of emerging methodologies and production trends can quickly become overwhelming for an engineer with multiple projects on their plate. This is why it is important to seek out the expertise of a proven team of engineers that can guide you through all of the nuances around polyurethane casting processes.

Reach out to the team of expert engineers here at Pacific Research Laboratories to learn how emerging polyurethane technology can help you today. Our team of skilled engineers will help you fine-tune your ideas and create high-quality working prototypes that address your customers’ every need. Or, if you would like to learn more about our prototyping services, please visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.

What Types of Materials Are Used in Manufacturing?

The types of materials used in manufacturing are virtually endless. While the creator may have an initial design in mind when they think of their products, sometimes, the material choice isn’t as evident as it should be. The wrong material can result in a project that isn’t cost-effective or create production delays that cut into sales. Material choice is going to be a crucial factor in any project, so making an informed decision is essential. 

Design for manufacturing is a good strategy for picking out materials. During it, the product developer considers the impact of production as they create the first product. They may test out several materials, or create entirely new ones―in a quest to find the best possible base. Through this, they can make the design easier to produce so the creator can scale up manufacturing with demand. 

Standard Types of Materials Used in Manufacturing

Types of materials used in manufacturing

The list of possible manufacturing materials could go on for infinity when one considers all the possible combinations. However, regardless of the type, it can be categorized into one of five primary subtypes, each of which has its own pros and cons. 

Manufacturing Material Types

Subcategories

Pros

Cons

Polymers

At the molecular level, polymers are comprised of a large number of similar units and can be either synthetic or natural.

  • Polyethylene
  • Nylon
  • Teflon
  • Cellulose
  • Rubber
  • Easy to source
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple to work with
  • Lower-quality results
  • Less durability
  • Limited heat capacity

Metals

This material is typically shiny and lustrous. It is malleable and an excellent electrical conductor.

  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Steel
  • Bronze
  • Durable
  • High-quality results
  • Heat and cold resistant
  • Can be challenging to work with
  • Higher cost
  • Difficult to source

Ceramics

These are nonmetallic materials―typically clay, but not always―formed using high heat.

  • Glass
  • Cement
  • Clay
  • Porcelain
  • Stoneware
  • Lightweight
  • Robust electrical insulation
  • Inexpensive
  • Dimensional tolerances can be inconsistent
  • Cracking is possible
  • Processing can be challenging

Composites

This involves combining two or more disparate materials to create a new, unique material.

  • Concrete
  • Plywood
  • Fiberglass
  • Paper
  • Reinforced plastics
  • High durability
  • Customizability
  • Affordability
  • Can be bad for the environment
  • Repair is challenging
  • May require special handling

It’s important to note that most products use several different types of materials, whether it’s for small parts like screws and nails or sidewalls and cases made of plastic. As a result, it’s wise for the creator to defer to the expertise of a partner when they’re considering material options. 

Choosing the Right Material for a Manufacturing Project 

An experienced partner is the best path to discover the right materials to be used in manufacturing. However, there are a lot of different companies out there offering such services. To nail down the right one, it’s vital to locate a company that provides:

  • A wide variety of creation options: Certain machines can only produce products in specific types of materials. 3D printing is typically a good example, as most modern machines are limited to plastics and resins. Meanwhile, casting and molding are processes that require both metal and plastic components for products―either for the tooling or for the product itself. The more technology a company uses, the more capable they are of providing diverse materials. 
  • A diverse portfolio: A company with a wide array of projects from various industries is going to have more experience in developing and using different materials. The creator should specifically review examples of products in the industry they hope to target to see all the possible options out there. 
  • A lean process: Lean manufacturing methods center on reducing waste and establishing circular supply chains. Material choice is a big part of that. A lean company is one that’s going to seek out the best possible materials to maximize efficiency and simplify production. 
  • Customizable options:  In some cases, the material is a major part of the function. The ability to create the right base to ensure that function is vital. The best possible partner isn’t limited by the materials that actually exist. They can create customized options for specific projects.  
  • Small run manufacturing: Not all companies that offer product development services are capable of providing manufacturing as well. This becomes a problem, as the development of the product may not lend itself well to the production process. A company that offers all-in-one services will be better prepared to source the materials needed, whether they’re for simple product design or the first manufacturing run.  

Types of materials used in manufacturing run the gamut from natural options like wood and stone, to more complicated, man-made composites. It’s wiser for the creator to defer to the expertise of their production partner when choosing their potential material. This way, they can ensure a production path that’s both cost-effective and sustainable.

Pacific Research Laboratories can walk you through all the materials used in manufacturing to find the right choice for your project. Check out our contact page or call  (206) 408-7603 today!

9 Important Types of Fabrication Materials

types of fabrication materials

When you set out to fabricate a new product, one of the first steps is to figure out what types of fabrication materials to use. However, this is often more complicated than it sounds. For one thing, there are many different types of materials on the market, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. No material can do it all. You also have to think about your budget, timeline, capabilities, and assembly process, among many other factors.

For this reason, it’s important to choose materials carefully based on your product and process. This guideline to the nine most important types of fabrication materials will help you narrow your options down and get your product off the drawing board and onto the market.

What Qualities Should You Look for in a Fabrication Material?

Fabricating a part or product means making it from scratch using raw or semi-finished materials. This can really be anything, from copper or pine wood to complex composite structures or high-temperature epoxy laminate. You can even fabricate multiple parts from different materials and assemble them at a later stage in the manufacturing process.

There’s no inherent difference in quality between raw vs. semi-finished materials. In fact, the quality of any fabrication material is entirely relative. It depends on:

All of these factors are unique to your product and process. As such, it’s impossible to recommend any one type of fabrication material that works for every project. This is what makes choosing a fabrication material so challenging, especially for startup companies or entrepreneurs who haven’t gone through this process before. Fabrication materials lists can be really overwhelming unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.

If you work with an experienced, full-service product fabrication company, this process is less daunting. A team of engineers can help you find the most appropriate materials for your needs based on their invaluable experience working with each material. Before you start a conversation with a product fabrication expert, however, it’s useful to know which types of fabrication materials are out there and what their potential advantages and disadvantages are.

Fabrication material options

What Types of Fabrication Materials Should You Use?                                                                                                                                                             

Whether you already have a rough prototype or you just have an idea for a new product, you can start thinking about the types of fabrication materials you want to use right now. At this stage, your decision isn’t necessarily final. You can and should explore different types of fabrication materials with an open mind in order to find the most appropriate material for your design.

To get started, take a look at the list of nine important fabrication materials below. This list is not comprehensive, but it is a solid jumping-off point for product designers who want to take the next step and get their ideas on the market.

Material

Common Uses

Pros

Cons

Carbon and Glass Fiber
  • Reinforcement
  • Insulation
  • Composite structures
  • Very strong
  • Cost-effective tooling
  • High dimensional stability
  • The fabrication has to be precise to avoid serious errors
  • Raw materials can cost more
Rigid Urethane Foam
  • Can be cut into shapes or formed into molds
  • Bumpers
  • Pads
  • Die forming
  • Seals
  • Flexible
  • Durable
  • Versatile
  • Can leave a rough finish
Mass Cast Epoxy
  • Electrical encapsulation
  • Hard tooling
  • Versatile
  • Holds detail
  • Durable
  • The product can’t be too thick or too thin
  • Can shrink after curing
Metals
  • Locks
  • Handles
  • Hinges
  • Latches
  • Pipes
  • Structural parts
  • Durable
  • Clean finish
  • Precise and accurate (good for tight tolerances)
  • Sometimes requires more labor
  • Produces scrap metal waste
Silicones
  • Molds
  • Weather seals
  • High-temperature hoses
  • O-rings
  • Dust covers
  • Versatile
  • Multiple hardness levels
  • Waterproof
  • Holds its shape under many conditions
  • Hot and cold-resistant
  • Can expand when exposed to high temperatures
  • Soft elastomers can leave a tacky finish
Thermoplastics
  • Storage tanks
  • Pipes
  • Insulating parts
  • Electronics
  • Structural components
  • Recyclable and able to be melted down and reused multiple times
  • Versatile
  • Fast fabrication
  • Cost-effective
  • Versatile
  • Can melt in high temperatures
Urethane Resins
  • Dies
  • Support shells
  • Patterns
  • Seals
  • Durable
  • Versatile (can be soft or hard)
  • Can leave a rough finish
Wood
  • Structural components
  • Exterior finishes
  • Handles
  • Dowels
  • Can be precise and accurate
  • Cost-effective
  • High-quality finish
  • Sometimes requires more labor
  • Poorer dimensional stability compared to more rigid materials

You don’t have to use one of these materials, but these are some of the most common ones used in fabrication. These types of fabrication materials can create a wide range of diverse products for multiple industries, which is why so many fabrication companies rely on them

It’s also useful to consider these nine materials because they can help you refine your final design. Using rapid prototyping, you can create multiple prototypes from different materials on this list in a very short amount of time. This makes the selection process much easier and more reliable—you can thoroughly test the quality of each prototype material and, based on these tests, make adjustments to the design or choose a different material.

This saves you from wasting time and money fabricating parts using materials that are less than ideal for your product. In this way, partnering with a fabrication company that offers a wide range of materials and that is willing to work closely with you to find the right material can be a major benefit.

Types of fabrication materials

How to Select the Right Materials

If you want to use the best types of fabrication materials in your product, you should start a conversation with a fabrication company as early in the product development process as possible. Considering your material options now can help you refine your product design, identify potential challenges, and streamline the fabrication phase. It’s a bit like having a roadmap planned out before a trip. If you know where you’re headed and which possible routes you can take to get there, you’ll reach your destination on time, perhaps even with time to spare.

Another important tip for finding the best types of fabrication materials is to choose the fabrication company carefully. You should work with a company that has:

  • An experienced team of engineers who are willing to collaborate with you and answer your questions
  • Diverse capabilities, including advanced design, prototyping, tooling, CNC machining, and fabrication systems
  • Access to the highest quality materials
  • A diverse portfolio of fabrication projects
  • Custom solutions based on your unique product and goals

To successfully fabricate a product, you need a knowledgeable team in your corner. A full-service product fabrication company will help you every step of the way by providing you with a full range of tools, top quality materials, and—perhaps most importantly—sound advice.

Pacific Research Laboratories uses the highest quality fabrication materials available. We help our clients select the best possible materials for their products and thoroughly test them before the fabrication process begins. If you’re ready to fabricate your product, visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.