Did you know that composite materials now have their own designated week? It’s true. August 26-30, 2019 marked the first of what are hopefully annual events intended to highlight the importance of composites in everyday life. It seems like we have national days and weeks for just about everything else, so why shouldn’t composites get in on the fun?
The inaugural National Composites Week (NWC) was apparently quite a success. A decent number of well-known companies in the composites sector participated by promoting the day, hosting facility tours, highlighting successful case studies, and so forth. Participants included recognizable names like the American Composites Manufacturing Association and Composites World magazine.
More About Composites
When we talk about composites in the modern era, most people think about things like carbon fiber, glass fiber, and Kevlar. Yet the universe that is composites is not limited to these kinds of materials. Composites can be all sorts of things made with a full range of materials including plastics, wood products, metals, and so forth.
Salt Lake City’s Rock West Composites explains that a composite is a product made up of two or more unique materials combined together. The two most important characteristics of composites are the following:
- each material that makes up the composite maintains its own unique identity; and
- the individual characteristics of each one combine to create a product with superior performance.
What we typically call carbon fiber is really a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), according to Rock West. It consists of a carbon fiber fabric combined with epoxy resin. Both the fabric and resin maintain their unique identities within the finished product while the properties of both combine to create a plastic that is both stronger and lighter than steel.
More About NWC
Getting back to NWC, an annual observance of the role composites play in daily life serves multiple purposes. First and foremost, it lets manufacturers know that there are other options. Composites may not be right for every application, but they are at least worth looking into in most cases.
Next, highlighting the role composites play might encourage young people to pursue a career within the industry. This is important given the current shortage of technically skilled workers. Companies like Rock West are only going to need more employees as the industry grows. The more young people we can get involved in composites now, the stronger the workforce will be moving forward.
Finally, an annual recognition of the composites industry highlights some of the successes achieved to date. This is important for generating enthusiasm about composite materials. For example, one or two case studies could be all that’s necessary to convince local politicians to look at composite materials for infrastructure applications. Turning to composites could mean saving money and extending infrastructure life at the same time.
Plan on Participating in 2020
If your company is part of the composites industry and this is the first you are hearing of NWC, plan on participating in 2020’s event. There is a National Composites Week website that is likely to start featuring updated info sometime next year. The organizers behind NWC will start feeding 2020 information to those interested in participating.
If they follow this year’s model, NWC organizers will offer free downloads of materials companies can use to promote the observance. They will also offer practical suggestions like conducting plant tours, highlighting composites on social media, reaching out to university and high school students, and so forth.
Yes, composites now have their own week. And that is a good thing.