America is in a period of transition to an economy increasingly focused on renewable supplies and products with less social and environmental impacts. The composite sector is on a quest to reduce raw materials, not only to improve the management of production costs and processes, but also an important requirement of our current generation's values. Innovation and the search for sustainable solutions are essential to anticipate consumer trends, to develop a strong reputation for a brand, and to implement new ways of producing and developing products.
Composite materials are fashioned by joining two or more materials that have different physical and chemical properties and the combination of these materials provides the composite with unique properties. When these materials are combined, they create a material which has improved characteristics than the two materials could offer separately. Composites provide a wide array of benefits such as strength, corrosion resistance, light-weight, design flexibility and durability. They are most widely utilized as the replacement for aluminium, wood, and steel on account of their higher strength to weight ratio. Some examples of composite materials include fibreglass, carbon fibre, concrete, or even mud bricks.
Within the composite industry, there is a newly heightened focus on material efficiency due to the scarcity of natural resources, and composite manufacturers are increasingly adopting a sustainable development profile. These efforts include; extending the lifetime of machinery, components, and spare parts as well as constantly looking to adopt new product innovations to replace previous products that consume greater amounts of raw materials. The key to long-term material efficiency being adopted and sustained is to demonstrate that there is also a consumer benefit. In composite production, raw materials typically represent over 50% of the total production cost.
Emerging markets, such as Asia and South America are growing fast, which also means rising usage and cost of raw materials going forward. Considering all of this, composite companies are becoming increasingly mindful of positioning themselves as environmental solution providers with a comprehensive holistic approach.
The composite industry is committed to developing solutions that improve the well-being and comfort of people while reducing the socio-environmental impacts of composite products. This requires a cradle-to-grave approach from their initial manufacturing to their final disposal. There will always be a demand for value-added products that consumers require, but with less negative impact on the environment.
Fast-growing Bio-Inspired Composites
Bio-inspired composites are a growth sector that is modelled after and benefits and proven sustainability in nature from different living organisms such as plants, animals and other marine organisms. Biomimicry, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is “the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modelled on biological entities and processes.” The mantis shrimp is one of the earth’s most impressive examples of lessons we can learn from nature.
Over hundreds of millions of years, the mantis shrimp, one of nature’s feistiest predators, evolved an internal architecture to protect the hammer-like club it uses to pulverize hard-shelled prey with incredible speed and force. This architecture protects the mantis shrimp from self-inflicted damage as it crushes prey at speeds in excess of a 0.22 calibre bullet.
Researchers have mimicked the bio-inspired architecture found in the club of the mantis shrimp which is stronger and tougher than other traditional architectures. Applying this architecture to existing composites can significantly reduce the amount of raw material required to achieve the same performance. The result is a lower environmental footprint while also offering a reduction in raw material consumption and cost. Helicoid Industries has the patented rights to commercialize this unique architecture and it serves as the foundation of their technology.
Composites Industry Fuels US Economy
The composites sector is an active industry that's ensuring a bright future of manufacturing in the US and providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
The global composites market size was estimated at $90 billion dollars in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% to reach $160 billion dollars by 2027. This growth is driven by increasing demand for lightweight materials in various industries such as automotive, transportation, wind energy, aerospace and defence. Glass fibre-based composites dominate the market, followed by carbon fibre. Increasing demand for composites in the automotive industry is anticipated to boost the market growth over the forecast period and rising fuel prices have only exacerbated the ongoing need for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
“The composites industry is an economic force that fuels the American economy,” reports the American Composites Manufacturing Association. “By 2022, the end-product market for composites is expected to reach $113.2 billion.”
Chadwick Wasilenkoff is the founder, CEO & Chairman of Helicoid Industries, Inc. Prior to founding Helicoid Industries, Mr. Wasilenkoff served as Chairman, CEO and Director of Fortress Paper. Wasilenkoff oversaw the mill’s transformation to focus operations on the high-margin banknote industry.