What is a composite?
Composite materials are made up of two or more different materials, referred to as the matrix and the reinforcement.
Each combination is chosen for its ability to deliver predictable and repeatable performance to match the application’s requirements. Since these materials have very different properties, the heterogeneity of composites must be addressed to support the analysis of composite parts and structures.
The matrix functions to bind the reinforcement together and protect it. A composite matrix will be one of three types: polymer, metal or ceramic.
Norplex-Micarta specializes in a subset of polymer matrix composites called thermosets. Thermosets undergo a high-temperature curing process by which the chemical structure of the polymer is irreversibly cross-linked. Therefore, thermosets do not melt after curing, as opposed to thermoplastic materials, which do melt.
The reinforcement is considered the primary contributor to the strength and stiffness of the composite. Potential reinforcements that can be effectively utilized are nearly infinite. Common reinforcement materials include paper, cotton fabrics, glass, aramids, nylon and carbon fiber. Other materials such as virgin PTFE or rubber can be incorporated into the composite to achieve specific design objectives.
Norplex-Micarta produces prepreg from several different resin systems such as epoxy, phenolic, melamine, and silicone. These resin systems can be modified through the use of various additives to modify their behavior. These additives can make the material semi to fully conductive, increase the hardness, increase the toughness, or reduce the coefficient of friction, amongst other possible enhancements.
Reinforcements are virtually endless. From the choice of the fiber, to woven, non-woven, and stitched fabrics, and various hybridizations and combinations of the myriad of inputs, designers have a wide range of potential inputs that can be used to optimize a material for their specific application.