Understanding the Limitations of Composite Materials

27th November 2012 by Royston Jones

This post  has been contributed by my colleague, Lars Fredriksson, Director at Altair ProductDesign, Germany

Back in January 2012, Altair entered into a partnership with advanced materials specialists, Caterham Composites, to improve each other’s knowledge on the design, simulation and manufacture of composite materials. We even wrote a press release about it explaining how the two companies planned to work together.

Here in Germany, we’ve seen more and more industries looking into composite materials as they seek to take advantage of its inherent weight advantages and impressive strength characteristics. However, the materials bring with them an extra layer of design complexity that can cause problems for manufacturers hoping to simply swap out their current metallic components for lightweight composite alternatives, often referred to as a ‘black metal’ solution.

We recently managed to catch up with Phil Hall, Caterham Composites’ Managing Director, who kindly agreed to chat to us about some of the challenges that composites can introduce for engineers and how simulation technology to overcome them. During the discussion, Phil spoke of understanding the limitations of composite materials being vital to get the best out of them and I think that is an excellent way to approach the ongoing challenge. As engineers, if we do not fully understand the material characteristics we are dealing with then we will inevitably be inclined to add unnecessary material to be safe and we will therefore negate some of the weight advantages we were trying to take advantage of.

For composites, the pool of knowledge is not yet as established as it is with traditional metallics, but with the partnership between Altair and Caterham Composites, I think we will make huge strides towards making the material less of a black metal solution and more a common sight throughout products where weight is an increasingly important design consideration.

Take a look at the video below to view our discussion with Phil.


To find out more about the Alan Thomson Racing project discussed in this video, please visit www.altairproductdesign.com