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Natural & Synthetic Composites

Composites can be engineered by man, but also occur in nature (i.e. wood). A composite material consists of two types of material, which remain identifiable in the (semi-finished) product. The matrix, which keeps it all together and the reinforcement, which enhances the materials mechanical properties. More than two materials may be applied in a composite, but at least one material is needed to serve as matrix and one that serves as reinforcement. Many different materials are combined to create composites. Ceramic (including clay), concrete, metal, mud, paper, polymer (plastic), resin (both natural and artificial) and wood are all used as matrix. Animal fiber, carbon-fiber, fiberglass, metal, polymer, stone and vegetable fiber can all act as reinforcement material. Common reinforcement forms are board, fiber, film, profile and sheet. Composites are also referred to as composition materials. Wood (lumber) and concrete are hardly ever referred to as a composite and therefor treated as seperate categories of material. Man-made composites can be created by applying heat or pressure, by chemical reaction between materials or by applying an adhesive.

Fiber-reinforced composites

The orientation of the reinforcement material may vary from uni-directional to three-dimensional. Orientation may be aligned or random or a combination and length may vary from short to continuous, where fiber length matches width or length of semi-finished product.

Laminates

Laminates are a composite type constructed from distinctive layers of film or sheet material. Combinations are also possible. Reinforcement may be achieved by varying sheet or film orientation or by adding fibers in any length. The orientation of the fibers can be random or aligned, but is restricted to two dimensions.

Sandwich sheet

Sandwich sheet is constructed from one or more layers of sheet material combined with a honeycomb structure or at least one layer of foam.