Improving “Up Time”: Composite Materials in Mechanical Engineering Applications
Composite materials have become popular in the automotive and aerospace industries for their light weight and other properties. In an industrial and manufacturing setting, they have the potential to offer tremendous value. Engineers are looking at applications for carbon fiber and other composite materials on the factory floor to improve longevity and increase up time.
Particularly in manufacturing plants with high speed lines and fast moving parts, lighter and smoother components can mean significant efficiency improvements.
Stress causes things to break down. Just like with people, when machines are under constant stress, it wears them out. They require more energy and are more prone to snapping.
Replacing traditional materials like aluminum or steel with composite materials can dramatically reduce the stress experienced by the machines, and therefore improving their productivity and performance.
It’s like meditation for your factory floor!
Mechanical engineers aren’t used to thinking in this way, but you are certainly familiar with stress and the resulting damage it can cause, both in personal and mechanical settings.
While the solutions are different, the analogy is undeniable!
One major cause of stress in an industrial application is friction. Composite materials with higher lubricity can be used in high-friction areas to reduce the amount of friction that wears down components.
For example, a fast-moving part with a repetitive movement pattern functions better if it has a slicker surface.
Wear strips are another area where reducing friction can make a difference. Less friction means better wear resistance, so composite materials last longer than metal components in this case.
If only reducing personal friction was as simple as reducing mechanical friction!
Another contributor to the amount of overall stress in your factory is weight.
There is a lot of stress on the arm on an injection mold machine, for example, because of it’s own weight. The lighter you can make it, the easier it is on the mechanics.
Weight is proving to be an important consideration in certain agricultural machines, like sprayer boom arms that apply water and chemicals to fields. “To efficiently service increasingly large fields, boom arms have been getting longer and longer, reducing the number of passes needed to cover a field. However, that, in turn, means that larger support structures are required to keep the arms from sagging over such long spans — which can exceed 15 meters on each side of the vehicle. Efforts to reduce weight — by switching from aluminum to composites — can provide real benefit to OEMs and farmers.”1
The relationship between stress and weight loss has long been known and can be complicated… never mind, let’s not go there!
In addition to reduced friction and weight, composite materials are easier to maintain and keep clean.
Reducing the stress on the machines on your line means less down time and greater reliability. Which just might mean less stress for you too!
Therefore, carbon fiber reduces stress.
The world definitely needs less stress, and so does your factory floor.
Let us help you explore how composite materials can make a difference to your output, and maybe even your state of mind.
1 - Reaping the benefits: Composites use grows in agricultural equipment. https://www.compositesworld.com/blog/post/reaping-the-benefits-composites-use-grows-in-agricultural-equipment