Advanced Composites Inc. Frequently Asked Questions

What is a composite?

Composite materials are materials that are composed of two or more distinct substances, each with different mechanical or chemical properties. When the individual substances are combined in a single material, they produce physical properties that are different than those of any of the constituent materials.

Composites through time.

For thousands of years, cultures around the world have developed composite structures that capitalize on the strengths of diverse materials. For example, ancient Ming Dynasty Manchu craftsmen inlaid animal bone and sinew into wooden or bamboo bows. The bone and sinew resisted compression much more than the wood or bamboo, giving the composite bow a greater draw weight and projectile speed than a bow of comparable weight that was only wood.

From this broad definition, we see that many everyday materials are, in fact, composites: cement, ceramics, many textiles, cultured marble, etc. Even wood is a composite material, albeit a naturally-occurring one, because it is composed of cellulose fibers embedded in a lignin matrix.

Composites today: fiber-reinforced plastics.

Contemporaneously, however, the terms composite or composite material are generally used to refer to fiber-reinforced plastics (FRPs). A fiber-reinforced plastic utilizes filaments such as carbon, fiberglass and aramid fiber for tensile strength, embedded in a plastic epoxy. As such, it operates similarly to wood, in that the epoxy (like the lignin in wood) gives compressive strength while the fiber (cellulose in wood; carbon fiber, glass fiber or aramid fiber in FRP materials) lends tensile strength to the resultant composite material. While contemporary FRPs mimic wood’s structure, they surpass wood along every performance metric. Today’s FRP composite materials are unmatched in their strength-to-weight ratios, durability, stress tolerance and low electrical conductivity. These advantages make composites highly desirable for aerospace manufacturing, defense applications, biomedical devices and other uses in which performance and strength-to-weight are paramount.

Aren’t composite materials more expensive than other materials such as metal?

Often, a composite product will cost more to produce than its metal, wood or (non-reinforced) plastic counterpart. Composites may not be more expensive in the bigger picture…

Extended over the entire lifecycle of the product, however, the cost can be considerably less than that of other materials. Because composite materials are so much stronger and lighter than other substances, the increased lifespan, fuel savings (on an aircraft, for example) and other advantages tend to offset the upfront costs. And, as composites technology becomes more widespread, composite materials production advances in efficiency and benefits from increasing economies of scale, which should bring composite costs more in line with those of aluminum or wood, for example.

Fiber-reinforced plastics and metal not mutually exclusive.

Often, a given product or structure will feature a variety of materials, each appropriate for specific demands. An aircraft, for example, will often feature a combination of composites, metals (aluminum, mostly), glass and plastic. A fiber-reinforced plastic prosthetic will often have titanium bolts and other such components.

Are all Advanced Composites Inc. products really made in the USA?

Absolutely. Advanced Composites Inc. does not outsource any of our manufacturing. All of our products are manufactured right here in Salt Lake City, Utah.

American-sourced raw materials, whenever possible.

Not only are all of our products American made; we also source our raw materials from American suppliers, unless doing so is simply not an option.

How can Advanced Composites protect my proprietary technology?

Advanced Composites Inc. uses a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which legally binds us to custodial secrecy. When we design, model, prototype, engineer or manufacture your composite structure or project, we must respect your intellectual property and ensure its safeguarding.

What is filament winding?

Filament winding is a method of composites manufacture that creates hollow, often tubular structures of incredible strength. Many industries, such as defense, aerospace, biomedical and energy, require carbon tubing, fiberglass tubes and other varieties of composite pipes, as critical components of their technologies and processes. Commonly, these industries specify robust strength-to-weight, geometric, lifecycle and deformation criteria. Filament wound composite structures possess the material properties to meet such demands. By winding carbon, fiberglass or aramid rovings in a crisscross pattern under tension, the Advanced Composites Inc. filament winding process creates tubes that outperform almost anything else on the market. While much of the Advanced Composites Inc. filament winding creates cylindrical composite structures, we also wind square structures or various other shapes, depending on the specifications—many of our defense contracts, for example, require quadrilateral (square or rectangular) hollow composite structures. For more details on filament winding, visit the Advanced Composites Inc. filament winding page.

In the Advanced Composites Inc. filament winding process, what binds the filaments into a solid product?

When Advanced Composites Inc. filament winding technicians wind carbon tubes or other composite structures, they coat the filaments in a resin, which, when dry, chemically cross-links to form an integral solid product with the fiber. Advanced Composites Inc. engineers have developed a complete set of proprietary resin formulations for all of the various material criteria for which we wind. For more info on our filament winding resin system, see our Advanced Composites Resin Formulation page.

What is the largest composite tubing that Advanced Composites Inc is capable of filament winding?

Advanced Composites Inc.’s long-bed filament winding machines are capable of winding carbon tubing and other composite structures up to 32′ long and 48″ in diameter.

What is the difference between the compression molding and lay-up methods of composites manufacturing?

The compression molding process is largely mechanical. In contrast, lay-up composites manufacturing involves far less mechanical intervention and far more manual manipulation. To be sure, compression molding requires a certain degree of human arrangement: a composites technician must carefully place fibers, in the correct layering and orientation, into the mold. From there, however, a mechanical compression occurs. The material in the mold is subjected to extreme pressures to consolidate the carbon fiber and resin composite materials. Lay-up is more laborious. A lay-up technician utilizes an open-mold system and uses a variety of hand instruments to form the composite structure. For further info on both the compression molding and lay-up processes, see our lay-up page and our  compression molding page.

What is the ISO9001 quality certification?

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a trans-national body responsible for setting industry and commercial standards. ISO 9001 is a set of statutory requirements that specify compliance with the ISO quality management system; the ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100D certification indicates that an organization has not only met the ISO 9001 criteria but undergoes regular ISO auditing to ensure continued compliance. Advanced Composites Inc. has held ISO:9001 certification since 2008.

What is the AS9100 quality certification?

The AS portion stands for Aerospace Standard, a codified set of quality benchmarks for the aerospace and defense manufacturing industries. AS9100 details the regulatory procedures necessary for an aerospace-grade quality control management system. AS9100 certification indicates that an organization has not only met the AS9100 criteria, but undergoes regular auditing by a third party firm to ensure continued compliance. Advanced Composites Inc. has held AS9100 certification since 2008.

What is the Advanced Composites Inc. Universal Pin Ring?

As detailed on our Universal Pin Ring page, the Universal Pin Ring is a revolutionary aid to the filament winding process. Advanced Composites Inc. patented the Universal Pin Ring in 1995; it secures carbon and fiberglass filaments at either ends of the filament winding mandrel, allowing for extremely low-angle filament winding. For many aerospace, military and commercial applications, arbon fiber tubes, fiberglass tubing and other circumferential structures require a low angle of filament winding. Advanced Composites Inc. filament winding production, therefore, has increased significantly through implementation of the Universal Pin Ring.