In recent years, composite materials have gained importance in many areas of application.

There are two main reasons:

  • their high specific properties (e.g. strength, stiffness) in comparison to metals.

  • the ease with which complex three dimensional shapes can be made.

Due to its low cost, glass fibre was the first recognised reinforcement, but carbon and aramid fibres have found greater acceptance, particularly in the aerospace industry. While these new reinforcements are very expensive, their significantly improved performance makes them cost effective. The traditional method of component manufacture is  autoclaving for high performance applications. However, resin transfer moulding or resin film infusion offer attractive alternatives if higher production rates are required. Manufacturing costs are now of great significance.


While composite materials are very often considered to contain fibres, in their broadest context, they can be considered to include blends or alloys of polymers, rubbers and additives. These materials can be tailored for specific applications where properties can be engineered into the products. Developments in textile technology, particularly through technical textiles, has led to the design and manufacture of multi-layered complex reinforcements of near-net shape for complex components; this can be used in place of the labour-intensive hand-lay up route for manufacture. This permits a much more efficient use of materials with consequent cost reductions.