What is the weakness of the composites industry?
Composites fail within the automotive sector in regards to cost effectiveness. Auto makers measure things in pennies, not dollars and the industry isn’t measuring up. I think there are too many product types within composites.
There aren’t 10,000 types of aluminum, there are 1,000. To effectively move to next level, the composites industry needs to stop polishing the head of the pin. In other words, instead of trying to find finer and finer gradients between resin or material differences, there should be a few standards that become the building block for fabricators and manufacturers that are built in volume and therefore are cost effective. 6061-T6 aluminum is a common aluminum you can find at Home Depot. If the composites industry can create lower cost, readily available forms of materials, it would be very beneficial.
There is also a lot of mysticism surrounding composites. I compare them to a group of French chefs. Each thinks their soufflé is the best, and they make sure they’re the only one who knows how to make it. That proprietary attitude is hurting the industry because companies won’t feel comfortable using a material when the knowledge of how to use it is so secretive.
Why aren’t more manufacturers making products out of composites?
Part of it is ignorance on their part and the other part is that the composites industry doesn’t make it easy. If you’re a company that doesn’t have a background or expertise in composites and you want to start, it’s a daunting task.
There is a difference between a well-made part and a cheaply made part. But if you’re a beginner in the industry, you don’t know how to tell the difference. If I took all the ingredients for a cake and put them on a table, and I made a cake and my wife made a cake, my wife’s cake would turn out a lot better than mine because I don’t know how to use the ingredients. The process element is so vital in the composites industry. Most often the first processes make terrible cakes. But instead of blaming the process, manufacturers blame the ingredients.