After years of researching composite and adhesive-bonding failures, Epstein observed that most composite-bonding failures in aerospace applications resulted from poor surface preparation and contamination. Training workers about the correct techniques for manufacturing through hands-on training would limit failures in the automotive industry, consequently increasing OEM trust in the material. There are several training courses available for composite manufacturers, including ACMA’s Certified Composite Technician program.

Life-cycle cost will encourage applications

“The big problem in many major applications is that, if the material is going to raise the price of the system, the managers feel that they can’t invest in the material.”

Currently, the automotive industry is putting together codes and standards as well as life-cycle cost analysis on a handful of manufacturing processes and materials to help engineers and end users understand the material. Auto manufacturers need to look at overall life-cycle cost versus competing materials to see if they can be competitive in this market. Additionally, finding solutions for metal part problems can help bring more composite parts to both the interior and exterior.

Solve for the unknown

“The composite industry is complicated, and the direction the market will go is largely unknown – just like a hand of poker. In order to help the industry advance, it will need to determine material limitations as related to the application, and solve for them.”

Aerospace industry trends moving towards larger structural components have brought new questions to engineers about composite size limitations. The future of the composite industry will depend on decisions and the research investments that can understand and successfully solve material limitations. In the past, the aerospace industry has jumped several material hurdles to push for further integration, including slow composite manufacturing processes and adhesive-bonding failures; and it continues to solve for the unknown.

After years of integrating composites into aerospace structures, Epstein recommends that auto manufacturers find the largest needs of the marketplace and continue to solve for market trends. It took 70 years for the industry to build the composite intensive Boeing 787 Dreamliner. If the automotive industry can learn from the lessons and experience in aerospace, this market and many others can succeed and integrate new composite parts –building on the greatness of giants who have navigated similar paths in the past.