Composites manufacturers count on reinforcement suppliers for solutions that enhance performance and productivity.

Reinforcements are the backbone of composite materials, providing key properties such as strength and durability. For decades, raw materials including fiber and carbon fiber have been processed and tailored to best utilize their physical properties. But as the composites industry changes, so must reinforcements.

“Think about the value that e-glass provides – good mechanical, chemical, thermal and electrical properties,” says Cheryl Richards, business development manager for energy and infrastructure at PPG Fiber Glass. “Composites markets have grown in size and needs and now require performance beyond those traditional offerings.” More end users require properties specific to their niches, whether composites are used in pipes buried underground or roofing high atop new buildings. Yet performance alone isn’t enough in today’s highly-competitive materials market.

“It’s a combination of performance and productivity,” says Chris Skinner, Ph.D., director of product platforms for the Composite Solutions Business at Owens Corning. “Customers are looking at us to bring new solutions to the market that enable them to grow the performance of their products and therefore the application base, but at the same time extend their assets.”

There are hundreds of primary and specialty reinforcements, with suppliers regularly touting new innovations. This article presents a sampling of the latest products that strive to help composites manufacturers improve both the performance and productivity of composites.

Hybrid Yarns

Hybrid yarns, also called co-mingled yarns, are increasingly important as end users seek more functionality from composite materials. Combining two or more distinct reinforcement types allows for certain physical or mechanical properties.

One of the newer hybrid yarns on the market is Innegra™ H. Introduced last year by specialty fiber manufacturer Innegra Technologies, headquartered in Greenville, S.C., the product line consists of high-performance olefin yarn co-mingled with other composite fibers, including carbon, glass, basalt and aramid. The combination increases durability and reduces the shattering effect of lightweight composites, according to the company.

BGF Industries, a manufacturer of woven and nonwoven materials from high-performance fibers, has partnered with Innegra Technologies to create Aerialite X fabrics. They join Innegra hybrid fibers with BGF’s custom designs to create robust fabrics for water and extreme sports applications. “Rather than interlayer a solid carbon reinforcement, then a solid Innegra reinforcement, we’ve learned how to intertwine the yarns,” says Denny Liles, technical service engineer for Greensboro, N.C.-based BGF Industries. “Now you have both attributes in one layer – the stiffness from the carrier fiber and the energy dissipation of the polyolefin that will make it more impact resistant.”