Companies have used shipping containers for decades and for most of this time steel containers were responsible for moving millions of products around the world. Recently, Stephan Lechner of the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Italy, gave a detailed description of how carbon fiber composites could change the way we use shipping containers for global trading. A composite container is 42 percent lighter than aluminum and although composites can be a little more expensive than their aluminum or steel counterparts, there are other costs to be considered – like fuel costs when traveling long distances.
The cost difference is around $5,000; however, even though the initial investment is far greater, with current diesel prices, the new containers would only need to travel 75,000 miles to break even. In addition, carbon fiber containers are resistant to corrosion, can be scanned with a low power x-ray and can potentially be stored flat.
An Ohio-based company, TenCate Advanced Armor, has already begun to change the future of shipping by signing an agreement with Air Cargo Containers, LLC of Phoenix to manufacture lightweight air cargo containers. These containers are constructed of proprietary composite side and floor panels that are built around an aerospace grade aluminum frame. TenCate Advanced Armor will provide the composite materials and assembly of the entire container.