Strong, durable and lightweight composite materials are a natural fit for the consumer products industry. From sporting goods to home appliances, composites are increasingly used for many applications.
Manufacturers of cell phones, tablets and smart watches are reducing the size and weight of their products because they can use very thin, durable and impact-resistant composite materials for casings. Companies that specialize in athletic shoes are incorporating carbon fiber into the plates of running shoes, providing a lightweight stiffness that can boost performance. In addition, layers of carbon fiber composites in basketball shoes add cushioning that absorbs shock and reduces stress on the player’s body.
Here are a few detailed examples of how composites are transforming consumer products today, and a preview of some material innovations that could help the industry gain an even greater share of this market in the future.
A Better Ride for Boarders
The bindings on a snowboard are key to the quality of the ride that snowboarders enjoy. Bindings transfer riders’ muscle movements to the board, enabling them to control it. For the best snowboarding experience, the highback of the binding – the heel-side ankle support – needs to be strong and durable, but also extremely lightweight with just the right amount of flex.
The design team at Rome Snowboards wanted to create a new, highly-advanced binding for its portfolio. Material supplier Avient suggested a binding made using a thermoplastic injection overmolding process. The company’s advanced composites technical team worked with Rome Snowboards to determine the right material, testing various combinations of engineered resin and reinforcement, fiberglass content and laminate configurations.
Avient found the sweet spot in its Polystrand™ eight-ply fiberglass reinforced polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) laminate overmolded in nylon. The fibers in Polystrand lay flatter than a traditional woven composite, which provided additional durability to the binding component. The PETG resin helped ensure the binding had the flexural strength and impact resistance that Rome Snowboards required.
Rome says its Black Label binding, introduced to the market in 2021, is the lightest and most responsive binding it has ever produced.
Metallic Appearance, Composite Advantages
Kitchen appliance manufacturers still rely primarily on metal for refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers and ovens. But for certain components, such as control/console panels, door trims, handles and knobs, composites are the material of choice.
“Composites do exceptionally well in cooking products, whenever you have heat, dimensional stability issues and design constraints,” says Scott Balogh, president and CEO of Mar-Bal, which compounds, molds and finishes thermoset composite products.