The shape of things to come
Form follows function. But few realize the extent to which the world around us looks the way it does, solely because of the materials we use. Composites are quickly changing the shape of the world around us.
For thousands of years, mankind has primarily relied on gravity-based structures. Stone, mud, concrete; all materials with poor tensile and shear strength. Whether it’s castles, pyramids or Roman bridges, their primary shapes were material-driven.
The might of the steel furnaces in the industrial revolution made radically different structures possible. The Eiffel tower is perhaps the epitome of steel structures, leveraging all the advantages of steel to create what until then was impossible.
Composites yield similar potential. Since their advent in the 1960’s, the use of composites has seen annual growth rates in the double digits every single year. That growth won’t stop until the world around us will look very different from today.
Just as with the transition from gravity-based materials like concrete and brick, the transition from structural steels to composites won’t be easy or fast. The biggest obstacle to a faster or easier transition isn’t in our knowledge or production capability. It is in our minds and our limited imagination.
Just as building a castle out of iron bricks might not result in the most optimal building, taking a metal structure and replicating it in composites rarely comes anywhere near the potential improvement.
It isn’t until one truly embraces the new design space made possible by composites that we can even scratch the surface of the possibilities composites offer us.