History of composite material


“Composite material” refers to the result of combining two or more different materials, distinguished, primarily, in the matrix and reinforcing fibers.

Already the mixture of mud and straw used by Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations since 1,500 B.C. to create stronger and more durable buildings is an example of a “composite material.” Later, in 1200 AD, the Mongols invented the first composite bow.

Using a combination of wood, bone, and “animal glue” (material extracted from bone, sinew, or skin), bows were pressed and wrapped with birch bark. The result was a powerful and precise weapon that helped ensure Genghis Khan’s military dominance.

The modern era of composite materials began with the development of plastics in the early 1900s.

New synthetic materials such as vinyl, phenolic, polyurethane, epoxy, and polyamide resins greatly improved the performance of natural resins.

In the early 1930s, Dale Kleist, a researcher at Corning Glass, accidentally discovered an easy method of obtaining glass fibers that, since the late 1800s had already been used to make experimental fire-resistant fabrics.

In 1936, Corning Glass, after merging with Owens-Illinois, registered the name "Fiberglas," thus starting its industrial production. During World War II, in 1942, after stealing the secrets of polyester resins from the Germans, they began production of fiberglass composite materials to make airplane parts.

Fiberglass combined with a plastic polymer such as polyester creates an incredibly strong yet extremely lightweight structure. This is the beginning of the fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) industry.

Continued research conducted on the product uncovered other positive characteristics of composite materials, lightness and strength, such as “transparency” to radio frequency.

At the end of World War II, markets, other than just the war industry, were sought, such as the marine market, which saw the first commercial composite boat hull presented as early as 1946 and the automotive market with the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette.

The architect of much of this development was Brandt Goldsworthy, who, in addition to revolutionizing many sports disciplines with the creation of gear such as surfboards or fishing rods made of composite materials, developed new manufacturing processes such as pultrusion, which is the system currently used by the Agostini Group to make somewhat complex frame profiles with very high mechanical properties.

Today, products manufactured by this process include profiles for construction, HEA, HEB, IPE, round and square tubes, train and aircraft components, and medical devices.

In 1999 Agostini introduced Fibex, a series of profiles, made of fiberglass, obtained by pultrusion for the production of shutters and blinds. This is the first Italian example of window frames and shutters made of composite material.

This innovative system was created, through collaboration with North American companies, to meet the growing demand for materials with high thermal and mechanical performance to be used regularly in civil construction.