Textile Composite Materials (TCM): Classification and Applications

Last Updated on 03/08/2022

Textile Composite Materials (TCM):
Composite materials are engineered materials made from two or more distinct materials which is different to both but better in properties. Typically, composites consist of a matrix material and a reinforcing material. Composite materials are often stronger than conventional materials and weigh less. To develop enabling technology for Textile Composite Materials (TCM) that can be applied in the textiles and clothing industry.

textile composite materials
Figure 1: Textile composite materials

Composite materials are replacing day by day the conventional metallic materials due to their light weight, high strength, design flexibility and long life. Textile composite material is replacing the conventional materials in several fields such as aerospace, automobiles, transportation, sports, and other niche applications, owing to its light weight, superior corrosion resistance, and high strength and stiffness. Especially for aeronautical applications due to their relatively higher strength, more uniform properties and reduced manufacturing cost and a note on thermoplastic and thermo-set resins.

Composites materials are preferred over contemporary metallic materials due to their:

  • High strength
  • Light weight
  • Long life
  • Net shape manufacturing
  • Design flexibility

The two constituents of the composites are called matrix and resin.

It is the main constituent of composites materials mainly responsible for its mechanical properties. Its percentage in the composite may be up to 70% by volume.

Adhesive /Resin:
Normally it is a synthetic polymer with an objective to bind the matrix elements.

Classification of Composite Materials:
The composite materials are commonly classified based on matrix constituent. Composites materials can be classified on the basis of type of resin and type of reinforcement as well.

Classification on the basis of resin:
On the basis of type of resin used, composite materials can be classified into two categories.

  1. Thermoplastic Composites
  2. Thermo-set Composites

1. Thermoplastic Composites:
This is type of composite material with thermoplastic resin like polyester, HDPE etc. They are lesser used as high-tech materials due to their higher viscosity which cause problem during their penetration into the reinforcement.

2. Thermo-set Composites:
In these composites thermo-set polymers like epoxy, unsaturated polyester and vinyl-ester are used as resin. They are most used type of composites materials in automotive, naval, aeronautical and aerospace applications.

Classification on the basis of reinforcements:
The reinforcements used during manufacturing may be in form of laminates which are combined to get certain thickness or in the form of thick woven cloth. So on the basis of reinforcement composites can be categorized in two categories:

  1. Laminated Composites
  2. 3-D woven Composites

1. Laminated Composites:
In laminar composites the layers of reinforcement are stacked in a specific pattern to obtain required properties in the resulting composite piece . These layers are called plies or laminates.

Laminates can be composed of reinforcement material which may be:

  • Non woven
  • Braided
  • Fiber reinforced
  • Matt
  • 2D-woven
  • Uni-directional fibers or UDs

2. 3D woven composites:
These composites have reinforcement of 3D woven or 2D+ multilayer interlock fabric. These composites have much better through the thickness properties as compared to laminated composites

Application of Textile Composite Materials (TCM):

A. Textile Composite Materials for Protective Clothing and Accessory:
TCM is suitable for the making of protective clothing and accessory (glove, headwear, footwear, etc.) to afford protection against weather hazards, i.e. extremely cold or hot temperature; and high shocking/impacting, or flame retardant or toxic chemical. The protective material consists of two or more fibre materials of different nature, joined together by adhesion or cohesion to give target functionality and reinforcement. The protective TCM clothing and accessory have target functionality in combination with a good comfort and moisture transportation capacity.

To support the development of TCM for protective clothing and accessory, it should:

  1. Design and develop TCM for protective clothing against weather hazards; and
  2. Design and develop TCM for protective clothing against high shocking and impacting, or flame retardant or toxic chemical.

B. Textile Composite Materials in Spacesuit:
Textile composites have extended their boundaries from regular use to aerospace applications. The spacesuit is one such example, and is used for launch and space walks. It has zero tolerance for defects. On earth, nature provides humans with the correct mixture of gases in the environment necessary for our survival, including oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. However, in space there is no such natural environment, and astronauts encounter harmful radiation, low pressure, and high temperatures. Hence, a spacesuit is made from nonflammable, high performance textile fiber. The spacesuit is designed to protect the astronaut and keep them comfortable by providing cooling, clean air, and pressurizing systems inside the suit. The spacesuit should be lightweight, flexible, strong, thermally insulated, and thermal‐resistant.

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The suit consists of several layers, and each layer has different functions. The inner layer is manufactured by knitting technique for the comfort of the astronaut. The second and third layers are primarily made of polyurethane elastic fabric and urethane coated nylon fabric for pressure balancing (internal and external). Above these layers, seven layers are placed for thermal insulation. The outer layers are made of Kevlar and Nomex fibers for protection against electrical charges, particles, UV radiation, and meteoroids, which are the main threats that astronauts will encounter in space. Meteoroids are very small pieces of metal and rock. They travel at high velocity and can easily penetrate the body. Therefore, the spacesuit must be able to resist the impact and stress caused by these fragments and particles.

C. Textile Composites in the Aerospace Industry:
Excellent specific strength, stiffness properties, and lightweight structures are always the primary material requirements for aerospace and defence applications. The selection of high performance fibers and orientating the fiber in the required direction enable material engineers to tailor fibre reinforced composites with optimum mechanical properties. In addition, compound shapes and excellent fatigue and corrosion resistance have made composite material more significant and favorable through an appropriate textile composite manufacturing technique. Therefore, commercial aircraft, such as the Boeing 787, Dreamliner, and Airbus A350 XWB, contain large proportions (by weight as well as by volume) of composite parts. In addition, compound shapes and excellent fatigue and corrosion resistance have made composite material more significant and favourable through an appropriate textile composite manufacturing technique.

Application of textile composite material in aeronautics
Figure 2: Application of textile composite material in aeronautics

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D. TCM for Medical Textile and Engineering Material/Part:
TCM is also suitable for making medical textile and engineering material applications. Beside the selection of appropriate fibre/yarn production, the diverse textile processes, such as advanced weaving, braiding, knitting or stitching, allow the production of more or less complex TCM performs for different industrial application. For the medical textile application, the TCM should perform specific functionality, i.e. lightweight, good moisture management, soft, comfort, etc. as well as medical application, i.e. body part retention, artificial prosthesis, etc. For the industrial application, the TCM should perform high demands of extremely lightweight, durable against multi-directional stress, weather-proof, etc.

To support TCM development for medical textile and engineering material/part, it should:

  1. Design and develop TCM for medical application, i.e. broken leg medical textile casting, body part retention, walking support frame, prosthetic limbs, etc.; and
  2. Design and develop TCM for engineering material/parts, i.e. geotextile, propeller blade including wind turbine blade and shell,, engine containment, insulators, filters, marine vessel structure, etc.

E. Textile Composite Materials in Space Industry:
Composite materials also play an important role in manufacturing space structures such as missiles, rockets, and satellites. Space structures require low weight, high stiffness, a low coefficient of thermal expansion, and dimensional stability. These properties are offered by composites. The application areas of composites in missile systems include rocket motor case, nozzle, skirts, and inter‐stage structures, control surfaces, and guidance structural components. E‐glass, S‐glass, aramid, and carbon graphite fibers are widely used in space and missile composite structures.

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