Mechanics of Composite Materials

EML4230                                                                                                     EML6232


Why did I take the Mechanics of Composite Materials Course

I have two main reasons for taking the Introduction to Composites course as one of my technical electives.

My first reason comes from my latest summer internship. This past summer, I was afforded the opportunity to move to West Palm Beach and work for a company called Mosler Automotive.  Mosler builds custom, high end, carbon fiber composite street cars. I was employed for 4 months as a mechanical engineering intern with Mosler, and was given the opportunity to participate in many projects associated with the composite car's construction.  Mosler's street legal supercar is called the MT 900s. These cars weigh 2500 lb with a full tank of gas and can hit 60mph in 3.2 seconds from a dead stop. The entire body and interior of these cars are made from large, molded carbon fiber pieces bonded together with additional carbon fiber strips and high strength composite glue. The combination of high horse power and an exceptionally lower weight is what allows these vehicles to stand out amidst a world of Ferrari's and Lamborghini's. The final sale price on one of these cars; $350,000. I am interested in this course because I want to understand more about the material that I used often this summer. I had the chance to learn the application of composite materials, but I would now like to learn the fundamental aspects behind the formation and implementation of composite materials.

My second reason for this course is purely fun. I am an avid surfer. The progression of surfboard technology has changed so much over the last 20 years, and has now begun to dabble in the carbon composite arena. Surfboards have always been made of composite materials. Originally surfboards were made of wood, a natural composite, but since have been shaped from foam and fiberglass. It is only recently that carbon fiber boards have been introduced into the market. I would like to learn more about the weight advantages and structural stability of carbon fiber in an effort to better understand its application and ease of construction for surfboard production.  Matt Kunze, Fall 2008


I enrolled in Composite Laminated Materials to gain a sound understanding of composite materials, and end this phase of my engineering education with a course that peaks my interest.  Composite materials make up a large portion of components we come in contact with everyday such as roads, buildings, cars and airplanes, and some hobbies.  It is easy to identify composite materials, but I desire to know why they were chosen for certain applications, the mechanical properties they possess, failure mechanisms, manufacturing processes, and advantages/disadvantages of their use.

 I would also like to gain an understanding of advanced applications of composite materials.  Composite materials are widely used in the aerospace and defense industries, which are among the most interesting to me.  To learn about their physical properties and their reactions due to exposure to certain forces/moments and strains would be very beneficial.

 I expect to learn a great deal from this course, due mostly in part to the instructor.  It is very reassuring knowing the instructor wrote the textbook for the class because it proves they will be able to provide a well-rounded and complete understanding of the material covered throughout the course.  I have also had Autar Kaw for Computational Methods and was very pleased with his teaching style and knowledge of the material.  I look forward to leaving Composite Laminated Materials with a more in-depth understanding of composites and the ability to apply what I have learned at some point in my career. Kevin Holmes, Fall 2008


Since the 6th grade I have been involved with model rocketry.  It was then that my science teacher taught us how to build these small Estes kits that flew on A motors.  I liked the assignment so much that I just kept building more rockets and immediately joined the model rocketry club there at the school.  Getting carried away with it is the least you could say happened.  My room is now littered with model rockets and there are more on the way. 

I now build large kits that fly thousands of feet in the air using ammonium perchlorate propellant, the same fuel used in the solid rocket boosters of the space shuttle.  For my launches, I now have to get cleared by the FAA so that the government doesn't come after me for firing things into their airspace.  

This hobby of mine got me interested in aerospace engineering as a career.  I think it would be very cool to work for a large corporation like Boeing, Lockheed Martin or even NASA and send the real thing into space.  This class seemed like an excellent choice for me when considering my field of interest relies greatly on the implementation of advanced composite materials.  In this class, I hope to learn things that will assist me at my future place of employment and also help me continue to grow in the hobby I love.  Chris Jones, Fall 2008


My reasoning for selecting a course in composite materials has its foundations in two elements: a desire to learn more about composite materials and to be engaged by challenging, comprehensive course work.

As an engineer I know that it is critical that I continue to learn and expand my knowledge of existing scientific materials and technologies, as well as their numerous applications and potential uses.

I also seek to take my general mechanics of materials knowledge to a higher level and further build on and reaffirm that which I learned in mechanics of solids. Also, of course, a large part of my final selection was based on my assessment of the relative value of each of the electives available to mechanical engineers.

These things in combination led to my selection of this course and in this course I hope to expand my solids mechanics knowledge as much as possible and possibly improve my work ethic and study skills.  Sean Rodby, Fall 2008

From the age of 10 I have been messing around with wood, foam, fiberglass and resin, not even knowing what the definition of a composite material was. I have recently repaired boat hulls and experimented with the infusion process, making body panels for a Baja style car. I have also been able to test the effects that the catalyst ratio has on the flexural strength of an isophthalic composite material. Fortunately I have had many hands on experiences with composite materials. Although, I have not had much in depth education towards the reasons composites behave the way they do, or how to design one specifically, which is one reason I have signed up for this class.

Ideally I would like to work in the marine industry, designing boats and/or motors. Aside from the drive train and electronics, the rest of a boat consists of all composite materials. I have been very interested in studying a multiple step hull combined with a tunnel hull and its' effects on the overall performance of the boat. Having some background and education in composite materials would be a good incentive for an employer to hire me over other applicants that have no experience or background in the subject.  David Lopez, Fall 2008


My decision to take the graduate course in laminated composite materials stems in no short part from my experience with Dr. Kaw and his undergraduate course in computational methods. At the risk of sounding fulsome, this course was utterly fantastic. Well organized, thoroughly researched and expertly instructed, the course left me with a sound understanding of numerical methods and their place in engineering mathematics. I was therefore intrigued when I noticed this course listed in the graduate catalog.

After some due diligence researching the course, I was pleased to discover that it would deal the engineering mechanics of composite materials (particularly glass and graphite epoxies) and present mathematical methods useful for the design of composite structures. Having limited experience with these materials in the past, I was aware of their potential for great strength with minimal weight but was without any idea as to how to quantify their strength or applicability in the design phase of a project. Composites were therefore largely avoided. With this course I hope to eliminate that barrier and gain a functional understanding of the mechanics of composites.

As a current graduate researcher in rehabilitation robotics, the application of composite materials holds great promise for my projects. The weight of many current rehabilitation devices is still far too great to make them practical for a large audience. Composite materials may be the solution to reducing weight while maintaining the required stiffness.

For the sake of brevity, I will not delve into my not-so-rational (albeit fanciful) reasons for taking this course other than to say I think graphite fiber is much more interesting than other traditional engineering materials and that that facet might just make this course fun. I have high expectations.  Steven Colbert, Fall 2008


I decided to take the Composite Laminated Materials course because I am interested in working in the aerospace industry.  After interning at United Launch Alliance this past summer I began to understand the importance, among other principles, of composites. Material selection was extremely important during my internship, as the engineering team gave considerable thought to what materials to use, when initiating a design change or production improvement change. 

After looking at United Space Alliance and my hopeful dream job at NASA, all major companies are looking into composites to achieve mission success.  As a graduate, for Dr. Frank Pyrtle, my research is in the area of heat transfer, however knowledge of composite will help me in a future aerospace career, so I wanted to take a course in composites.  Since I have no undergrad courses in composite materials, just material science and mechanics of materials, I needed a course that I could walk away from feeling I learned "something". 

I took Programming Concepts with Dr. Kaw and earned a B+ and earned an A- in his Computational Methods course and those courses were challenging as Dr. Kaw pushes you, but I walked away with a lot of "knowledge."  Also, John Daly is a good friend of mine and after talking with him, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Kaw is a genius! So taking his course will be challenging especially since I took mechanics of materials fall of 2004, but I know when it's over I will have a greater understand of composite materials and I will have a broad foundation that will make up for my lack of undergraduate composite courses.  That is why I took Dr. Kaw's course in composites as opposed to the other  courses offered by the department of mechanical engineering this semester.  Elliot Rice, Fall 2008


Advanced composites are revolutionizing virtually every aspect of Mechanical Engineering, including thermal management. Industrial applications are now the largest user of composites, outstripping aerospace and sports equipment. There are now an extremely large and increasing number of applications. As composites are widely used in modern engineering applications so I choose to study Composite Materials, which combines elements of engineering, physics, chemistry, materials science, design, fabrication and testing.

My master's thesis is "Design of Experiment Analysis of single fiber pushout test of fiber reinforced transversely isotropic composite". As my thesis is on composites this course would help me to a great extent for my thesis work. Also it helps me to gain knowledge on laminated layer composites and particle reinforced composites too. This course would be an additional asset in my resume for future job prospects.

I could also develop the knowledge on laminate stacking sequence, relationship between stress to strains when mechanical and hygrothermal loads are applied which are very important for design. I would also get familiar with PROMAL, a user friendly software, used to design laminated composites.  The elasticity course which I already took would make this course easier to study. These are the reasons that made me to choose this course.  Sri Harsha Garapati, Fall 2008


I enrolled in this class because I am interested in working with prosthetics that are controlled by the brain.  It is important that prosthetic devices have similar mechanical properties to the body part it is meant to replace.  Since limbs are made of composite materials it is important that I have background knowledge in composite materials in order to create a device to mimic them.   

I figure that as a graduate student I should challenge myself as much as possible rather than only take classes that I think or have heard are easy.  This will ensure that I learn as much as possible to set myself up for success in a very competitive field. 

I need to take classes outside of the biomedical engineering department so that I will be better able to communicate with other members of a team that I will eventually be a part of. 

When determining which classes to take with my advisor over the summer we decided that since I had a background in mechanical engineering and an interest in prosthetics that this class would be good choice even though it would be challenging.  RF, Fall 2008


Mechanical engineering is a broad discipline and as such it requires a curriculum with a wide range of classes that cover many different topics. While working on my undergraduate degree I took a class on heat transfer and I ended up being really interested in the subject. Ever since I took the heat transfer class I have tried to take any class that has something to do with heat transfer or thermal properties. All of the classes I have taken so far during my undergraduate degree have only dealt with metals and their properties. I have studied how to work with heat transfer and mechanics of metals but have never done so for composite materials.

When I read the course description for this class I noticed that it mentioned that the class will cover the thermal response of multi-layered composite materials and structures, so I knew this class would help me to broaden my understanding of my favorite subject. I want to be a well rounded mechanical engineer when I graduate, so a class like composite materials that covers both mechanical and thermal properties of composite materials will help me achieve that.   CM, Fall 2008


Having a sound knowledge in the area of specialized is a key to be an expert in profession.  So I believe that gaining a thorough knowledge in the area of mechanical engineering is a must to be a compete mechanical engineer.  Material is one of the essential study areas in mechanical engineering which mostly deals with design and manufacturing when it comes to industry. Furthermore there are new innovations and concepts in materials. To go for advances in materials I have to have enough confidence with basic theories, concepts and how to apply those in practice. I want to build a strong foundation on composite materials for my future studies on that area.  This is a one reason why I signed up for the class.

Secondly I like the material as a study subject including material science and mechanics of materials. I have never taken a class which is purely on laminated composite materials. Before registering to the class I had a look on subject materials which are going to be covered in the class and I found that there are new topics I have not yet touched. I realized that it is one of the good courses that I have to follow. So I was impressed by the subject laminated composite materials and registered to the class to gain unknown subject materials and further strengthening known subject materials.

Last I heard from former students that the class is more beneficial and instructor taught the subject very well so that most students can understand.   Punya Basnayaka , Fall 2008


It is a good question to ask in the beginning. Being a civil engineering doctoral student, why do I have to take this course? Another similar question which I answered two years back has to be brought in to clarify my answer to the above question. ‘Being a mechanical engineering graduate, why did I register for civil engineering doctoral studies?' This question itself gives one important reason; my origins are from mechanical engineering, and on top of that I am highly interested in machines and materials.

Now, I will build my second but the closest reason for taking this class. The answer for the latter question above was the research I have to do was very much related to mechanical engineering. It is about measuring friction on aircraft runways. There are different measuring vehicles used for this purpose and most of them have a straight forward similarity, which is using a tire to get the data required to calculate the friction. Analytical friction models which involve the mechanical properties of the tire have to be used to analyze these data in detail. Knowing the tire is made of a composite material motivated me to take this course.  

Finally, the reputation of the professor and my personal appreciation of his service strengthened my decision to take the course.  Madhukar Rajapakshe, Fall 2008


I signed up for this class because I want to understand how the composite materials react when we apply a combination of load to them. Besides, I would like to understand in depth, the different concepts involves in the mechanical study of composite laminated materials.

Furthermore, I am interested in getting a full and comprehensive understanding of the mathematical and physical aspect of the mechanical behavior of composite laminated materials. The latter is the main objective that I have in mind.  Mario Juha, Fall 2008

Everywhere I look, composites are being used to break old records and set new standards.  For example, carbon fiber is being implemented on new passenger aircraft for unprecedented levels of efficiency, while also being used to break speed and endurance records in cycling. 

Currently, aircraft companies are using a large percentage of the world's carbon fiber supply.  Once aircraft production tapers off and carbon fiber production is better able to meet the demand, the market price of high end composites will drop, making their use in common products more affordable and practical. 

Considering the recent push to increase the fuel economy of cars and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we could also see composites used in larger quantities in the auto industry. 

I think an education in the mechanics of composites will become increasingly valuable as composite technology continues to become more available and affordable.  Personally, I would like to pursue a career in either the automobile or cycling industry.  I believe that composites will play a large role in the future of both these fields and a relevant education is crucial to my successes.   Kevin Adcox, Fall 2008