Composite materials are a blend of two or more materials. These materials are comprised of dissimilar constituents. The objective is to develop unique properties that have more applications than the original materials. One example of combining materials is to take stiff, long fibers and blend them with a second material containing a resinous binder or matrix that will secure the fibers in place.
Advantages in using composite materials are the higher strength factors with light-weight ratios, and high corrosion resistance as well as resistance from damage of cyclic loading. Using composites in place of aluminum reduces weight by 20% or more. The USU Wright Flyer will be half the weight of the original aircraft with the use of composites.
The USU Wright Flyer will be constructed of graphite/epoxy, fiberglass/epoxy and some Kevlar/epoxy composite materials. Nickel coated graphite will be stained to look like wood, and the wings will be covered with STITS "polyfiber" Dacron fabric.
The State of Utah has a well-established national reputation in composite materials manufacturing. There are over 100 companies involved in the design and manufacture of composite components for industries in space/aviation to sporting goods. Included are Hexcel, Aliant Technologies, Thiokol, Metal Matrix composites and many others. Hill Air Force Base has been designated as the Center for Industrial and Technical Excellence in composites within the Department of Defense. The USU Wright Flyer project will utilize materials manufactured in the state and technical expertise from many of these companies.
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