Processors of reinforced plastic parts long have known that the orientation of the reinforcing fibers is critical to the strength and durability of the final parts. Controlling that orientation presents one problem, but at a more basic level is trying to determine what orientation and mix of reinforcing material is necessary. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Mechanics of Materials IWM and for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT are working to answer this second question.
Experts from both research organizations are collaborating on a project entitled "Bionic Manufacturing", which aims to develop products that are lightweight but strong and economic in their use of materials - imitating the perfected structures found in nature. The researchers are looking at straw, bamboo, bones, teeth and others to identify how the internal structures and combination of materials in these makes them much stronger than could be expected.