Materials, since the dawn of time, have played a crucial role in the development of civilization. Pre-history ages are fundamentally characterized by the material humans mastered, while the transitions to new materials have always marked a different socio-technical order. In this work we are going to investigate a relatively new material class, composites, in order to explain the issues the industry is currently facing. We are going to discuss material in the context of developing products that take full advantage of the benefits that composites can offer. The main idea behind this work is to understand how composite material technologies create growth and how the properties of those materials influence production capability and manufacturability. This work is the result of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Composites Platform research in the UK. It started with the bold intention to go beyond conventional research in composite material and explore the mechanisms of industrial change and growth through material. An examination of cases from a diverse range of sectors, acted as a platform to initiate a conversation on the issues practitioners are facing when adapting their products, or processes, to composite technologies, or when moving from a craftsman approach to state-of-theart material and process technologies. This paper presents insights from a sector/market agnostic point of view to probe the socio-technical considerations related to the diffusion of manufacturing innovation concerning composites and their production capabilities.
The paper makes three main contributions. First, it presents a discussion on the capability issues regarding composites. Second, it presents empirical evidence on industrializing in composite material technologies. Finally, building on empirical evidence and previous literature, it describes the feedback loops during the composite product development process. The paper concludes with a reflection on current theories of innovation management on composite material technologies.