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Midwest Composites

Composites Manufacturing

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What comes to your mind when we talk about biomass? Most of us will think about biofuel and biomass electricity. However, biomass can be used for more purposes than just being a natural fuel. For instance, plant-based fibres such as palm oil, kenaf, pineapple, and others can be used to create natural fiber polymer composites (NFPC).

A composite is a material that is produced from two or more constituent (distinct) materials. Composites provide certain benefits such as being more lightweight, corrosion-resistant, flexible, and low maintenance over traditional materials such as steel, aluminium, wood, or concrete.

Think of it like extremely strong plastic, but environmentally friendly especially when using biomass, which is a renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. These bio-based composite materials can be the ideal alternative materials to reduce the weight of vehicles.

Sethu Raaj, the founder of Midwest Composites has been exposed to the world of composite materials since the last decade when he was pursuing his higher education in the US. After graduated from Winona State University, he was offered a scholarship to further his studies in bio-based composites at North Dakota State University.

Six years ago, Raaj went back to Malaysia for holiday and decided to stay. He always wanted to run his own composites company in Malaysia. In fact, though the proper production facilities to convert biomass into a matted structure are not available yet in Malaysia, the country is rich in the raw materials that can be made into composites.

Sethu further explained that similar production materials required are available in Europe, but are too expensive for the Midwest Composites team. Currently, the team is leaning on hybridisation of glass, carbon and natural fibres to push for the manufacturing and use of composites in Malaysia, which are applicable in various industries.

The team intends to one day penetrate the consumer market too, to make carbon fibre parts more affordable to the masses and Original Equipment Manufacturers.

One challenge that may be faced by the team is in convincing the market to make the switch to using more sustainable materials. This is especially so when manufacturing composites can be more costly in the first place as it has yet to reach economies of scale.

Hence, a viable way for Midwest Composites to gain customers’ trust is through leading by example. The company would have to showcase that, despite the high initial costs, making the switch to composites will mean other cost-saving benefits in the long run.

This makes the startup’s current partnerships with large companies a strategic move.

Currently, Midwest Composites’ team is working with SKSBUS to develop a Malaysian made electric bus. For example, the team has built an engine cover requiring no metal framing as support. This is able to reduce its weight by 50% compared to the conventional build using metal materials. They’ve also built a diesel tank and toilet module out of fiberglass for the bus.

Other than buses, Midwest Composites also makes components for conventional vehicles like car and motorcycle mud flaps, bumpers, and interior cover panels. They’re made of fibreglass and carbon fibre that can be customised based on consumer demands.

Midwest Composites aims to revolutionize and pioneer the new movement of composites within the country and ultimately globally. They want to show the world-class quality parts for aerospace, automotive and mass transit as they have the right talents and skills.

Midwest Composites has joined ZOM-IN.com to collaborate in efforts to empower aspiring youths. Join us now at www.zom-in.com to participate in exciting events coming soon!

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