What is Bistable Reeled Composite?

What is Bistable Reeled Composite?

Bistable Reeled Composite (BRC) is a structural material made out of high-tech fibres embedded in thermoplastic polymers in such a way that it can take two forms, that of a long, rigid structure or that of a compact, coiled strip.

Unlike other coiled, extendible structures (such as a metal tape measure), a strut made out of BRC is stable in both the extended and coiled forms. It can move between the two states repeatedly. Therefore, a tape measure made of BRC would require no case, coil or return spring and could be rolled and unrolled freely to any desired length. It could also support its own weight over several metres without collapsing.

BRC is a materials technology with many applications for portable structures and devices. It can be used in two basic ways.

Firstly, BRC structures can be used to replace telescopic or other extension mechanisms. A BRC mast or boom can be repeatedly extended over 10 times the length of its coiled form.

Secondly, they can be permanently deployed as rigid structures such as poles or pipes. The benefit comes from shipping the structure as a coil and then installing it in a continuous form on site, reducing in transportation and installation costs. BRCs can be welded to form pressure pipes as they are deployed, with burst performance comparable to that of conventional, helically wound composite pipe.

Potential applications for Bi-stable Reeled Composites

Bistable reeled composite represents an addition to the mechanical and structural engineer’s toolkit. It offers significant advantages over orthodox techniques for compacting structures or for the production of extending and retracting mechanisms in many areas.

To date a number of RolaTube mechanisms comprising a powered BRC mast have proved themselves in the areas of remote inspection of industrial plant. They can also be used for the deployment of communications antennae, cameras, lights and other instruments in the defence, security and emergency services industries.

There are many uses of BRCs, some of which include;

  • Tents and portable shelters
  • Coiled linear actuators (mechanically or pneumatically driven)
  • Hand-held and vehicle-mounted surveillance systems and manipulators
  • Cable sheathing, ducting and management systems
  • Pipe re-lining systems
  • Water, gas and oil pipelines
  • Pipe jacketing and insulation systems
  • Consumer gadgets and toys

Benefits of Bistable Reeled Composites

  • Portability
  • Ease of access
  • Ease of storage
  • Simple drive mechanisms
  • Ease of use
  • High cycle life
  • Corrosion-resistant materials
  • Fun!


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