ANAHEIM, CALIF.-Applicants for future Advanced Research Projects Agency funding will compete for fewer dollars, need superior technology and be re-quired to show a strong defense payback, SAMPE '95 keynote speaker Jon DeVault said May 9. ``The good news is that affordable polymer matrix composites survived the [budget] cuts,'' DeVault, program manager in ARPA's defense science office, said at the show, held May 8-11 in Anaheim.
DeVault is responsible for an affordable composite structures initiative that began in 1993.
ARPA is a Defense Department agency. However, Congress has been critical of the Technology Reinvestment Program, DeVault said at SAMPE '95, sponsored by the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering.
Budget pressures modified a TRP III competition, now set at $160 million, to fund a program for primary structures for military and commercial transports, DeVault said. Proposals are due June 29.
DeVault wants the primary-structure effort to match the size and scope of a five-year, $370 million, affordable composites-in-propulsion program that began in May 1994.
ARPA's $130 million portion includes $35 million in second-year funding now being releasedfor the widespread vertically integrated program at United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney unit.
DeVault, however, said he envisions difficulty in stating the Defense Department relevance for the primary-structure program.
Larger challenges loom. While the Defense Department's use of polymer matrix composite is down dramatically and expected to remain flat, DeVault said he believes composites are critical for future Defense Department systems and clearly have dual-use benefits.
To preserve the military andindustrial base for future De-fense Department applications, ``we must be successful in ex-panding the commercial market in commercial aircraft and developing some industrial markets,'' DeVault said.
``ARPA is committed to addressing the cost issue with composites,'' DeVault said. ``I think we have a solid strategy in place with a significant amount of funding.''
Yet, problems abound. Advanced materials are a financial failure to corporate America, which threatens the industry with extinction, DeVault said.
``All of this is because since the end of the Cold War, the engine that has powered this growth - the Department of Defense - has stalled and will stay stalled for many years to come,'' he said.
DeVault added, ``America is world-class at developing new technologies, but we often fail in the world marketplace in commercializing technologies.''
He said composites can be ``a large, secure, generally predictable market for those companies that meet and beat the challenge of low-rate production.''
Sixteen defense businesses have consolidated to six, ``but no major consolidation [has occurred] in the materials industry. You have to wonder why,'' DeVault said. Companies ``are drastically curtailing their [composite material] activities, trying to sell their interests or, in some cases, just giving up, shutting them down and walking away.''
A 1987 forecast said the Defense Department's carbon-fiber market would be 7 million pounds in 1995, he said. The actual department market this year is about 1 million pounds.
Seven million pounds ``would have represented a $250 million market, adequate to support two or maybe three suppliers. A 1 million-pound market is not adequate to support one supplier,'' he said.
Units of Hercules Inc. and Amoco Corp. are principal suppliers of carbon fiber for Defense Department applications.
``We must do everything possible to expand the use of composites in commercial aircraft and see if we can develop an industrial market,'' DeVault said. ``Composites are critical to existing and future [Defense Department] systems, and this assessment of the state of the industry is what initiated our thrust at ARPA for composites.''
During five years, ARPA projects funding of $312 million plus about $180 million in industry cost-sharing.