The journey of polymer composites toward qualification for California seismic-retrofit work moved forward last week. The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering faxed cover letters and contractual agreements Sept. 5-6 to some two dozen infrastructure materials or systems companies, according to Charles Hamermesh, technical director. He expects 10-12 companies, or teams in several cases, to respond by the Sept. 15 deadline to begin the year-long Phase I effort.
Participants must contribute $25,000 for each product being evaluated and sign a hold-harmless clause that protects SAMPE, as program administrator, from liability arising from material tests and evaluations. The letters and agreements had been expected in July, but the liability issue intervened.
Resin and fiber manufacturers, column-wrap developers and related construction companies seek to bid for portions of the California Department of Transportation's $2.5 billion seismic-retrofit program, which has been off-limits for polymer composites. Steel is now the only Caltrans-qualified material for seismic column wrapping, generally for $10,000-$16,000 per column.
Mohsen Sultan, chief of the Caltrans' new technology management branch, will chair a panel of industry and academic experts that will advise on acceptability criteria and the selection of subcontractors, probably including Aerospace Corp. and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Hamermesh will represent SAMPE on the panel, and other members will be named once the program begins in November.
``Caltrans announced this program originally in 1994 but determined it would be in the best interests of industry and the state for a group such as SAMPE to take the lead in development of potential new products,'' Sultan said.
Caltrans and SAMPE are co-
operating because of the probable bureaucratic delays that would occur if funding was routed through the overburdened state treasury.
SAMPE will collect funds from the materials suppliers and reimburse subcontractors. Caltrans will oversee the technical activity, which involves evaluating how companies handle and test fibers and resins, how they manufacture composite structures and how those items fulfill seismic-retrofit requirements. Evaluations will be extensive and could lead to Caltrans' qualification within a year.
Comparing materials will be a challenge. One system uses unidirectional woven E-glass fabric and high-performance epoxy matrix. Another uses carbon tows and epoxy that cures at an elevated temperature. A third uses E-glass and polyester, bonding preformed cylinders with a urethane adhesive that cures at ambient temperature. Other concepts are expected.
Eventually, a public report will describe acceptance criteria and report on product performances without disclosing differences between offerings, Hamermesh said. Companies hope that qualifying in California will lead to work in other states.
In concept, Phase II would begin in late 1996 and involve structural tests of composite-jacketed bridge columns using materials that look promising.
The program carries SAMPE beyond its traditional role as an educational and scientific association promoting new materials and processes through conferences, exhibitions and publications.
SAMPE, founded in 1944 and based in Covina, Calif., has about 6,500 individual members worldwide.