Two Japanese companies dem-onstrated column-strengthening technologies July 18 in efforts to penetrate markets in California and elsewhere. Material supplier Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. and contractor Obayashi Corp. teamed to work on three columns supporting Interstate Highway 10 in Los Angeles and, later, presented a technical workshop. Workers from Ace Restoration of Fullerton, Calif., applied Tonen Corp.'s Forca Tow Sheet to one I-10 column.
``We showed two methods as a portion of our efforts to become qualified for [California Department of Transportation] work,'' said Craig Ballinger of Vienna, Va., Mitsubishi's U.S. technical representative.
One method involves a carbon-fiber-strand winding machine that Obayashi has used at home to strengthen columns and chimneys. The other method wraps columns with Replark unidirectional carbon fiber preimpregnated sheets. Tonen uses carbon-fiber tow sheets, said Howard Kliger of Edison, N.J., the company's U.S. representative.
Oil refiner Tonen developed tow sheets as an end-product for petroleum-based pitch carbon fiber but no longer makes that material. Tonen continues tow sheet production using polyacrylonitrile-based carbon fiber. Japanese interests and a venture of Mobil Corp. and Exxon Corp. own Tonen.
Tonen and the Obayashi-Mitsubishi team plan to compete for retrofit contracts against Hexcel Fyfe Co. of San Diego, XXsys Technologies Inc. of San Diego, Hardcore DuPont Composites LLC of New Castle, Del., and the CMI Inc. unit of Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based C.C. Myers Inc.
Continuing to face qualification hurdles, the advanced-material firms seek permission to bid against suppliers of conventional welded-steel jackets. Caltrans has given conditional approval to Hexcel Fyfe and XXsys and may add Hardcore, Mitsubishi and Tonen soon, said Mohsen Sultan, chief of Caltrans' new technology management branch.