DALLAS - Efforts by the polymer composites industry to penetrate the civil infrastructure market continued at the Composites '96 conference and exposition. The Composites Fabricators Association scheduled a half-dozen sessions to broaden attendees' understanding of the opportunities to make structural parts and the inherent challenges in securing the business.
``A main emphasis in the industry is the consideration of using composite materials structurally instead of just cosmetically,'' said William Kreysler, president of William Kreysler & Associates Inc. in Penngrove, Calif. ``The CFA market development alliance has quite an initiative to convince engineers, building officials and others who choose materials.''
Kreysler, whose firm tackles large single-use construction-related projects, said CFA is trying to help members address some basic questions: What is the precedent? Who uses the structural material now? How did they get up the acceptance curve?
A producer of fiberglass rebar in the Australian state of Victoria said his biggest problem was getting civil engineers to accept the concept of using a composite instead of metal.
``Engineers in infrastructure need to understand how well composites perform initially and how well they hold up for the long haul,'' said Simon Scott, marketing manager of Hetron resin for Ashland Chemical Co.'s composite polymers division in Columbus, Ohio. ``We as an industry have to raise their level of knowledge and level of confidence in composites.''
Scott added: ``Large stacks, stack liners, tanks and pipe are long-time examples of strong fiber-reinforced structures, and prior composite marketing efforts have penetrated, for example, the pulp and paper and waste water odor-control industries.''
Market fragmentation is a challenge.
``The CFA seeks on a large scale to attract specific infrastructure consumers so they can recognize what our affiliates are capable of doing and supplying,'' said Patrick Money, president of fabricator Compositives Inc. in Garrett, Ind., and CFA's 1996-97 president.
``The market for the infrastructure consumer appears to be fragmented without any real focus either geographically or in application,'' he said. ``We are sorting out where we find these people.''
At his own firm, Money is looking for lighter core materials that provide the same structural characteristics as a complete FRP product. ``We are moving toward design work that heretofore has been handled by hand lay up or other processes and developing glass structures or core structures to meet that need,'' he said.
``Long term, we are working to educate those people who write and enforce building codes about what composites can and can't do,'' said Gerald Bender, corporate vice president of Molded Fiber Glass Cos. in Ashtabula, Ohio, and CFA's 1993-95 president. ``Short term, most businesses are trying to survive, and they need to sell products now.''
Matching appearance with an existing product is an issue.
``I don't think, in many cases, you are able to design composites and take advantage of all the positives of a composite that is going to look like what you are replacing.''
Craig Ballinger, a Vienna, Va., consultant and former federal highway official, organized an educational track that addressed aspects about the civil infrastructure market in four sessions at Composites '96. ``We achieved our goals,'' Ballinger said.
Over two days, panels discussed durability and life cycle performance for infrastructure applications; standards, specifications and selling in the markets; the buyers' perspective; and current ideas and concerns.
In two other sessions, Charles Hamermesh, technical director of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering, discussed the potential of polymer composites in infrastructure applications and the use of advanced materials in railroad cars, commercial aircraft and gasoline- and alternate-fuels cars and trucks.
SAMPE exhibited at Composites '96 and will play a substantially larger role at Composites '97 in Orlando, Fla.
The CFA and SAMPE will sponsor the Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 1997, event and expand the scope and range of educational programs that each group offers traditionally. McLean, Va.-based CFA has 700 company members, and Covina, Calif.-based SAMPE has 5,000 individual members.
Composites '97 will combine CFA's annual convention and exposition and SAMPE's fall technical conference. SAMPE's spring conference and exhibition will continue in Anaheim, Calif.
Meanwhile, CFA will continue to make inroads in helping members pursue the behemoth known as the civil infrastructure market.