ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Federal funding cutbacks have stymied research aimed at boosting polymer-matrix-composite materials.
How academic research can boost technology development was among the subjects for a panel discussion at the opening session of the Composites Manufacturing and Tooling '99 conference, held Feb. 8-10 in Anaheim.
Historically, composite research was teamed with industry and government efforts to develop costly performance-driven advanced defense systems. But federal budget cuts have left universities with fewer opportunities or resources for this type of work.
Efforts exist to close the gap, said Dave Ledbetter, manager of research and development operations for Lockheed Martin Corp.'s aeronautical systems unit in Marietta, Ga. Some educational research contracts and grants come from the National Science Foundation, Advanced Research Projects Agency, Air Force Research Laboratory and the Navy's Great Lakes Composites Center, he said.
Use of students in cooperative or intern programs has ``been sporadic,'' Ledbetter said.
Teaming with universities requires focus, balance and data and invention ownership, said Ian Stoddart, director of corporate technology operations with Hexcel Corp.'s composites unit in Dublin, Calif.
``Shelf life of knowledge is becoming shorter and shorter,'' said moderator Michael Martin, executive vice president of Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. in Blacksburg, Va.
Patent protection is less important. He cited that electronics firms did not care about patents.
``If they were six months ahead of the competition, they would recoup their money in the first year,'' Martin said.
The Composites Manufacturing Association organized the conference. CMA is a unit of the Dearborn, Mich.-based Society of Manufacturing Engineers.