In the long term, composites will succeed over steel and concrete in structural and civil engineering applications because of their lower energy content, Jaap Ketel told attendees at the recent Global Pultrusion Technology Conference in Baltimore.
Although those industries' traditions, norms and standards are holding back many large-scale composite applications, Ketel said he expects a breakthrough for the reinforced-polymer materials. Ketel, who owns Ketel Consulting Agents BV in Leusden, Netherlands, is an executive member of the Composite Bridge Alliance Europe and organizer of the conference, held June 7-8.
To make his point, Ketel cited some European composite-dominated examples, along with comparisons: hybrid monorail vehicles from Switzerland's Metrail AG vs. traditional train and lightweight rolling stock; a 17,600-pound truck trailer from Lokeren, Belgium's Composittrailer NV vs. a standard trailer weighing 26,400 pounds; and a Lerida, Spain, pultruded-profile footbridge made by Barcelona, Spain-based Pedelta and Fiberline Composites A/S of Middelfart, Denmark.
``The global pultrusions industry must be encouraged to keep on investing in these developments despite setbacks, and sometimes even open counterattacks from vested interests of traditional material manufacturers,'' Ketel said.
In addition to lower manufacturing costs, the lower lifetime energy requirements of lightweight composites should bode well for their future, Ketel said.
Jeff Martin, president of Martin Pultrusion Group Inc. in Oakwood Village, Ohio, agreed with Ketel about energy efficiency. ``Composite profiles have the lowest coefficient of thermal expansion of any window framing material,'' he said. As a result, composite profiles for windows and doors have the lowest air and water infiltration.
Martin said less weight and part consolidation help composite profiles compete with aluminum extrusions, which consume large amounts of energy during processing.
John Busel, of the American Composites Manufacturers Association's composites growth initiative, outlined an industry-funded, three-year $1.25 million effort to create a pultrusion standard.
``A [pultrusion] standard could serve as a reference to apply to other [fiber-reinforced-plastic] composites,'' said Busel, who heads the Arlington, Va.-based trade group. ``We need to catch up and play that game.''
Creating a reliability-based pultruded composites methodology - specifically, a load and resistance factor design - will help establish a standard, Busel said. In soliciting support, he said financial sponsors would get a first look at the FRP design code in progress.
Ayman Mosallam, a professor at the University of California at Irvine's school of engineering, is working on publishing a design manual for FRP pultruded connections. The manual draws a roadmap for more efficient and safer primary load-bearing profiles and moment frame connections, Mosallam said.
The structural composites and plastics committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers, in Reston, Va., funded the manual's creation, initially in 2001, and unofficial versions of it are available online.
Dolores GÃ³mez Pulido, a partner with civil engineering firm Pedelta, agreed there's a need for a standard and better pultruded joints.
``The future of advanced composite materials for architectural and civil engineering structural applications will depend basically on the development of new structural forms and element-joining techniques,'' she said. ``Structural codes would help to spread the use.''
Pulido described her firm's 2006 creation of a circular 46-foot-high translucent FRP faÃ§ade surrounding an illuminated performance center in Badajoz, Spain; 2007's multilevel pedestrian bridge extending more than 1,500 feet for tourists visiting the Arrikrutz cave near OÃ±ati, Spain; and the firm's 2001 work on the Lerida footbridge.
In February, Apatech, or Applied Advanced Technology Co. Ltd. of Moscow, submitted a bid to add a second level of pultruded FRP over at least 12 miles of geography-constricted highway connecting the resort city of Sochi and its airport. Russia is hoping to hold the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Pending a contract award, the firm is working with the Russian Transport Ministry's road agency regarding specifications for the structure, said Apatech's general director, Andrey Ushakov.
In two steel-replacement activities, Kazak Composites Inc. of Woburn, Mass., supplied the U.S. Navy with pultruded macrocomposite polyurethane stanchions and is developing technology for Navy safety net frames.
The stanchions are mounted on the perimeter of an aircraft carrier's flight deck. Kazak embeds many small-diameter FRP rods in a tough PU matrix. The tube's axial and hoop-bending stiffnesses allow a ``hinge'' to yield at a predetermined magnitude of the applied bending moment. The hinge section can flatten without cracking or tearing the wall. Kazak supplied stanchions that went on a ship in January, said President Jerome Fanucci.
For the safety net frames, Kazak is developing a prototype for use on a Navy destroyer. The macro-composites tubes weigh about 20 percent of the frame's current steel tubes. The project is proceeding under the Navy's Small Business Innovation Research program.
Dustin Troutman, director of marketing and product development for Creative Pultrusions Inc. in Alum Bank, Pa., said his firm has invested in ways to overcome in-plane and interlaminar shear strength, impact and abrasion issues in composites made with polyester or vinyl ester resins.
``I predict that within the next five years, polyurethane pultrusions will be as common as polyester-based pultrusions,'' he said. ``In fact, we may see the day when polyester resins go the way of the buggy whip.''
Mastercore System Ltd. of Mississauga, Ontario, also is targeting polyesters and has created a composite foamed profile-panel.
The sandwich construction has a shell of PU-impregnated glass, carbon or blended matrix fibers and a core of chlorofluorocarbon-free structural foam that bonds to the interior of the profile walls. The company creates the processes and transfers the technology to a customer location for volume production.
Conference keynote speaker William Ferrell, a PPG Industries Inc. product manager in Shelby, N.C., identified a potpourri of pultrusion solutions and discussed energy-saving opportunities with a focus on construction, aircraft and infrastructure applications.
Troutman listed composite product opportunities in homes including shutters, gable vents, soffits, entry and garage doors, wall systems, roof-to-wall connections, house-to-foundation strapping, windows and pool screen enclosures.