Orenco Composites, an Oregon company that makes tanks and service buildings for wastewater treatment systems for Orenco Systems Inc., has signed a licensing agreement with a Dutch company, FiberCore Europe BV, to license the firm's InfraCore technology in the United States.
The deal will lead to Orenco Composites' entry into new markets by manufacturing composite bridges using the InfraCore process, said Eric Ball, senior vice president of Orenco Composites.
The Rotterdam-based FiberCore builds some large bridges for carrying traffic — as well as other big composite infrastructure products such as wind turbines and lock gates — which are a major application in the Netherlands with its shipping expertise and flood control systems. Rotterdam is the largest seaport in Europe.
But Ball said Orenco Composites will start with smaller pedestrian bridges for parks as well as bridges for golf courses that carry golf cars.
And the future is bright for other InfraCore applications in the United States, Ball said.
"The opportunity long term for fiber-reinforced plastics for infrastructure is just phenomenal. It's one of the biggest markets there is," he said.
Orenco Composites uses the vacuum infusion process to make FRP products for Orenco Systems such as vessels, mobile wastewater plants, booster stations and other buildings to house controls in that sector. Ball said the family-owned company also has a line of custom buildings for telecommunications and general industry.
InfraCore combines the advantages of sandwich structures and multi-beam plates, solving the major challenge of delamination of FRP sandwich structures, especially due to fatigue after an impact. Instead, the Dutch process creates a robust continuous structural connection of glass fibers between the top and bottom of the structure.
"The construction contains no internal glues or bolted connections," Simon de Jong, co-founder and CEO of FiberCore, said. "The strength comes entirely from the fibers, which themselves are much stronger than steel. Besides the bridges and lock gates, our technology is used today in [sea] ship construction and offshore wind energy projects. This year, we expect to start our first project in the aerospace industry. Our cooperation with Orenco shows yet another application of our versatile technologies."
Ball said FiberCore Europe tried to enter the U.S. market by shipping its large infrastructure products on container ships, but found that was not economical.
Using InfraCore technology is a big move for Orenco Composites, since its current products are built to handle static loads, not dynamic loads like a bridge.
Orenco Composites uses types of processes other than vacuum infusion, including filament winding and resin transfer molding. Ball said the company has added a new process, reaction injection molding of dicyclopentadiene resin (DCPD), at its plant in Wilbur, Ore.
The company spent nearly $2 million in the last two years to build two large hydraulic RIM presses and aluminum molds., and purchased mixhead conveying equipment for the DCPD processing, Ball said.
"This is our single-biggest investment in equipment that we've ever done," he said.