Why was the U.S. so hard hit compared to other countries? How, comparatively, are we bouncing back?
I think the U.S. was hit harder because of the overproduction in housing as well as the credit and financial crisis that was largely centered in the U.S., an epicenter of sorts. It spilled over a bit into Europe, but most of Asia was not affected very much. So now, places like Asia are engineering faster growth and recovery while we are slowly recovering.
In what industries do you see the most promise for composites growth?
I think the automotive and construction industries will cycle back. They are slumping now, but they are traditional leaders for composites. As for growth potential I think that the renewable energy sector, wind energy and infrastructure will steadily climb.
Where do composites need to change and adapt in order to succeed?
I’m a strong believer in “a rising tide lifts all ships.” So, as the economy improves, composites will benefit. But one area where composites can help themselves is by embracing and endorsing more life cycle cost analysis. I think composites often don’t win the competition because the initial cost is higher over other materials. But we know that in life cycle analysis, composites often win out. It has a low maintenance cost as a result, making it a very economical solution.
What were composites’ greatest accomplishments in the last year?
Although it had somewhat of a flat year in 2009, the build-up in wind energy manufacturing within the U.S. the past two years has been amazing. Previously, wind farms had to import from other countries, mostly Europe. But many companies have now opened manufacturing plants within the U.S. and the industry is poised to be much more self-sufficient as demand picks up. Another significant event was the first test flight of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. The symbolic value of its all-composite fuselage is a great victory for composites and should inspire confidence in its usage within aerospace and other industries.
What message do you want to get across to COMPOSITES 2010 attendees?
We have a great industry with accomplishments we can be proud of. We are still a growth industry and once we get through this economic recession, we will once again have a growth greater than the overall economy. We have a lot of creative designers and inventors within the industry who have been able to create new solutions by designing and efficiently manufacturing fiberglass and resin.