Brian Morin founded Greenville, S.C.-based Innegrity in 2004. The company manufactures a unique fiber to strengthen composites applications in such industries as ballistics and sporting goods.
What are some challenges working with composites?
We’re a brand-new material, and people are conservative about new materials. While we don’t have a competitor (we’re the only one doing what we’re doing), our biggest competitor is inertia. Every time I try to introduce a new technology, it amazes me how important the human element is. In theory it sounds like the people should be easiest to change, but they’re often the hardest. I think people don’t understand there are processes available where you can make composites in a high throughput manner. We want to get people to change what they do in a competitive environment as well as change their behavior to consider something new, like composites. But they wonder if we will be around and if they’ll always be able to get our material. Many new firms come and go, so the bigger, more conservative companies will often wait longer before coming on board.
How do you deal with customer resistance?
We find people where the value is most compelling and work with them. That’s why we’ve focused a lot on sporting goods. A lot of sporting equipment is all about weight and durability. I also think there’s a little bit of strategy in terms of choosing value, and the rest is just simple persistence. You just keep working with people. The composites industry is strong from an innovation standpoint, being fairly accepting of new materials, but they’re more conservative on the commercial side. But you have to work through one to get to the other.
How does your fiber get implemented?
It’s really very simple. If you look at the composites industry now, you have carbon fiber, glass fibers and aramid fibers. Our fiber is used almost in the exact same way. It’s handled and used in the same way, but the benefit is that it’s a third the weight of glass and half the weight of carbon. So, it’s another tool for composites engineers that want to try something new. It also works in a large variety of resins, but you have to be more selective.
What makes resin selectivity different?
We have a very tough fiber that has a relatively high elongation. If you use a brittle resin, the resin fracture will dominate. So, you need a tough resin with a relatively high elongation. Once you do, the compatibility’s fine. But using a brittle resin with low elongation will result in a sub-par composite product.