How do you help them more fully understand composites?
I have to demonstrate the product for them. Most people don’t consider PVC pipes to be flexible, so I show them the process and put it in their hands. They bend the bar and are impressed with the bending stiffness. The variable resistance nature takes effect the more you bend it. You have to go back to basics with people, but they’re excited about learning.
Where else could the product be used?
This is great for exercise, but if you put a thicker piece of fiberglass inside, you can create a structural building component. For example, in temporary shelters, if you take a 20 foot piece of PVC tubing and you put a piece of fiberglass inside that’s maybe ¾-inch wide and ¼ inch thick, and you bend it into the ground, you can hang 200 pounds in the center of it and it’ll flex. If you bend one, and move 6 feet and bend another one, and you get a tarp that’s big enough to fit over the tubes, it looks like a dome structure offering a cost-effective way for basic shelter.
What key issues keep the composites industry from growing?
Any sort of progress takes a long time to make ground, even though many of us in the industry invest time to do things. It shouldn’t take 40 years of testing, materials development, educating engineers, and flight hours for aerospace companies to incorporate a majority of composites. I’ve been a member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) committee for composites strengthening concrete. We just now have a complete set of specifications covering a broad range of composites for internal and external reinforcement of concrete. That took 15 years to finalize.
What areas have you seen growth potential for composites?
There’s no short answer to that. The best examples of composites usage occur when we take full advantage of the resin and the fiber, take it into the realm of structural and demand performance out of the composite. I will say that aerospace still has strong growth potential. We have a corps of design engineers who believe in composites. Whether it’s for the fuselage, carbon reinforced flaps, engine components or storage bins, it’s everywhere. When you put materials in a true performance wing, you’re sitting there and they flap back and forth, it’s noticeable.
What are industries slow to adopt composites?