Composites have had to answer the questions of each and every industry. There were no fiberglass boats at one point, and now there are many of them. A company called Gibbs and Cox published the first design guide for fiberglass boats, and they spent many years to develop data and give the industry the design information it took to make operations possible. However, we have to design processes and techniques specifically answering that industry. The golf industry could care less that the Dreamliner has the same materials, for example; you just have to answer their specific questions. Looking back, the industry would have been better off if we spent three times more on development. We would have gotten the job done 15 years earlier.
What was wrong with the way things were done?
The industry would decide on something to work on, complete it and go on to the next thing. Then we would get to the point where we work on two things at once. We could have reached this point faster by bringing more resources to bear at that particular time. However, companies are only willing to commit so much time and money on development. In retrospect, that’s the only way it could have been done faster.
How can the industry improve itself?
In terms of spec development, we’ve gotten faster in processing the paperwork that goes along. The electronic aspect has streamlined that, but the downside is there are fewer people working. People say we’ve been hearing this for years, but we’re at the point with composites where we have close to a complete set of design specs across an incredibly large marketplace. I happen to believe that we haven’t tapped an ultimate potential, but with all the data we have, if people don’t believe composites will meet their needs seeing something such as the Dreamliner, they have an aversion to technology. We need visionary leaders to generate data and make industries comfortable in using the products. To make composites move faster, you need to truly commit.