Structural engineers now have a tool to systematically design and evaluate FRP pultruded shapes with confidence when they design structures, whether it’s a cooling tower, a truss or a building frame. ASCE now has the role to take the prestandard and conduct a formal standards process, but a structural engineer can now use this prestandard to design with reliability. Before, every company had their own design manual that was tailored to the company’s design and construction. The LRFD standard now makes it possible to perform designs for pultruded products uniformly.
Is market growth the responsibility of individual manufacturers or the industry-at-large?
Market growth is most successful when it is a partnership. This is especially true with an association and its members. I couldn’t do what I’m doing to support market growth unless there were companies behind me that were willing to develop and demonstrate products. I can’t design specific products for companies. The company has to bring its own expertise and manufacturing prowess to the table.
What I can do is help groups of companies build relationships with key stakeholders, which is especially important if you’re introducing a new technology into a market.
Here’s an example: With ACMA’s Utility & Communications Structures Working Group, we met with three department chiefs of electrical distribution, transmission, and communication towers at USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. That meeting wouldn’t have happened for an individual company. But as an association, representing many member companies who make products for this market, we can leverage the power and credibility of a unified composites industry. In this situation, there’s more willingness by government agencies to work with a collective group than individuals.
How will the next generation of composites manufacturers (or products) be different from this one?
For the industry to be more competitive and successful in certain marketplaces, automation has to be a factor. A perfect example is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The Dreamliner wouldn’t be built today if they were dealing with the manufacturing techniques that were employed when I was an engineer at Boeing. They were too labor-intensive, too risky and there had to be much more consistency in the whole process. So what Boeing did over many years was to take the processes and automate them so they can meet a production schedule that would answer questions about cost effectiveness. The same can be applied for the wind turbine industry. Building bigger blades with more complex designs require automation to keep costs down.