Involved in the composites industry for over 40 years, Bob Lacovara got his first exposure to composites when he began building surf boards at the age of 13. After graduating from college he began working for New Jersey-based Viking Yacht and later a transportation and aerospace components company. He has been on the board of directors and has served as president of ACMA (then CFA), was director of technical services at ACMA until when he 2009 started composites consulting company Convergent Composites.
What do you see driving the composites industry right now?
The economy is the number one driver. At this point, until consumers have money to spend, it will continue to be hard on manufacturers. Looking at segments, those businesses dealing with military/defense are doing better than those selling to a consumer base. However, many of the commercial sectors are hanging in there. It’s no surprise that the hardest hit in 2010 were the RV, boating and pool industries.
Where do you see the most potential for composite growth?
In terms of long term industry growth, transportation, energy production and infrastructure applications are the triad for sustainable industry growth. If an object moves, it needs to be lighter in weight to be more energy efficient and composites can do that, which will make them increasingly valuable. Renewable energy such as solar and wind have a lot of potential, not to mention the as yet untapped wave energy potential. And as far as infrastructure, you don’t need a crystal ball to see that our infrastructure will be worn out and need replacing in the upcoming years. To me, that’s the pie in the sky. There’s a huge amount of national infrastructure from highways to buildings that will need to be sustained and composites can play a role in that if positioned properly.
What about once thriving industries?
Over the last 40 years, the recreation (boats, RVs, sporting goods) industry has been significantly sustained our industry; it made up as much as 50 percent of the composites industry. However, people only buy those goods when they have disposable income. Pre-recession, the marine sector itself made up 30 percent of the industry. Now, we’re not entirely sure what percent of the industry it makes up but it has definitely been affected. We need the economy to come back so that disposable income can once again be used on these goods.