Richard O’Meara is president of Core Composites, Inc., a division of ROM Development Corporation, located in Newport, R.I. He has worked in the distribution and sales of composite materials since 1978. He is the Chairperson for Marine Products for SAMPE and serves on the curriculum board for The International Yacht Restoration School [IYRS], with campuses in Newport and Bristol. The Bristol campus launched a first-of-its-kind, full time Composites Technology Program in 2010. O’Meara’s areas of expertise include composite market analysis and training.
What was the genesis for composites technology program at IYRS?
International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS) offers hands-on as well as classroom training and it saw composites as a growth market. Clark Poston works for IRYS and asked if I’d like to be on the curriculum board. He said this program wasn’t just limited to training for building yachts. He wanted to train the local workforce for other industries besides making yachts to help students gain the necessary skills used in other composite-based industries. The days of boat building in the old way are coming to an end — that is, open molding is coming to an end. I don’t think you’ll see hand-built in the future. Using the infusion process and prepreg process are the most logical processes for large composite-part production in the future.
Where did you turn to for training program ideas?
As a country, New Zealand offers excellent boat-builders training and their apprenticeship program does probably the best job training boat builders. Many of my ideas are based on what they have achieved in New Zealand, and the IYRS program will hopefully be as successful. We need geographic areas designated now, like it is in China, which are focused on a certain industry. In the Northeast, that’s exactly what’s happening. IYRS located the composite school there and recently MouldCAM moved in from Australia with a large CNC tooling shop in the same complex. You can literally walk across the street from the school and get a job. Bristol has been and is becoming a fantastic area for composites, in that there is support for building businesses in Bristol.
How can the U.S. composite industry increase competitive advantage over imported composites?
Wind turbine molds are becoming so large that it’s cheaper to build them in the states than to transport them here from another country. Importing the pieces and then reassembling them is not as good as building locally. However, we need to invest in the proper equipment to manufacture products in demand. Janicki Industries was one of the first and largest CNC shops in the U.S., and started to build very large CNC molds for marine and wind, and now builds molds for Boeing’s Dreamliner and other aircraft companies. The composite industry is now building molds that are carbon-fiber infused, many of which are now well over 30 meters. Offshore wind blades will be in the 100-meter range, which means they are best built in the country that they will be installed in since transporting something this large is expensive and somewhat dangerous.