Fred Deans is chief marketing officer of Allied Composite Technologies (ACT), a thermoplastics, pultruder and basalt composites manufacturer of Rochester Hills, Mich. He has been in the materials and manufacturing business for over 40 years and has been a board member of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) since 1986.
What is your company’s history with composites?
ACT’s experiences were primarily in transportation segments. Our background is somewhat limited in the building and construction markets, but our “new found” materials provide superior strength and impact performance, which will enable us to develop new building and construction applications.
How accepted are composites within infrastructure products?
There are some impressive qualities of products (such as concrete rebar, pipe and window lineal), including strength, corrosion resistance and durability. However, I don’t believe we will have universal acceptance of composite products in the building and construction market. We will have to selectively develop composite products for performance sensitive applications. For instance, composite rebar will be particularly suited for concrete applications that have harsh, corrosive environments ― seawalls, dams, levees, bridges, etc. Once we prove these applications, we can then focus on higher volume (lower price and availability) applications, such as roads and buildings.
Can existing processes be used to develop high fiber thermoplastics?
The development of high fiber thermoplastic materials was based on new process technologies. It is very difficult to fully wet out fibers with higher viscosity thermoplastics. For years, products and process developers have worked out methods to impregnate fibers using commodity resins such as PP and PET (polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, respectively). The advantages of highly wet out thermoplastics in improved toughness, productivity and recyclability will create a market demand for these materials.
What kind of challenges are there working with thermoset composites?
There are economical challenges such as varying costs of raw materials. Also, post processing of thermoplastic composites will be a new area of technology for most infrastructure customers. Flame retarded composites for infrastructure composite applications will need to be based on newly developed, non-halogenated additives. These additives are new and forth coming.
What percentage of your products use basalt composite and urethane composite?
Very few of our composite developments are based on basalt fibers and urethane resins. However, as basalt fibers become more available, we will develop composite applications that will benefit from basalt’s unique chemical, temperature and toughness characteristics.