Gremel, who chairs ACMA’s FRP Rebar Manufacturers Council, says companies must work together. “Composites are not a great mystery. We all have access to the same suppliers of raw materials,” he says. “If you think about your business as a closed proprietary process you’re never going to tell anybody about, then engineers won’t embrace it. We have to get organized as an industry.”
Like other manufacturers, ZellComp takes a multifaceted approach to growing business and the industry. “We believe it is important to better advertise our successes, work to lower costs and continue to focus on life cycle and value engineering through Congressional fly-ins, speaking engagements, etc.,” says Richards.
Change in the transportation infrastructure community will take time. “The people in the field need to be patient and have a couple irons in the fire,” says MacNeil. “This could be a field that takes many years to blossom.”
ZellComp is prepared for slow adoption of composites. Richards says the company currently focuses on public projects where there’s a recognized need for lightweight, corrosion-free bridge decks and commercial projects where net present value and life analyses are a key consideration. Composite Advantage takes a similar approach. “We sell in situations where we can solve a problem,” says Reeve. His customers often require lightweight options, a fast installation or maintenance-free materials.
Market acceleration is not likely to start in the United States, says Crawford. “I think the early adopters will be overseas, then it will catch on here in North America,” he says. “When it does, we’re not going to be able to expand our production and capacity fast enough.” Marshall’s business model is to license its technology, build production plants for licensees and provide turnkey operations. Crawford speculates that the first licensee will be in the Middle East because that region is generally more willing to spend extra money to ensure structures last longer.
“There is plenty of room for growth for all of us,” says Crawford. “A rising tide raises all boats, and that’s the case in the composites industry, particularly for infrastructure materials.”