How does the infrastructure market differ in the U.S. and Canada?
Canada uses composites in as many applications as the U.S., possibly even more so. Here we have to build or rehabilitate hundreds of bridges per year. I know the number of projects will multiply around four times the current amount in the coming years. The use of composites is also being expanded into parking garages and bridges. We have companies that have been involved in composites for a long time and now the products are being commercialized and used in hundreds of bridges. These companies are making money, creating and expanding plants, creating new employment and increasing the number of employees. It’s all very helpful for Canada.
What are current trends in the Canadian bridge market?
In bridges there are a few trends to note, mainly for internal reinforcements of new structures. We have been using GFRP bars, which are predominant in the marketplace, and in a few cases there are CFRP bars. We also have applications with external reinforcement for rehabilitation and strengthening existing structures with carbon sheets and laminates. In the U.S., this technology is mainly being used in California.
Is there government support for these types of projects?
Absolutely! In terms of funding, I have over 1 million dollars for funding research in this area. I’m certain the use of GFRP in parking garage will expand. Right now I’m in the process of updating the CSAS806 code dealing with these structures and the new edition will be ready before the end of this year. It will make it increasingly easy for the designers constructing parking garages to use GFRP bars.
In your opinion, what would help the composites industry grow?
From my point of view the future of the industry looks really good, but we need to keep researching, developing and working on products that can be in the market in the next five years. For example, there are some new high-quality products being commercialized now and I’m working with manufactures from the U.S. and Canada about getting these products to market within the next five years. We need to keep these kinds of products constantly progressing and improving the technology for the benefit of engineers, the industry and society as a whole.
The next most important thing to the growth of the industry is to continue educating the next generation of workforce. During the last few years, I’ve worked with a number of graduate students. Currently, all of them are working at universities and with the industry, teaching the world what they have learned from the lab and research group.