The September/October issue of Composites Manufacturing magazine featured research projects underway at universities worldwide. We also received an update on one project, the bike-manufacturing IsoTruss technology, included in last year’s article on university research. Here we catch up with Brigham Young University alumnus and CEO of Altus Poles Mark Jensen, who is manufacturing and marketing IsoTruss grid structures.
Why did you decide to research composite pole structures?
My father, David Jensen, is a professor of civil engineering at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, and he invented the composite pole structure. I just wanted to make sure it became a reality, so I started Altus Poles in 2009 with Aaron Howcraft when we built a prototype machine. The company is focused on developing and implementing the most advanced structural composites for the pole, tower and aircraft industries. In pursuit of this goal, Altus Poles has secured the exclusive worldwide license of IsoTruss technology for these markets.
How do you describe the composite lattice pole structures?
It is difficult to explain in words, but essentially we are taking advantage of the directional properties in fiber and orienting the fiber into lattice members to create a stronger geometric design. If you look down the axis of the pole it will look like a polygon or star shape. The star shape creates ‘wall thickness’ that helps prevent shell-buckling failure and increases rigidity.
How are they manufactured?
We have two processes. The first is a batch-type process of filament winding each pole and then using a special metallic with silicon rubber inserts mandrel. The second process is a 3D braiding machine that we’ve put together to wind the lattice shape while at the same time braiding a sleeve on each of the lattice members. This consolidates the fiber and squeezes out resin and voids, creating a very strong structure. Our current machine operates in a continuous manner from prepreg fiber and cures it, so out comes a finished structure.
Why are composites well suited for this application?
There are several reasons. First, composites are lighter and this helps save installation costs. Second is reduced degradation compared to metal, concrete or wood. Third, it’s engineerable/customizable for specific loading.
What real-world applications do composite lattice pole structures have?
In the near future, poles and towers. I would really like to see it used in aircraft and aerospace as well