Which market segments in particular could grow and benefit from the research? How?
We see possibilities in several markets, including aerospace, automotive, energy and medical devices. Across the board, we are looking for ways to make composites even lighter in weight while enhancing performance and focusing on fast, lower-cost manufacturing. I want to see improved design and testing tools for a faster qualification process in order to use new materials in the aerospace market. The auto industry could also benefit from finding easy ways to join composites with other materials, such as metal, and new recycling and reuse tactics. Composites with multiple functions would allow for higher energy generation efficiency in the energy market.
What are some of the areas that offer the greatest growth for composites?
Again, there are many ways that composites’ light weight can benefit markets. Lightweight and strong cars, aircrafts, wind blades, infrastructures, medical devices and electronics are increasing in demand and can fill a variety of needs. For example, composites can be used for custom-made medical devices for orthotics and prosthetics for light weight and stronger performance. Composites also make better wind blades as we aim to make them longer and larger and therefore more efficient.
What kind of composite manufacturing challenges do you hope could be solved?
I would like to see an out-of-autoclave process that is scalable and repeatable be developed. [Ed. Note: Be sure to read Composite Manufacturing’s coverage on the rise of out-of-autoclave manufacturing in our upcoming September/October 2014 issue!] I am also looking for shorter development and production cycles and a shorter manufacturing process overall. I would also hope to see better ways to monitor and control the composite manufacturing process, such as embedding sensors to monitor the manufacturing process and structural health. These improvements can help the composites industry become even more competitive against traditional materials.