The composites industry has been on a major upswing throughout 2014. While the industry still faces its challenges, it’s important to reflect on the progress made in the past year and how far the industry has come. What new markets have been tapped into? Where have we still not used composites to their full potential? This can help provide a guide for where we’re heading next.
John Busel, ACMA’s Vice President, Composites Growth Initiative, gave Composites Manufacturing Interviews his reflections on 2014 and his predictions for what’s next in 2015.
What do you think are the top two most notable takeaways for the composites industry from 2014?
One of the most exciting developments for our composites industry in over a decade has been the interest and commitment by both NIST and the Department of Energy to invest in our industry’s products and processes. In February 2014, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) issued a solicitation of proposals that would invest $70 million of government money to establish a Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Composites Materials and Structures that would support U.S. prosperity and security and contribute to the creation of a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes. This investment, in addition to matching industry funds, will total $140 million at a minimum to focus on technologies related to automotive, wind energy and pressure vessels. The amazing part of the process was to hear the buzz from the industry and the many teams that assembled across the nation that represented a true government, industry and academia approach. The collaboration of the entire composites supply chain along with composites industry experts from academia on these submitting teams demonstrated that industry stakeholders can work together to solve industry challenges. The winner of this solicitation has not been announced, but when the announcement is made, it will put into motion research and development activities that we have never seen before. In addition, NIST had the vision to invest in developing composites industry roadmaps. Both University of Massachusetts-Lowell’s Facilitating Industry by Engineering, Roadmapping and Science (FIBERS) consortium and Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute’s Consortium for Accelerated Innovation and Insertion of Advanced Composites (CAIIAC) were awarded funding to identify the issues and challenges facing the composites industry and develop a direction to solve the challenges.
Another significant accomplishment was the launch of the Composites Pavilion at the annual American Institute of Architects conference that was spearheaded by one of ACMA’s Composites Growth Initiative Committees – the Architectural Division. This marketing initiative, supported by 21 member companies, produced a dedicated space that featured composites materials and products at a significant end user event positions composites with credibility as an established building material. The collective work of the Architectural Division members to work together and showcase the composites industry is an example to be followed in other markets.