Much closer to home, advancements are being made on the clean energy front. Kelly Visconti, P.E., of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office, led an educational session on “Lightweight Composites for Clean Energy.” Visconti discussed both the need for and federal support of the development of lightweight advanced composites to advance clean energy and U.S. competitiveness.

Visconti is technology manager and IACMI program manager in the Advanced Manufacturing Office. Launched earlier this year by President Obama, the Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation is the newest institute in the national Network of Manufacturing Innovation. IACMI’s goal is clear: Accelerate advanced composite technologies to save energy and create new manufacturing jobs – especially in the vehicle, wind turbine and compressed gas storage markets. Its five-year technical goals are to lower CFRP cost by 25 percent, reduce CFRP in embodied energy by 50 percent and recycle 80 percent of composites into useful products.

IACMI is a public-private collaboration of research centers, industry and government. During CAMX, it announced a strategic partnership with ACMA. IACMI will have five shared R&D facilities in close proximity to manufacturing and research centers. Three will focus on the target markets:

  • A Michigan facility will collaborate with Michigan State University to advance composites in vehicles.
  • A Colorado facility will focus on wind turbines with core partner National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
  • An Ohio facility will concentrate on compressed gas storage and work with the University of Dayton Research Institute.

Meanwhile, two cross-cutting R&D facilities will be located in Tennessee and Indiana – one for composite materials and process technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in collaboration with The University of Tennessee and University of Kentucky; and another Indiana facility for innovative design, predictive modeling and simulation-enabling technology in partnership with Purdue University.

Funded with a $70 million investment from the Department of Energy over five years, the new institute hopes to bring manufacturing of energy-saving and clean energy products – almost all of which were originally developed in the U.S. – back home. “The status quo is that things are invented here and made elsewhere,” said Visconti. “This initiative is designed to help reverse that. Success looks like this – energy products invented here and competitively made here.”

As CAMX attendees have heard repeatedly this week, for U.S. companies to remain competitive in the global composites industry they will have to improve advanced composite processes for high-speed/low-cost production, energy-efficient manufacturing, recycling, innovative design concepts, and modeling and simulation. To engage with IACMI, Visconti encourages companies to become members and propose individual development projects, utilize the shared R&D facilities for workforce development and more.