The TFF solicitation calls for a tailorable, short fiber feedstock that is stampable, moldable and meets aerospace grade properties. It also calls for development of a rapid, reconfigurable forming process to allow multiple part configurations from the same work cell, for example small skins, sea channels and ribs.

Maher believes that once realized, the common feedstock and forming method will not only increase platform performance, reduce costs and streamline manufacturing at the DoD, but may well disrupt the entire industry. “You’ve really taken a lot of the old technologies and made them obsolete,” said Maher. “This will become the new way to do things.”

The TFF program seeks expertise in fiber development, resin formulation and composite processing. Its solicitation is available on FedBizOpps.

Architecture

The panel of presenters at CAMX’s “Opportunities in Architecture” unanimously agreed that despite significant barriers in the marketplace, opportunities are growing. Architect Greg Lynn said that’s because composites allow architects to include curvatures in structures, carefully control where they place the material and create highly complex buildings, like San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, which has nearly 700 FRP panels fabricated by Kreysler & Associates.

Emily Guglielmo of engineering firm Martin/Martin Inc. said that composites allow engineers to get away from decades of “cookbook engineering” with traditional materials, but there is widespread reluctance to use an unfamiliar material. To overcome this ‘PR problem,’ the panelists recommend providing customers and inspectors with thorough analysis and test results.

However, a lack of building codes also limits composite applications to non-structural or partially structural facades and exterior veneers and interiors.

ACMA’s Architectural Division is currently developing structural code recommendations. In the meantime, Jesse Beitel, senior scientist at Jensen Hughes who helped spearhead the 2009 addition of an FRP fire requirements chapter into the International Building Code (IBC) recommends that every company tackle the fire standards issue first. “You may as well as forget about everything else if your product or application can’t pass the fire tests,” he said.