Does 3Form build projects using glass-fiber reinforcement or similar composite products?
Yes and no. Composites have become a successful feeding ground for engineers. Our company gets a lot of compliments for our design and sales teams but I’m proud of the work the customer’s don’t see, our “engine under the hood.” The product can look great, but if it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t really matter how it looks. I like to hire engineers who are familiar with composites. We’ve dabbled with glass reinforcement for rigidity, especially with thermosets, but we use thermoplastics so try to keep the product fluid. A lot of times we ask engineers if they would like to include composite reinforcement. We use fiber reinforcements when trying to get additional rigidity.
How many 3Form projects use composite reinforcements?
Fiber reinforcement is currently a core element of our stone product. We were having problems with the heavy mineral filled thermoset resin and it really needed the additional support to make it a sturdier product. Reinforcing with woven glass fiber sheets has helped to increase that products’ durability. However, our stone line is less than 1 percent of our sales, so it’s a small product line. I think it is difficult to sell because it’s not easy to customize.
What are some major trends in the architectural industry?
There are a couple of big industry trends at the moment. First, manufacturers are working to build new products and trust. Architects are not interested in designs they’ve seen before. However, they also don’t want to take an undue risk. The ability of an architect to show what they can do, deliver it and get the confidence of the client is a huge industry must. On top of that budget is a huge issue, and it always is an issue.
So the question becomes, “How can I help you save time, money, energy, reduce risk and collaborate early, sell to the client and know it will be executed and delivered?” The American Institute of Architects (AIA) calls it innovative product delivery. Credible businesses take action and deliver. They also invite the architect to become part of the design team instead of just delivering them a product. For architects, they feel they can mitigate business risk by becoming involved.
What advice would you give to the composites industry?
I work with mainly three types of materials: Glass, plastic and stone. More often than not, I have to spend a huge amount of my time convincing my suppliers that it pays and is worthwhile to manufacture things different than they have in the past. Most manufacturers want to turn on a machine and say, “that’s what you get.” We need to stay away from being run of the mill. It’s not acceptable any more.