“The pavilion showcases how research enables us to go beyond established modes of design and construction, resulting in a canopy that is as architecturally expressive as it is structurally efficient,” says Menges. “It provides the visitor with a unique spatial experience that transforms and evolves over time.”

Menges believes that the integration of design, engineering and fabrication – as well as the fully automated, reusable tool process that the pavilion showcases – will have many other applications, including lightweight, long-span building structures.

Pultruded Panels Add Pizzazz to Trade Show

Application: The Silver Flow trade show display

Contributors: Strongwell and Dimensional Communications

“Wow” Factor: Half architecture, half sculpture and all composite, this eye-catching auto show display takes pultruded GFRP to new heights.

The cascade of silver panels that hang from the ceiling over Mercedes-Benz exhibits at American auto shows are dazzling. Lit by an array of lights, the rectangular bars shine as if they are metal. In fact, the panels are pultruded GFRP that have been designed to look like the solid aluminum bars used at a Mercedes-Benz exhibit at a European trade show in 2014.

The luxury automaker loved the overhanging display so much that it wanted something similar for all of its U.S. auto shows over the next five years. This created a dilemma. The original aluminum display was designed for one-time use and, though stunning, was too heavy to transport, set up and take down repeatedly.

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The Silver Flow FRP display panels glimmer above the Mercedes-Benz exhibit at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2014. Photo Credit: © 2014 Gary Michael Prochorchik, Exposures Ltd. Photography

Tasked with the job of replicating the exhibit for major U.S. auto shows, Dimensional Communications, Mahwah, N.J., brought the project to Strongwell to create a lighter, more durable version of the display from pultruded GFRP. To begin, Strongwell developed custom tooling. It took several months to create the tooling so that the end product would be strong enough to handle the rigor of set up and tear down over time, according to Barry Myers, marketing manager at Strongwell.

“It takes time to get tooling right,” he says. “Pultrusion dies are large, and generally they are steel and chrome plated. There’s a lot to them. So the turnaround time is a lot longer than making some less costly and complex dies.”

Once the tooling was ready, Strongwell fabricated 125 hollow GFRP panels measuring ⅛-inch thick, two inches tall and 16 inches wide. They are cut to lengths that vary from four to 20 feet. Strongwell used fiberglass rovings from Owens Corning and PPG and a continuous strand mat bathed in thermoset resins from Ashland and AOC. The panels also feature a polyester surface veil to provide a smooth and consistent surface.