Composites On The Move Shows Growth Markets For Reinforced Polymers

New SPE/NCC conference highlights composites opportunities in key sectors.

Composites on the Move, a new regional conference cosponsored by the Composites Division and Miami Valley (Ohio) Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) International (Brookfield, Conn.) and the National Composite Center (NCC, Kettering, Ohio), reportedly drew 125 attendees to the NCC campus on March 25 to hear about emerging composites opportunities. Event organizers say they intentionally focused program content on markets with dynamic opportunities for composites, such as wind energy, aerospace, building and construction and heavy truck. To underscore the latter, the one-day conference was followed by an optional tour of the Navistar International Truck Plant in Springfield, Ohio.

A BIT OF EVERYTHING

Four conference keynote speakers highlighted growth opportunities in four areas of emphasis: Chuck Kazmierski, project manager, Lucintel (Dallas, Texas), spoke on “Opportunities in the Global Wind Energy Market”; Tony Camarota, Advanced Materials & Composites Research Group (Hudson, Mass.), described “Expanding Market Share by Utilizing FR (Flame-Retardant) Solutions”; Ed Zenk, senior development engineer, International Trucks and Engine (Warrenville, Ill.), discussed “Composites in the Trucking Industry”; and Dr. Alexis Abramson, director, The Nano Network, Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio), explained “The Nanotechnology Landscape in Ohio.”

Meanwhile, the conference technical program featured 21 speakers in two parallel tracks covering materials and process technologies as well as applications. The technical presentations encompassed a wide range of familiar materials, (SMC, GMT, LFT) and some less common: carbon fiber-reinforced polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), cyclic-polybutylene terephthalate (c-PBT), microcomb foam cores, basalt fibers and high-temperature carbon-reinforced aromatic thermosetting (co)polyester (ATSP) composites. Processing and finishing technologies ranged from continuous lamination and inline compounding (ILC) to preforming of engineering fabrics using a UV-curable epoxy acrylate binder that chemically bonds with the infused resin system. Applications under discussion were equally diverse: concrete preforms, garage doors, rebar, pipe, wind-turbine blades, furniture, trailer panels, tractor cabs, large-appliance parts and aerospace components.

During breaks, attendees visited displays of 15 of the conference’s 17 sponsors: Allied Composite Technologies LLC (Rochester Hills, Mich.), Azdel Inc. (Forest, Va.), Composites One (Arlington Heights, Ill.), Composite Products Inc. (Winona, Minn.), Continental Structural Plastics (CSP, Troy, Mich.), Dueck & Associates Inc. (Elmira, Ontario, Canada), Emabond (Norwood, N.J.), Mar-Bal Inc. (Chagrin Falls, Ohio), Meridian Automotive Systems (Allen Park, Mich.), Nida-Core (St. Lucie, Fla.), OCV Reinforcements (Toledo, Ohio), Perlane Sales Inc. (Stow, Ohio), Ticona Engineering Polymers (Florence, Ky.), Total Industries Inc. (South Bend, Ind.) and CT publisher COMPOSITESWORLD (Wheat Ridge, Colo.).
Nonexhibiting sponsors were the American Composites Manufacturers Assn. (ACMA, Arlington, Va.) and Kurz-Kasch (Dayton, Ohio).

TRUCK PLANT TOUR A HIT

The Navistar facility tour was a hot ticket — more people wished to participate than could be accommodated. Afterward, attendees from the automotive industry commented on how open the tour was.
“We spent two-and-a-half hours going through all the production lines, start to finish,” said Bill Dolan, CSP’s commercial manager and a technical session chair. “The tour guide for my group was in charge of paint so we really had a chance to talk with him and ask how we can improve composites.”

“The plant tour was ... a highlight of the entire event,” said conference attendee Fred Buck, chief engineer – Materials at Commercial Vehicle Group (New Albany, Ohio).

RIGHT IDEA, RIGHT LOCATION

Participants who were interviewed after the event unanimously praised its diversity — a departure from the more narrowly focused SPE Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition (ACCE). “It roughly parallels the SPE ACCE, but for nonautomotive applications,” noted Dan Buckley, director – R&D for American GFM Corp. (Chesapeake, Va.), who also was a speaker and organizing-committee member. He added that the conference filled technology niches that don’t get center stage at large annual exhibitions, such as ACMA’s COMPOSITES & POLYCON Show and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering’s advanced composites-oriented SAMPE Symposium. “One speaker told me the people who came up afterwards were from companies he never would have reached,” he said.

Fred Deans, conference cochair and speaker, added, “The goal ... was to foster dialog on multi-industry uses for composites. We achieved this goal and look forward to working on future events.”

CSP’s Dolan, whose company does significant business in automotive composites, noted that “this conference clearly showed that the opportunities outside automotive are just as big as inside — maybe more so.”

“Regional conferences,” concludes Louis Luedtke, president and CEO of the NCC, who also served as conference cochair and host, “serve a much-needed segment of this industry, reaching smaller suppliers and molders who can’t attend national conferences very often.”