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CAMX 2016 Show Report

Dec 24, 2016

In three short years, the Composites and Advanced Materials Expo (CAMX) has evolved into the largest composites event in North America, the composites industry’s largest market. CAMX officially kicked off on Sept. 27 with a General Session that featured three creative and visionary keynote speakers who have applied composites in new and compelling ways that promise to change how we think about communication, transportation and architecture. About 1,700 showgoers filled the hall to hear testimony of composites’ high utility as a problem-solving material.


Visionaries frame new futures

First up was Daniel Preston, CEO and CTO of Luminati Aerospace (Calverton, NY, US), a new company dedicated to bringing Internet connectivity to all areas of the world. He and his team are developing, among many products and technologies, high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned vehicles that will harvest energy from wind and sun to stay aloft. These vehicles will be constructed by automated layup methods, using carbon fiber composites supplied by Hexcel (Stamford, CT, US).

Due to a scheduling conflict, Preston could not attend CAMX in person, but appeared via video. He commented on his early success as a student (college at age 12, graduated in his teens) and in business (sold his first business and “retired” in his 20s), and how that led, eventually, to the HALE effort, which was prompted by a “large dot-com” that was seeking to provide Internet access to underserved regions around the world. The result is the V0-Substrata, a solar- and wind-powered, pilot-optional, composite aircraft that, Luminati hopes, will be doing HALE-based work soon.

Next up was Gregory Haye, general manager at Local Motors (Knoxville, TN, US), who is overseeing his company’s development of vehicles built from advanced materials via large-format additive manufacturing methods, with a goal of reducing negative impact on the environment.

Haye walked session attendees through the implications of Local Motors’ “strive for less” mantra, the goal of which is to rethink the motor vehicle design-and-development paradigm. Or, as Haye put it, “The vehicle as we know it must die.” Haye emphasized Local Motors’ desire to condense the vehicle development process with digital-based tools that enable fast toolmaking and direct manufacturing — processes done via additive manufacturing technology; specifically, Cincinnati Inc.’s (Cincinnati, OH, US) Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, which uses a chopped carbon fiber-reinforced ABS. Haye also discussed Local Motors’ work developing — in only three months — Olli, a composites-intensive, multi-passenger, autonomous mini-bus designed for urban mass-transit.

Wrapping up was Greg Lynn, owner of Greg Lynn FORM (Los Angeles, CA, US). At the forefront of fresh, functional and unusual structural design with composite materials, Lynn is one of the
10 most influential architects living today, according to Forbesmagazine (see photo and caption).

Like Preston and Haye, Lynn is highly motivated to build new paradigms, based on the application of composites. In architecture, he noted, composites offer moldability and adaptability not possible with steel and aluminum. As a result, curved weight-bearing structures have become possible, bringing new dynamism to home and building design. The challenge, he said, is that many architects and designers are stuck in a paradigm that relies on legacy materials, and they are trying to adapt composites to fit into that mindset. “If you think about composite beams like you think about steel beams, it’s a mistake,” he said, adding, “In fact, if you think about composite beams at all, you’re lost.”