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INTERVIEW - Zane Clark, CEO of SAMPE, and Kevin Barnett, Interim President of ACMA

News International-French

1 Oct 2020

JEC Composites Magazine asked the leaders of ACMA and SAMPE North America – co-producers of CAMX – the Composites and Advanced Materials Expo. Zane Clark, CEO of SAMPE North America and Secretary of SAMPE Global, and Kevin Barnett, Interim President of ACMA shared how the CAMX 2020 | A Virtual Experience went, what innovations were presented during the show, which took place for the first time online, and, more generally, how the American composites market is doing.

JEC Composites Magazine: First of all, how did this new virtual expo, "A New CAMX For A New Time" go?

Zane Clark, CEO of SAMPE North America and Secretary of SAMPE Global
Zane Clark: You know, I came on as CEO of SAMPE right in the middle of preparations being made for CAMX to be an entirely virtual experience, so I have had a unique perspective on how the show went. In general, I’d say it went very well. We had nearly 3,000 attendees who were there to do business, see innovative new products, and learn from the industry’s leading influencers. We had over 100 exhibitors that put their trust in CAMX to be a successful virtual event that would enable our exhibitors to successfully launch their products, services and business to the global composites industry.
CAMX delivered on all fronts by offering live featured sessions, tutorials, on-demand technical papers and educational sessions and an exhibit hall platform that enabled attendees to download marketing materials, watch videos, visit websites, set up meetings with booth personnel, and chat with their colleagues from all over the globe. The CAMX platform is still available for people to visit until 31/10/20 so the metrics are still coming in, but it would be clear to say that this virtual CAMX show was just as successful as our most recent in-person conferences.

JEC Composites Magazine: What innovations were presented during the show? Can you tell us about some of them?

Kevin Barnett, Interim President of ACMA
Kevin Barnett: It’s really difficult to summarize all the innovations that debuted at CAMX, but a particular highlight that represents the innovative mindset of the industry could be summed up by the news shared by the CAMX general session keynote speaker,  Isabell Gradert, the Material Fast Track Leader and General Advisor for Materials Technology to the CTO at Airbus. She laid out Airbus’ plans to bring the world's first zero-emission commercial aircraft into service by 2035, and how the use of composites and advanced materials will play an integral role in achieving Airbus’ plans. Gradert highlighted several benefits of composites, including light-weighting to make aircraft more fuel efficient. Airbus initially started using CFRP in smaller applications such as spoilers and rudders, and now, the company has plans to produce an aircraft composed of 50% composites and advanced materials.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two other innovations to come out of CAMX, both of which were winners of the CAMX Award, which recognizes two innovations that will significantly impact composites and advanced materials. The award is divided into two categories that embody the spirit of CAMX – Combined Strength and Unsurpassed Innovation:

> 3M Company won the Combined Strength Award for their entry on lightweight, lower-cost composite overwrapped pressure vessel

3M Composites lightweight, lower-cost composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) (Image CAMX)
(COPV) for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), providing extended vehicle range using 3M Matrix Resins. The carbon fiber vessel uses 3M Matrix Resin 8833, a nanocalcite-modified epoxy with high tensile modulus, that imparts an increase in Fiber Delivered Strength (FDS) to the composites. This increase in FDS enables the redesign of these thick-walled structures, reducing weight, eliminating expensive fibers and lowering manufacturing costs. In FCEV applications where the outer dimensions of the tank are fixed, a redesign can use an expanded liner volume thus increasing vehicle range.

> Mighty Buildings, Incorporated won the Unsurpassed Innovation Award for their entry on Manufactured Polymeric-based UV Cured

Exterior look at Mighty Buildings which is 3D printed with Light Stone Material (LSM) (Image: Mighty Buildings)
Structures for Residential Construction. Mighty Buildings produces building components for residential construction manufactured with a 3D printing process using polymeric UV-cured materials. The manufactured structures are intended to be used as building elements defined as a portion or entirety of a wall, floor, and roof of the building. Mighty Buildings invented Light Stone Material (LSM) – a photopolymer thermoset composite that is instantly cured with light during the layer-to-layer extrusion process. The manufacturing method uses large-scale additive manufacturing that allows production of building components of different shapes and sizes with complex geometries. Both the LSM material and 3D printing process are UL certified.

It was also interesting to see the synergies between the speakers CAMX which highlighted the need for manufacturing and materials innovation. Increased use of high-performance thermoplastic composites was highlighted by Airbus early in the conference, and then reinforced by the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) panel. Both Airbus and UAM also emphasized the need to automate composites manufacturing as envisioned by Microsoft. The UAM panel provided a preview of what it will take to scale-up the vision that industry has for the future of urban transportation. As a potential cross-over market between ground and air transportation, UAM systems demand composites solutions that meet aerospace requirements at automotive efficiencies. Through its global ride-share network, Uber Elevate is creating the market pull for innovative manufacturers such as Joby Aviation and Collins Aerospace.

JEC Composites Magazine: Do you think that the situation has changed the sector's expectations regarding innovation?
Zane Clark: It’s a classic chicken or egg scenario. Does innovation drive adoption or does adoption drive innovation? Digital event technology is not a new development for the events industry, but it’s mostly been treated as a nice-to-have, a way to compliment a live event. As a result, there was initial hesitation caused by a lack of familiarity with a virtual show and the understandable comparison to previous in-person CAMX Shows. As virtual enhancements become more comfortable for show goers, virtual innovations will evolve from add-ons to must-haves. We now appreciate, more than ever, that the connections created at events truly matter. To this end, CAMX invested tremendous resources to create an environment that facilitated meaningful interaction. From campfire sessions, to virtual chats, our focus was on enhancing the communal experience. As a show producer, our goal is to create rich, interpersonal environments that are enhanced using technology, not replacing it.  

JEC Composites Magazine: During this virtual event, you set up a virtual networking platform supported by artificial intelligence (AI-powered virtual networking experience). What does it involve? Were the e-visitors present?
Kevin Barnett: Yes, one of the key features of the platform is the artificial intelligence aspect of connecting our attendees to each other and to the exhibitors. Once our visitors registered for CAMX, they were invited to set up their personal profile, which is where the magic happened. The profile asks for key pieces of information; the industry you’re in, the industries you’re looking to do business with, etc., and the AI suggests who visitors should connect with... and the more fine-tuning is done, the smarter AI gets at understanding who visitors are looking for. Think of it as a ‘dating app’ for businesspeople.

Live demo during CAMX 2020 | A Virtual Experience (Image CAMX)

Live demo during CAMX 2020 | A Virtual Experience (Image CAMX)

JEC Composites Magazine: Do you think that the future of trade shows will be 100% digital or at least hybrid? How do you see the 2022 edition?

Zane Clark: Regardless of the format, the lifeblood and driving factor of events is the community that is created. Our continued priority will be to bring people together to learn, network, and to conduct business. Hybrid and digital environments will continue to play a critical role in the next 12-18 months given the continued uncertainty regarding gatherings, travel restrictions and the compounding economic and psychological variables. Looking farther ahead, such delivery models will become normative and enhance the overall experience by creating a continuous, dynamic, interactive community.

JEC Composites Magazine: How is the composites sector in the USA today and what about the main application markets?
Kevin Barnett: The USA composites markets are based upon the global markets that CAMX serves:

  1. Aerospace: commercial and military aircraft, space and launch vehicles and numerous high-performance structures
  2. Industrial: automotive, all energy/renewable applications, medical, and general engineering
  3. Infrastructure and construction:  Resilient vertical and horizontal construction including buildings, roads, bridges, drainage systems, and seawalls.
  4. Consumer: sports & recreation, marine, amusement structures and consumer products.

A core strength of the composite is the diverse range of markets served. The commercial aircraft market has experienced the most slowdown resulting from COVID-19. Following plant closures in the spring, automotive and trucking are in the recovery phase, while some markets such as wind, marine, defense and construction have seen steady demand throughout the pandemic. The effect of COVID-19 is recognized globally as an issue affecting all countries as the general composites industrial situation adjusts to the pandemic.

JEC Composites Magazine: What are the trends in the US market after this COVID-19 episode? Will 3D, artificial intelligence, industry 4.0... benefit from the new situation?
Zane Clark: The global crisis has accelerated modernization and placed a greater urgency on those technologies that have the potential to advance the next normal. The rapid transition created by the convergence of technology and pandemic will ignite new business strategies that will be driven by the onset of transformative technology. Initially, the post-pandemic playbook will move business from survival mode to damage mitigation before a refocus on building competitive advantages through cost reductions, productivity, sustainability and innovation can occur. Industry 4.0 will be critical throughout this transition as many of the existing capabilities will help to reduce the short-term impact and support long-term opportunities created by new realities.

Specific to the composites industry, SAMPE and ACMA recognized the COVID-19 challenge early on when our in-person conferences; SAMPE Europe's Summit 20 (March) and SAMPE Seattle 2020 (May), had to be cancelled. SAMPE moved quickly to an all-virtual technology programming strategy in order to continue providing leading-edge technology education on the world stage.

The CAMX staff recognized that key technologies such as 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing, Automation/Robotics, Artificial Intelligence/Smart Structures, Industry/Factory 4.0 were all very important to our composites industry and required continued educational programs regardless of ongoing pandemic.

As composites and supporting technologies continue moving forward during the COVID 19 pandemic, future technology advances are still required to provide solutions to required technology goals, problems, improved efficiency, and, sustainability within the global composites community.

This year’s CAMX programming focused very heavily on these areas, utilizing the expertise generated early on with the combined intelligence gathered by our CAMX partner, ACMA, and SAMPE's earlier "virtual" programming wins by building an even stronger educational package that was relevant to the current needs of the CAMX audience.

JEC Composites Magazine: What impact do you think COVID-19 will have on the US composites market in the next 3 to 5 years?
Kevin Barnett: COVID-19 has forced the composites industry to focus on critical technology advances necessary to stay robust as the pandemic runs its course. Trends such as the need for automation and digitalization that were in place prior to 2020 are accelerating. Shifts to work from home, changes in business and leisure travel, and migration to smaller cities will certainly impact composites markets over the next several years. CAMX’s goals are to fully investigate disruptive technologies and educate the composites industry on these alternative solutions. The CAMX staff are all involved in developing the necessary educational programming that is required to assure growth, sustainability and innovation going forward to meet the challenges of the future.

JEC Composites Magazine: In conclusion, as a key player and observer, do you have a specific message for the composites community?
Zane Clark: The success of CAMX is a direct reflection of the composites community’s resilience, adaptability and foresight. The community will continue to thrive because of the people, the passion and the shared commitment to foster an environment that advances the composites and advanced materials industry. Just as a composite is formed and a material is improved on by joining various parts or elements, the composite industry’s strength rests in our diversity and focus on advancing together.