They say time flies when you’re having fun. That must be why it’s so hard to believe that both pultruded Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) and Creative Composites Group (CCG) had their 50th birthday this year. The product and the field have come a long way and exciting things are on the horizon. Here’s what we’ve been through and learned in this 50-year-long match made in materials heaven.
50 Years of Pultruded Fiber Reinforced Polymer
Those in the composites industry know W. Brandt Goldsworthy’s name. Known as the father of pultrusion and as a composites visionary, paved the way for other experts to expand the applications where FRP can be used.
In 1947, Goldsworthy entered the reinforced plastics business and quickly began researching better processes than traditional hand molding. Although he wasn’t the first person to patent the pultrusion process, Goldsworthy’s pultrusion process earned a patent in 1959 and created lots of positive buzz in the industry.
By pulling the FRP, rather than pushing it through an extruder, the continuous pultrusion process yields a constant cross-section, fiber tension and orientation. FRP is very strong. And it’s durable because the polymer and fibers are naturally resistant to corrosion, don’t rot in water and aren’t attractive to animals and pests. This makes it ideal for infrastructural applications like utility poles, waterfront products and bridges and many OEM applications.
My colleague, Larry Bank, recently published his reflections on the half-century of FRP for structural engineering applications in the Journal of Composites for Construction. It’s a great history of our industry and how our processes have evolved over the decades. Larry shared the opinion that cost remains a significant barrier to FRP increasing adoption by civil engineers since the industry has worked hard to create codes and specifications.
Larry also noted his opinion that broadly speaking, the FRP industry is mostly focused on commodity parts like ladder rails and “other small-sized pultruded profiles for specialized industrial applications” and “not in the large, pultruded profiles needed for civil infrastructure.” Larry is absolutely right, which is part of what makes CCG so special in our industry.
50 Years of Creative Composites Group
Though CCG was only trademarked as an entity in 2021, Creative Pultrusions, the pultrusion division of CCG, has been around for the same 50 years as pultrusion manufacturing itself. A Goldsworthy contemporary, founder Bob Sweet may not have known Goldsworthy personally, but their professional goals were very similar.
In 1973, Bob was working at Westinghouse. They were considering pultruded FRP as a part of their transportation process to offset some aluminum products and avoid theft. They experimented with producing railway dunnage bars, a type of rectangular tube with multiple walls on it, from pultruded composites. After experimentation, Westinghouse determined this wasn’t the right solution for them. But Bob saw the opportunity. He took on the big risk, leaving Westinghouse to invest fully in Creative Pultrusions.
Fifty years later, Creative Pultrusions is now a core part of Creative Composites Group. We continue to provide the highest quality FRP and service available. We’ve grown over the decades, but Bob’s values of creativity, accountability, a strong work ethic and integrity have helped CCG beat the odds stacked against most small businesses and see us to 50 years. We have thrived by choosing engineered solutions over commodity parts and by vertically integrating to provide custom-engineered FRP solutions regardless of the manufacturing method.
What 50 Years Have Taught Us
We’ve learned a lot after half a century in this industry and working with this material.
The most important is that quality is everything. A lot of buyers turn to overseas FRP manufacturers to find a better price. But I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten calls from project managers with major buyer’s remorse.
The same goes for support: When you buy CCG, you are getting all 50 years of our expertise along with the expertise of our engineering staff who, like me, are integrated into every part of our team. I recently had a support call with someone who had purchased an overseas-made product that failed during assembly. When the customer called the company to get support, the company told them to call us! By contrast, our products are backed from sale to installation to maintenance by CCG engineers in the U.S. who can take your call or even visit your site if needed.
Another essential element of our success is investment in professional organizations and industry research science. CCG is a member of the Pultrusion Industry Council (PIC) of the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) and for a few years was part of the European Pultrusion Technology Association (EPTA). We also have many staff members who serve on boards and committees in these professional organizations. I performed my duty by chairing the PIC for two years. These organizations work to create codes, standards and specifications for pultruded FRP just like traditional materials like wood and steel have. I’ve personally played a role in developing the ASCE standard for load and resistance factor design (LRFD) for pultruded FRP structures. This has been in the works since 1995, and publication is expected in May 2024. These standards give engineers what they need to design and specify FRP.
Investing in these organizations also helps us maintain the professional relationships we’ve fostered over 50 years. We are staffed by industry professionals at the top of their field who have good working relationships with other top industry professionals. If we can’t solve your problem ourselves, we have the relationships in place to get you the right solution fast.
I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say that CCG is fully invested in seeing your project come together and last you for the long haul. Give us a call to discuss your project. I might even be the one who answers.