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As Earth Day Approaches, Green Energy Is Easier Said Than Done

Friday, April 17, 2009

DEARBORN, MI — Earth Day is fast approaching and, amid recent reports of melting Antarctic ice caps, this year’s observance may be more profound than ever. Meanwhile, Washington remains in hot pursuit of effective green energy that has the potential to not only save the planet but create millions of jobs, and it has made good on promises to allocate billions for green projects.

Also, on a smaller scale, the government has reserved $2.5 billion of stimulus funds to construct “…solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy generation facilities.” But building wind turbines, for example, is easier said than done.

“The process of building turbine blades can sometimes be not only time-consuming, but also very costly,” says Craig Robinson, senior engineer at Knight & Carver, a San Diego-based wind blade manufacturer.

Just how costly? One wind turbine can cost upward of $1 million. Because a large wind farm can require as many as 100 wind turbines, the costs can multiply quickly.

But this possibility doesn’t deter wind energy manufacturers such as Knight & Carver who rely on composites -- complex structures made from two or more materials with opposing physical and chemical properties -- to meet their bottom line.

“Composites are essential for creating the tooling for the wind blades and ultimately the finished product,” adds Robinson. “But if any kind of air pocket or imperfection occurs during this process, making the perfect blade can be prolonged and expensive. It’s one of our everyday missions to avoid these types of delays.”

To discuss these and other issues that can arise when working with composites, representatives from leading composite part manufacturers such as Knight & Carver, Comtek Advanced Structures and Profile Composites, as well as manufacturers from transportation, aerospace and defense companies like Northrop Grumman Corp. will come together for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Composites Manufacturing 2009 and Tooling for Composites.

“We’re pleased to bring our annual composites events to Southern California – the region that first gave rise to the growing wind industry,” said Kathleen Mennillo, SME program manager. “San Diego is the perfect city and venue to share cutting-edge knowledge and best practices for the wind, aerospace and defense industries that are vital to the city and regional economy.”

Both of these events will take place concurrently, April 29-May 1, 2009, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Highlights include:

Networking Opportunities (April 29-April 30) – On April 29, an opening reception at the Hilton enables participants to discuss industry trends and technologies with fellow attendees, speakers, exhibitors and industry experts. A “Meet, Greet and Discover” tabletop exhibits reception takes place on April 30, where attendees and exhibitors can conduct business and make connections in a relaxed atmosphere.

Manufacturing Facility Tours (April 29) – Attendees can begin the day with a tour of ATK Space Systems, a precision composite structures engineering, manufacturing and testing company supporting the space and aircraft markets. Later in the day, there will also be a tour of SPARTA Composite Products, a high-volume manufacturer of advanced composite products for the aerospace and defense industries.

Keynote Presentations (April 30-May 1) – On April 30, industry expert Randy Kappesser, vice president and general manager of MAG Cincinnati, will discuss automated composite fabrication. Colin Cramp, vice president quality & compliance, R&D and chief engineer’s office, Goodrich Aerostructures, will give a presentation on composites in aircraft nacelles on May 1.

Learning Sessions (April 30-May 1)
– Attendees can select from more than 25 learning sessions focusing on five key topics: automated composites manufacturing, composites manufacturing, simulation for composites, design for composite structures and tooling.

Tabletop Exhibits (April 30-May 1) – Visit with the exhibitors, continue discussions from the morning sessions and enjoy a refreshment in the Indigo Ballroom.

Interactive Roundtable: Working Through Your Composite Show Stoppers (May 1) – This roundtable discussion will cover methods and best practices for dealing with composite manufacturing problems. The panelists represent a cross section of industries and are comprised of SME’s Composites Manufacturing Tech Group Members:

  • Garry Booker, manufacturing engineer, The Boeing Company
  • David Dickson, tooling technology manager, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
  • Louis C. Dorworth, division manager, Abaris Direct Services
  • Carroll Grant, aerospace marketing contractor, Aerospace Composites Consulting
  • Richard Lofland, president, Richard Lofland & Associates
  • Brock Strunk, engineer, Spirit AeroSystems

To register for Composites Manufacturing 2009 and Tooling for Composites, call 800/733-4763 or 313/425-3000, ext. 4500 (outside the U.S. and Canada), or online at

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