The composites industry is an innovative community of engineers and entrepreneurs. As of 2009, the $42 billion US composites industry consisted of over 3,000 different companies. (Source: ACMA) Because composites are so widely used, the majority of the 3,000 companies create products for a wide range of individual industries, including:
Industries Using Composites
- Sporting goods
- Marine and boating
- Oil and gas
- Pulp and paper
- Wind power
The use of composites is widespread and growing, creating numerous opportunities to become involved in the composites industry. The best part about getting involved with composites that is you can work on things you love. Say you are passionate about golf, composite companies make golf shafts. Maybe you follow auto racing closely; composite manufacturers are needed to make lightweight race-car components. Getting involved with the composites industry is not impossible; the following are the most common ways:
- Work for a composites company
- Start a composites company
- Invest in a composites company
- Go to a composites trade show
Work for a Composites Company
This is probably the easiest way to gain experience and learn about the industry. In composites, not all jobs are reserved for engineers. Every composites company will need administration staff, sales, accounting, and managers. Both skilled and un-skilled workers are in demand.
Start a Composites Company
If finding the right composites job in the right location is not possible, why not start your own business. Many states and cities have incentives to start a business, and the Small Business Administration ( SBA ) can help with the paperwork. A new composites company could start with no employees and in a garage. For example, every fiberglass surfboard company started in a garage.
Invest in a Composites Company
If working for, or starting a composites composite’s company is not for you, but you still would like to be involved with the technology, then perhaps you should invest in an existing company. Many small composites manufacturers are constantly looking for capital. An investment in a composites business will allow you to “look under the hood” and see what their technology is all about. You can also invest in publicly traded composite companies such as Owens Corning, Cytec Industries, or Huntsman.
Go to a Trade Show
Multiple trade shows take place around the country and world. The most popular shows are put on by composites trade associations, including:
Composites Trade Associations
- ACMA - American Composites Manufacturers Association
- JEC Composites
- SAMPE - Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering
- SME - Society of Manufacturing Engineers
- Composites Europe
A trade show is a great opportunity to see the latest composites technology and products. It also will give a chance to speak with industry leaders and professionals. Most shows have a conference where community member and academics give presentations on composites technology.
Be careful, though. Becoming involved with composites can create problems. Once you learn how products can be made better and more efficient with these lightweight materials, you will want to change the way everything is made.