Scott Lewit accepts the 2017 Unsurpassed Innovation Award with colleagues during the General Session at CAMX 2017.
The CAMX Awards are widely considered as the pinnacle in recognition for excellence and innovation for the composites industry. With CAMX just around the corner, we thought we would see what some previous CAMX Awards winners are up to and find out how winning an award at CAMX has changed their organization. ACMA recently caught up with Scott Lewit, President of Structural Composites, Inc., whose CoCure product was awarded the 2017 Unsurpassed Innovation Award.
The Unsurpassed Innovation Award recognizes a composites product that clearly demonstrates an innovative design that either incorporates low-cost materials for high-volume applications, or high-performance applications with low-volume materials, and has the potential to significantly impact existing markets or open new ones.
Tell us about CoCure—what it is and its significance to the composites industry.
SW: CoCure is hybrid metal/composite technology and it’s a new frontier in composites because no one else has created anything like it. Using four chemicals, we can change the blend ratio of the materials, and the impact resistance can be optimized for each layer. This radically changes the coating and resins so they can be adapted for different uses. The technology changes how we use and optimize composites. CoCure has opened up a world of opportunity for utilizing composites in more ways for different industries, including automotive, infrastructure and transportation.
Structural Composites’ hybrid metal/composite technology was incorporated in Wabash National’s first all-composite semi-trailer, a 53’ Cold Chain refrigerated van. Wabash is the largest manufacturer of semi-trailers in North America, and its trailers will soon have a composites chassis.
Here’s why this is significant. Composites has just four percent penetration in the transportation market, but that four percent is five times the size of the total marine market for composites, which is 70 percent composites. Once all their trailers are converted, Wabash will use the same amount of composites as the entire US marine industry.
The key was taking low cost materials and getting performance levels up with advanced composites. Performance is one thing, but if the cost is high you can’t implement.
What benefits will Wabash realize in switching to an all-composite chassis?
CoCure chassis are lighter than steel, have less corrosion and are produced at costs that can compete with those that use traditional fabrications. By incorporating molded structural composites instead of aluminum, Wabash improved the trailer’s overall thermal performance by as much as 25%, and the system is more puncture- and damage-resistant than conventional constructions. Composites used to be in competition with metals, but by marrying metals and composites, Wabash uses both.
In what ways has winning the Unsurpassed Innovation Award impacted your company?
SW: As a small business, winning one of the top composites awards in North America, and being recognized by CAMX and ACMA, is an enormous honor. It was also a wonderful surprise. We had assumed that since we hadn’t heard anything before the ceremony that we’d lost. When they called our name out at the award ceremony we were thrilled!
The publicity has been really helpful. Articles written about us also mention Wabash, and word is getting out beyond the composites market into transportation. Wabash invested in our company. Their Senior Vice President/Group President is on our Board of Directors and their VP Product Engineering is a Board Advisor. They get market exclusive use of all our past, present and future technology. The supply chain is very interested in our technology as well and has invested millions of dollars to refine our inventions, and optimize them for Wabash. These refined products will be moving to adjacent non-reserved markets.
Has winning the award affected you personally?
Definitely. I’ve spent my whole career in materials, so winning the award is cool on so many levels. I invented CoCure, and to see the patents you’ve made have huge impact is gratifying.
Did you submit an entry for this year’s CAMX Awards?
This year we teamed with the US Navy, to submit the CoCure marine coating for the CAMX Combined Strength Award. Together with the Navy we built a seven-meter advanced combatant, ship-ready boat that uses the CoCure marine coating. The single-engine boat we are replacing weighed 5600 lbs. Our dual-engine boat is the same size but weighs only 3500 lbs. and goes way faster, even with heavy payload. The Navy bow has a boat with improved performance and significant cost-savings. The CoCure marine coating will also be available commercially.
What did you think about the process of applying for the CAMX Awards?
SW: The process is clear and well laid out, and the application process is smooth. You can work on your submission and add to it later—collaboratively—with members of your team. We really liked that.
Wabash National’s composite commercial trailer used the CoCure technology and was showcased at CAMX 2017 in Orlando, FL.