Engineers Get a Composites Education Each Year at the International Bridge Conference

For the past 18 years, every International Bridge Conference, hosted by the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania, has had one …

For the past 18 years, every International Bridge Conference, hosted by the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania, has had one thing in common: at each event, engineers have the had the opportunity to see firsthand how composites compare to traditional building materials and how FRP has successfully been deployed in bridge structures all over North America.

As conference attendees walk past ACMA’s booth, they might notice that not everyone at the booth comes from the same company. Instead, they see a strong industry coalition that has banded together to send a unified message that benefits all of their companies. According to Scott Reeve, President of Dayton, Ohio-based Composite Advantage and a member of ACMA’s Transportation Structures Council, being a part of that coalition is a big contributor to his company’s ability to reach engineers at the conference.

“It has been beneficial having an ACMA booth representing the FRP composites industry to the bridge market,” says Reeve. “The joint representation of many companies makes the exhibit more educational for attendees so they are learning more than just getting a supplier sales pitch. The product crossover is helpful. There are times when an attendee comes to the booth to ask about one topic, such as rebar, but also get exposed to FRP decking.”

While Reeve’s company may produce a different style of product than others at the ACMA booth, most of the companies at the booth are fiberglass manufacturers, so the conference is a great opportunity to show how fiberglass compares to traditional construction materials like steel. As engineers at the conference pass ACMA’s booth, they notice two pieces of rebar, one steel and one fiberglass, placed side-by-side in containers of saltwater. After 20 hours in saltwater, the saltwater containing steel turns yellow, showing corrosion, but the solution with fiberglass remained clear.

Engineers also get the chance to see how fiberglass compares to steel through a special workshop that showcases advancements in the design and specification of FRP products to build steel-free concrete structures, as well as retrofit and rehabilitate aging bridges. One of the recent crown jewels of the composites industry is the 186-foot Halls River Bridge in Homosassa, Fla. When it opens, the bridge will likely have more composite elements than any vehicular bridge in the United States. The steel-free design features Hillman Composite Beams, GFRP reinforced bridge deck and bent caps, and carbon strand pre-stressed concrete piles, which will extend the service life of the bridge.

Through this project and many others, ACMA and members of the industry have cultivated a strong relationship with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). At this year’s International Bridge Conference, representatives from FDOT showed they are thinking beyond the Halls River project by sharing insights into how it plans to adopt uniform standards that will facilitate the widespread use of FRP in Florida construction projects.

To learn more about how you can get involved in ACMA’s efforts to spread the word about composites to bridge engineers, click here.