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Q&A: Composites CEO on Working with Military to Silence Submarines

November 10, 2009
Globe Composites began as a sheet rubber products company in the 1890s. One hundred years later it's now part of the composites industry.

Globe Composites began as a sheet rubber products company in the 1890s. One hundred years later it's now part of the composites industry.

Dallas-based Globe Composites began as a sheet rubber products company in the 1890s. One hundred years later, it entered the composites industry and has since focused almost exclusively on making components for military and industrial applications. Read what Carl Forsythe, president and CEO of Globe Composites Solutions has to say about the growing composites industry.

What are some projects you’re working on?

Fifty percent of our business is in the defense market. One of the areas where we’ve carved out a niche is developing special materials that are used for acoustic baffling in the front sonar array of submarines. We developed the material, formulating and dispensing it into panels that go behind the bow of submarines. There are three Seawolf submarines in the U.S. Navy, and we’re providing these acoustic panels for two of them. The Seawolf submarines roam the waters looking to attack other enemy submarines, so they have to be extremely quiet and stealthy. The acoustic baffle panels increase the stealth capabilities of these submarines.

We also just developed a new non-toxic material that replaces lead. This liquid, castable material is lead free but provides the radiation shielding capabilities of lead, so we’re working with development companies to replace lead with HGC, which is a high-gravity compound.

What makes your business different?

We generally focus on opportunities that have lower volume requirements so we can afford to customize the material to fit applications. We aren’t making 100,000 parts of anything. Once you’re in a large volume environment, it makes sense to make more commercially viable materials. We’re not a compounder. We don’t just make raw material. We design the material for a particular application.

Which comes first—the application or the material technology?

We’ve got two full-time scientists on staff here. We have a laboratory where we develop materials without the customer asking for it (which is what we did with HGC). Now we’re working on nanotechnology. We’re starting that research activity because that will be an emerging opportunity for us, and we don’t want to be left out of the in cold. No one is asking us to get into nanocomposites, but that’s where we’re going.

How important is innovation to the industry’s success?

The encouragement I give other people is to be innovative in new materials but also in processes. We developed a new dispensing process that allows us to mix, prepare and dispense these very tight tolerance materials, and the benefit there is that we’re able to do it efficiently and reduce waste.

I can’t say what the rest of the industry is doing, but with competitive pressure and lower-cost manufacturing capabilities available to a lot of companies offshore, as well as the reduced economic activity, which forces people to be much more competitive in pricing—to me, innovation has got to be the absolute key to survival.

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