SCMEP Expands Services to Attract More Advanced Composites Manufacturers

21 October 2005

The South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) is expanding its composites program state-wide in an effort to enlarge the number of manufacturers using advanced composite technology for various composite industries.

Last year, the organization announced it had received a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to assist small manufacturers in six Upstate counties in penetrating the composites market. SCMEP matched those grant funds with an additional $58,487, bringing the total outlay to $108,487 for the first phase of the program's implementation.

During implementation of the first phase of the ARC grant, SCMEP identified many manufacturers outside the Upstate area engaged in composites production. Now, SCMEP is using its expertise in helping small manufacturers with production, business, and operations management to expand the program to all interested companies in the state. SCMEP will assist manufacturing companies through technology transfer, customer and market connections, business development, workforce development, and process improvements.

""Composites represent the fastest growing segment of manufacturing, with global growth rates reaching as much as 105 percent in recent years,"" says John Irion, SCMEP president. ""Composites represent the best avenue for manufacturing expansion in South Carolina. We are working now to pre-qualify small entrepreneurial companies as candidates for our assistance. Manufacturers who produce a related product -- perhaps in textiles, plastics, resin, or chemicals -- or those who are currently composites manufacturers but need to learn new advanced technologies -- are being welcomed to participate in this program.""

The high-strength composites targeted in this program are fiber-reinforced plastics. Different from traditional molded plastics, advanced composites combine thermoplastic or thermoset with high-performance reinforcing fibers, creating materials of much higher strength and stiffness than their individual constituent materials. Composites offer the strength of traditional metal structures with less weight, lower lifecycle costs, and more durability. Because of their superior performance, composites now have applications in aerospace, communications, infrastructure, sporting goods, transportation, heavy industry, and the energy industry.

The South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP), headquartered in Columbia, S.C., is a not-for-profit organization that helps manufacturers throughout the state solve business and supply chain process problems. Supported by the state legislature and an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST), SCMEP provides business and technology assessments, engineering expertise and lean manufacturing solutions to South Carolina manufacturers in search of a single solution for supply chain synchronization and internal optimization processes.

SCMEP provides this business and technology support to manufacturers through onsite consultations, partnerships with state technical colleges and research universities to provide educational programs, online assessment, an e-services portal, and other business tools. Using SCMEP's services enables manufacturers to see business benefits at a faster rate and enhances economic development in South Carolina.

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