ARCHIVED - Pole to pole: Resin innovator reaches new heights
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Resin Systems Inc
February 13, 2007— Vancouver, British Columbia
All across Canada, the poles supporting overhead telephone or utility wires have traditionally been made from wood, usually in the form of processed tree trunks. Yet composite materials, such as resin with fibre reinforcement, offer a cost effective, durable choice for manufacturing these structures, especially as suitable timber becomes ever more scarce and expensive.
Until recently, composite materials did not represent a practical alternative. But an Edmonton-based company is setting unprecedented standards for the capabilities of composites, especially with respect to their use in utility poles. Resin Systems Inc. (RSI) recently demonstrated the feasibility of a 36-metre pole, the longest the company has ever produced and the longest in the world made from such materials.
This accomplishment secures the firm's reputation as the leading source of commercially produced transmission poles. Such poles may cost more up front, but they are ultimately far more economical than anything made from wood, metal or concrete. Not only do they weigh less and last longer; they may be the only option in some jurisdictions, which are starting to ban wooden poles in order to prevent contamination from the wood preservative creosote.
For just this reason, RSI is starting to capture the attention of dynamic international markets. Last fall, for example, the company signed an agreement with two Chinese firms, one of them being a preferred supplier for that country's utility industry, which will be using these poles for its rapidly growing power grid. In fact, China is adding some 100,000 km of new transmission lines. The agreement is expected to be worth at least US$36 million over the next two years.
RSI has developed its unique approach fibre placement technology in filament winding and is developing other unique applications using Version resin. The company acquired much of the technical foundations for this innovation from another firm, Yellowknife-based Fibreglass North. Much of that pioneering work was supported by the National Research Council Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), which provides a range of advisory services along with potential financial support to growth-oriented Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises.
The program is delivered by an extensive integrated network of Industrial Technology Advisors, a group of some 260 professionals in 100 communities across the country. Working directly with these clients, NRC-IRAP supports innovative research, development, and commercialization of new products and services.
In the case of Fibreglass North, NRC-IRAP made it possible to hire engineering expertise and cultivate links with hundreds of researchers across the country in order to look for new ways of working with fibre-reinforced polymers. The Industrial Technology Advisor also brought the firm to the attention of RSI, which had already developed its own complementary technology in this field.
"That was the stepping stone for where we went," recalls RSI President Greg Pendura. "It was the start of our path toward marketable transmission utility poles."
He adds that NRC-IRAP has continued to play a valuable part in his company's progress, likewise supporting the later stages of research that resulted in a marketable product.
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