For Brazilian Engineer, Future Will Be Made of Composites

September 14 2020

“In the future, the importance of composites will be much greater than it is today.” So summarizes Jean Zolet, 39, a Brazilian engineer specialized in polymers. For about two decades he has been related to the material, a type of plastic that combines resins and mechanical reinforcements, such as fiberglass. “It is increasingly clear that the trend in several sectors is to seek weight reduction and design freedom, two of the main characteristics of composites”, he said.

One of the branches most suited to the charms of composites is the automotive. Zolet saw this up close in the early 2000s, when he led the production sector for a major bus manufacturer. “At the time, we launched a generation of buses whose weight was 28% less than that of the previous family. This was only possible thanks to the exchange of steel for composites in some parts, such as the bumper.”

“When evaluating the entire life cycle, composites can be safely classified as sustainable”, stressed Zolet, noting that the material is also fundamental for the viability of wind power generation – in addition to the blades, it is used in the manufacture of nacelles and spinners.

By the way, making a nacelle was the most challenging job so far in the career of Zolet, executive director for over a decade at Gatron, a company specializing in the manufacture of plastic parts. The Project, a Gatron supply to Alstom in 2012, consisted of the development of the first 100% Brazilian nacelle.

“It was a job that we started from scratch, from the specification of raw materials to the development of manufacturing technology. It was so successful that, so far, we have supplied more than 3,000 nacelles to Alstom, GE, Gamesa, WEG and other companies specializing in wind power generation.”

Another market segment that, in Brazil, is beginning to awaken to the benefits of composites is the architectural. “The first question I always hear from architects is: 'does this material curve?'.” Knowing that composites not only allow the production of pieces with any type of design, but also greatly reduce the number of amendments, the architects with whom Zolet converses invariably smile. “They always looked for a material like this for their facade projects, for example.”

It was the production of façade components, in fact, the most recent work led by Zolet. Last month, Gatron completed the supply of 3,000 m² of covering frames for the slabs of a high-end building built in Sao Paulo by Cyrela. The building's design was elaborated by the iconic Italian studio Pininfarina, the same one that designs Ferrari cars.

“To guarantee design freedom is to transpose the fluid lines of a super sports car model to architecture, and this was only possible thanks to composite materials”, completed Zolet.

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