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How to train a composites rookie?

  • 1.  How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-26-2018 05:52
    Hi all,

    We just hired a person to help us with some composite manufacturing efforts due to growth.  It's a bit tricky to find experienced composites manufacturing people in our area, so we are bringing on someone who has aerospace manufacturing experience but not any composites experience.  My question is - what resources and methods do you think are most effective to train someone in composites manufacturing?  We have some plans but I wanted to get input on what you may have seen work well (or not work well) for you or someone else.  I noted to our new hire that most composites people never got "official" training but learned it in many different ways.  For me it was doing projects in grad school, learning the lingo by reading a lot, taking some elective courses and especially getting hands on.  More recently in my career it has been working closer with vendors and also hands on with people who have different composite backgrounds.  Thoughts?  Advice?


    Benjamin Dietsch
    President, NONA Composites LLC
    Miamisburg OH

    SAMPE NA President (for 4 more days)

  • 2.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 11:57


    I think it would depend a lot on what sort of tasks and knowledge they're expected to develop for where it would be best to start them. Whether its parts manufacturing, resin manufacturing, optimizing the product, repairs, layup, etc.

    Regardless of the focus area, I highly recommend Brent Strong's book "Fundamentals of Composite Manufacturing" as a starting point. I only have the first edition, so I'm not sure what all has been updated in the second edition, but despite a 1989 publication date, the first edition is a great starting place for composite manufacturing knowledge. For a textbook, it is a rather brief read, and the "problem" sets are geared towards conceptual thinking rather than calculations, which will likely be more important for this new hire.

    As for getting knowledge of current developments and challenges, I suggest attending conferences, visiting suppliers/customers, and reading industry publications (Composites World, SAMPE, etc.). I also recommend that they put together an acronym dictionary for themselves when they start out. Engineering fields are always acronym heavy, and having a list helped me when I was first starting out.

    For hands on opportunity, if they are not a technician, having them shadow technicians for a few weeks can be highly beneficial as it allows them to understand your company's specific manufacturing process as well as any quirks or limitations therein. It's also a great way to get feedback and new eyes on any problems that might be going on. Also, although I have not personally attended any classes, I've heard great things about Abaris' hands-on training courses.

    Sorry for the overly long response, but hopefully there's a few ideas in there that can help.



    Katrina Vizzini
    Research Scientist
    Toray Composite Materials America, Inc.
    Tacoma, WA

  • 3.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-28-2018 12:21

    Hands on has always worked with those I have trained throughout the years.


    The accomplishment factor of just building a composite clip board excites a new hire.


    In your case the NONA process vs a typical layup is a must teaching class.


    Here at Gulfstream we have an internal training class much like Abaris with hands on lab and classroom for new composite hires along with mentor training for the first few weeks.


    That has proved to be very beneficial.


    Ply orientation is simple but laying up an unbalance and a balance flat panel and seeing what that effect is... they get it as visual is usually remembered!


    All the above information is great advise and I am interested to see what works for you.




    Chuck Aitken


    Composite Specialist II

    Structural Test

    Office 912-965-7517

    Cell 720-252-7261


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  • 4.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 11:59
    Making composite parts is all about the processes.  You are basically making the material as you make your part.  What a rookie has to learn is HOW: How to make a void-free part, How to make a part that is ready for machining, How to machine it without delaminating the material.  There are many variable in each of those processes.  A rookie will have to figure them out, either by trial and error (DOE) or by looking for advice.  As you proceed, don't expect 100% success right away but take good notes.

    John Kesapradist
    Space Systems/Loral
    Palo Alto CA

  • 5.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 12:14
    ​First - we are in the business of molding, de-flashing/prepping, assembly, priming and in-mold coating composite parts for automotive, heavy truck, recreational, marine (like boats), and some other industries. But not for aero-space. Our material is fiber glass reinforced poly-ester& vinyl ester. No carbon fiber and epoxy yet because of cost.
    My feed back to - how to train a rookie
    1. Know what are different types of defects and their names - like difference between fracture and crack, non-fill or partial, In mold coating short shot or in-mold coating void, porosity, blister - substrate or coating, trapped air etc etc
    2. How does an organization categorize these defects, and what are clear, precise and easy to understand definition
    3. Limit samples for all the defects to see, touch and feel
    4. What are the cases if these defects can be repaired and what cases these defects make a part total scrap and why
    5. It is important that for all above defects or any other - every one is on the same page and there is one rule of game. Not like - one erson says - this can be repaired and the other person says it is scrap and customer is on a different plane.
    6. Risks associated with repairing a part and also scrapping a part should be clearly understood.
    Once this rookie understands the above he/she needs training on
    1. Material and composite definition
    2. Safety - how to handle the material - storage, mixing, temp control, process conditions or limits, PPEs. etc
    3. Material capability - its shelf life,
    4. What are the strength properties of neat resin and when it is reinforced with fiber - whether it is glass, carbon, Kevlar that rookie understands that what is composite and what do we get when mix different materials
    5. What is the difference between isotropic and anisotropic - metal vs composite
    6. Repair methods and testing of repaired vs virgin
    7. Documentation of all this training material

    Vinod Arora
    Core Molding Technologies, Inc
    Gaffney SC

  • 6.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 12:15

    I am pretty high on taking a beginner's course at Abaris. It gives a nice balance of hands-on and classroom training that can be a pretty good jump start. The rest will come with time and experience.


    Steven Rodgers
    Principal / Consultant
    EmergenTek LLC
    South Jordan, Utah USA

  • 7.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 12:52
    I would agree with Steve that the best way to learn about composites is to take a "fundamentals"  class at Abaris.  There is a track for both engineers and technicians and all courses include just enough theory with a great deal of hands-on practical experience. Also, the textbook titled: Essentials of Advanced Composite Fabrication & Damage Repair  is provided by Abaris, or is available from the publisher (ASA) in pdf or hardcover, or can be purchased on Amazon. It is a complimentary to Dr. Strong's book mentioned in this thread.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

    Louis C. Dorworth
    Direct Services Manager
    Abaris Training Resources, Inc.

  • 8.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 14:04
    ​I agree with your hands-on approach.  I've also had success with using outside training either with a local community or technical collage or with a training company such as Abaris.  Don't' forget the SAMPE classes!

    Elizabeth Davis
    Salt Lake City UT

  • 9.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 15:03
    That's an interesting point. I'd done the other way around, wich is get a fiberglass and/or body shop technician, and try to get them trained to the more specialized aerospace environment. All the basic skills would be covered (cutting, triming, chemicals exposure, epp use, sanding etc), and by basic i mean the most important. I've seen people just fly off because the more dusty and nastier environment the composites has most of the times. All the aerospace standards and documentation related would be easier to teach. I don't think you would have trouble get these kind of people, just look around your local shops.

    Hope that helps!

    Yasser Talavera

    Yasser Talavera
    Advanced Composites Mfg
    The Spaceship Company
    Mojave CA

  • 10.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-27-2018 16:48
    All great stuff - thanks for the feedback!  I like the idea of an acronym list - I wish I had that when I started.


    Benjamin Dietsch
    NONA Composites LLC
    Miamisburg OH

  • 11.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-28-2018 12:14
    ​Depending upon the specific processes by which you're making composites, and depending upon what the objects produced are, you can likely find a wealth of useful, detailed, training material by searching YouTube or the web sites manufacturers.  For hand lay-up or VARTM processes, lots of folks have posted either actual demonstrations, or useful cartoon animations, on how the processes work and the reasons one must use particular care in carrying out certain critical steps.  Manufacturers of raw materials and repair materials used in composites also sometimes have videos of how to best use their products.  Live demonstrations held at SAMPE and CAMX and visits to equipment manufacturers booths could also be quite helpful.  If you're near a beach, watch folks make surfboards.  If you're in the Rockies, watch folks make snowboards, and there are LOTS of boat building videos ranging from canoes to yachts.

    Bruce Burton
    Senior Principal Scientist
    The Woodlands TX

  • 12.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 06-28-2018 12:45
    Hey Ben,

    I would definitely do some small hands on items to get them used to handling the material.  I was helped with a training course that went through was was the National Composites Center and we did a bunch of hands on layups, VARTM, and other similar process to get the students familiar with the concepts, possible pitfalls, and getting them comfortable with handling the different materials.

    Something I would suggest is if you are thinking this is a long term problem and others are having the same issue, is you could get with some of the local universities that have associates degrees (Wright State and Cincinnati State) and see if they would be interested in having a class based on the subject or even having composite manufacturing as a target-able degree.  You may also want to reach out to several of the other local companies (CTL Aerospace, Meggitt, Renegade, Maverick, etc...) to see if they are having similar problems and if they think they would benefit from it.

    A similar problem occurred with the micro breweries in Cincinnati and one of the local brewers got with Cincinnati State and they now have a program there to get a 2 year degree that covers a ton of the basics of brewing on professional level.

    Kerry Necessary
    Cincinnati OH

  • 13.  RE: How to train a composites rookie?

    Posted 07-04-2018 03:56

    Hi Ben,

    All of the advice above is very good stuff, I guess this person is getting flooded with knowledge in the upcoming weeks!

    I personally learned a lot about composite manufacturing in university, but never had real hand-on experience. If you wish to train your employee to manufacture the composites all hands-on experience is of course only acquired by training and practice.

    For the more fundamental knowledge of composite manufacturing I would personally suggest two things

    1. The internet. A great source of knowledge and even completely free courses on MOOC websites like edX (Composite Materials Overview for Engineers) This is a great way to get started.
    2. Virtual engineering! I'm a great fan of products that allow you to play around in a virtual world like FEM solvers or material engineering products like Digimat. This way you can learn about the different effects of manufacturing and actually looking inside the products you make without spending hours in physically testing them.

    I hope this helps and best of luck training your new employee in the wonderful world of composite materials!

    Mathijs Pont
    MSC Software representative
    Netherlands - Belgium - Luxembourg