If you can build something out of steel, aluminum, or wood, you can probably build it with a composite material as well. Take utility poles. Composite utility poles make up about 1% of the total now deployed around the world. One company in Turkey aims to increase that.
Ankara-based Mitas Group was originally established as a steel company back in 1955. It was formed by the Turkish government to help build the nation's energy infrastructure. Privatized some 30 years ago, the company produces steel utility poles that are used domestically as well as being exported throughout Europe and to North America, the Middle East, and Africa.
Mitas recently took possession of a filament winding machine that it will use to produce up to 1,000 composite utility poles per month. The automated machine will make Mitas the first such company in Turkey to produce composite poles.
Why utilize composite poles instead of steel and wood? Below are the top five reasons. The rest of the world should pay attention to what Mitas is doing here.
1. Composites Don't Corrode
Composite materials do not corrode like steel. For the purposes of this article, we will assume that Mitas poles will be made of carbon fiber. The poles can be installed with complete confidence that they will not rust. That makes them ideal for coastal areas exposed to salty sea air.
2. Composites Don't Need Regular Maintenance
Both steel and wood utility poles require regular maintenance. Wood needs more maintenance than steel for obvious reasons. However, a composite utility pole requires no maintenance at all. Once installed, nothing more than routine inspections need be done. A composite utility pole does not need to be re-coated with a protective layer. It does not need to be painted.
3. Composites Are Pest Proof
Wood utility poles are vulnerable to a long list of natural hazards. One such hazard is pest infestation. Everything from termites to wood boring beetles can be problematic for wood utility poles. Replace them with composite poles and the problem is solved.
4. Composites Are Lightweight
Utility poles made of carbon fiber are exponentially lighter than both steel and wood poles. This is important in terms of installation. Imagine attempting to install new poles in a remote, rural location without road access. Getting the poles into position becomes a logistical nightmare. On the other hand, composite poles can be carried by hand and assembled on site.
Because composite poles are so light, they are also easy to install in dense urban environments without the need for heavy cranes and other large equipment. A single pole can be installed in just a couple of hours without major disruptions.
5. Composites Are Strong
Finally, carbon fiber is stronger than both steel and wood. Carbon fiber utility poles will hold up better against everything mother nature can throw at them. For example, they are better able to withstand high winds and the heavy loads such winds generate. Where wood poles might snap, carbon fiber poles will stand tall.
Given that Mitas exports their utility poles around the world, it could be only a matter of time before their products reach our shores. Maybe their success will prompt American manufacturers to secure their own filament winding machines to make composite utility poles domestically.
Image Source: Mitaş Composites