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Coast company’s tech has anti-terrorist, defense apps

OCEAN SPRINGS — L&S Composites is using a special patented composite process to produce anti-terrorist and defense equipment such as bulletproof cockpit doors, airplane seats and torpedo doors.

Pound per pound composites are 10 times stronger than steel and considerably lighter, says company president David Loving.

“It’s a lot lighter,” Loving said. “It is just a little more expensive.”

But those costs can be recouped through fuels savings. Loving estimated that every extra pound on an airplane costs $100,000 in fuel and maintenance costs over the life of the airplane.

Preliminary work on the torpedo doors and airplane seats was already underway before Sept. 11. A prototype bulletproof cockpit door has been developed since the terrorist attacks. Loving said recent tests showed none of 29 9mm rounds fired from 20 feet away penetrated even the first three layers of the door. Bullets shot at a closer distance also wouldn’t penetrate the door.

The bulletproof cockpit door has several outer layers of e-glass, a woven material with fibers running in four directions, that sandwich 10 layers of Kevlar, the material used in bullet-proof vests worn by law enforcement officers.

L&S Composites is currently negotiating with a major airline repair company in Alabama to provide bulletproof cockpit doors for retrofitting into airplanes. And B-E Aerospace of Winston-Salem, N.C., is interested in using the company’s composite, bulletproof seat. Plans are for the seat to be manufactured in Ireland because of manufacturing tax advantages. The bulletproof door would be manufactured in Ocean Springs.

Another company product being developed is a frame for a luxury first-class seat. While the steel frames normally used for the seat weigh about 36 pounds, the carbon frame developed by L&S weighs only 3.6 pounds.

The company is also involved in doing some research and development work in cooperation with Northrup Grumman Ship Systems Ingalls division regarding making torpedo doors using the company’s VIMP (Variable Infusion Molding Process) technology.

Jerry Loving, business agent for the company, said the Federal Aviation Administration, the CIA, FBI and the Department of Defense have all been notified and are aware of the technology. One potential application is using lightweight composite wing structural parts for the short take-off vertical launch aircraft being developed in the U.S. and British defense departments. Composite parts have the advantage of being invisible to the enemy’s radar.

Loving said what they are finding is that their technology is being embraced quicker in Europe because there is not so much bureaucracy to go through.

“It has been said that the reason why our shipyards are not competitive on the world market is that they are too bureaucratic and too government dependent,” Loving said. “In America, small business has the technology and big business has the connections. The problem is because small business can’t get its message out, eventually big business buys the small business and jacks up the price of product. There needs to be an avenue to allow small businesses to get their technology on the open market quicker.”

The company in business since 1995 got a patent on its VIMP process in March of this year. The technology can be applied to just about anything that is manufactured using fiberglass plastic resin materials.

“It is economically feasible for existing fiberglass companies to convert to the VIMP process because they can use the same molds and materials they used in hand layup,” Loving said. “The process is very safe to workers and the environment because the fumes and waste are eliminated. That is the most significant thing. It may be cheaper to use hand lay up, but it is more hazardous to the worker and the environment. What the manufacturer saves on labor costs he will pay later in health benefits and environmental cleanup costs.”

Loving said the process eliminates the worker from ever needing to touch the resin. He said the VIMP process offers other advantages including being production oriented and being more economical that other similar processes.

Current and past clients of L&S Composites include Buchanan Advanced Composites, Litton Shipbuilding and Ol’ Man Tree Stands.

More information is online at www.flocore.com.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

About Becky Gillette

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