By Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle)

Carbon fiber industry experts from around the world have converged on Seattle this week for the 14th Go Carbon Fiber 2011 conference. It's the first time the two-day conference has been held in Seattle.

Organizers chose Seattle partly because of the presence of Boeing and related aerospace composite manufacturers here, but also because of growing carbon fiber automotive activity.

The conference opens Wednesday and runs through Thursday at the Hotel Monaco in Seattle.

Only two presentations will focus on aerospace â¿¿ both will be on recycling. At least five presentations will discuss growth in automotive use of composites.

⿿We have traditionally had a high focus on the aerospace sector as this is where the majority of developments were happening for carbon fiber innovation,⿝ said Robert Stead, conference organizer. ⿿However, the automotive sector has recently been stealing the limelight to some extent as a major emerging market with the potential to have a large impact on global demand and use of this material. It seemed appropriate to keep this as the main focus on the conference.⿝

Primarily organized by IntertechPira, a global company that presents other conferences, the event has been supported, although not financially, by the Washington state Department of Commerce. IntertechPira is owned by the Smithers Group, of Akron, Ohio.

Commerce Department Economic Development Manager James Palmer said the emphasis on automotive rather than aerospace reflects where the state sees an opportunity for fresh growth.

⿿This is being driven by recent news. We⿿ve been put on the carbon fiber map; Washington state has caught the attention of the global carbon fiber supply chain,⿝ he said. ⿿We don⿿t want to focus on just aerospace.⿝

In late September, the new SGL/BMW carbon fiber plant opened in Moses Lake. Using low-cost hydro power, it makes carbon fiber for manufacture of energy-saving BMW automobiles.

Also, the University of Washington has expanded its graduate program in composites, including a research program for Lamborghini SP, in Italy, where the company designed the assembly process for the new Lamborghini Aventador sports car.

Commerce was to host a reception Tuesday night for industry leaders, as part of encouraging them to form an identity and work together, Palmer said.

"To our state companies, what we want to tell them is to continue to cluster, self identify, develop business associations we can focus on to make sure they can get training needs met,⿝ he said. ⿿We wish to identify Washington as an opportunity for expansion.⿝

STEVE WILHELM covers manufacturing, aerospace and trade for the Puget Sound Business Journal. Phone: 206-876-5427 | Email: | Twitter: stevewilhelm108 Click here to sign up for the PSBJ Daily Update.

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