The story of the piling industry goes back 6,000 years back to those Neolithic forward-thinkers who pounded thick wood branches into the ground to elevate their homes against flooding and predators. Over time, these rudimentary methods were replaced with piles made of treated wood, reinforced concrete and steel hammered deep into the earth by powerful machinery and sophisticated engineering design specifications. This long history of innovation in the piling industry continues with fast-growing developments in the design and creation of composite materials. With 45 years of experience in high-strength pultruded fiberglass-reinforced polymer (FRP) products, Creative Pultrusions, Inc. (CPI) brings a sophisticated level of innovation to the face of piling materials and design. Founded in 1973 in Alum Bank, Pa., the company operates 16 pultrusion machines on its 17-acre site, delivering a variety of standard FRP products, as well as custom manufactured profiles and systems for markets including defense, transportation, oil and gas and civil infrastructure. "Creative" isn't just a pretty word in the name of this company. It stands for innovation in design, manufacturing and new applications in many industries, including marine infrastructure. Proving the product first "We developed our composite sheet piling about 20 years ago," said Dustin Troutman, director of marketing and product development at CPI. "Our SuperLoc® sheet pile system is a patented pultruded sheet pile retaining wall arrangement developed for waterfront bulkhead applications." Troutman recalls how his team spent a lot of time and money early on developing the FRP sheet piling products line, working extensively with universities to understand how the products would perform in terms of mechanics of materials. "We have our own test 'bed' at our plant involving a real-life simulation. We install the sheet pile wall outside; then the University of West Virginia comes in with strain gauges and we test the sheets in full sections in order to validate their capacities. This operation is performed to validate our finite element analysis (FEA) and mechanics of materials moment capacity predictions of our sheet pile sections." The composite sheet piles have been evaluated based on creep rupture, compression strength and stiffness and shear capacity to name a few. The characteristic design strengths have been developed based on the requirements of ASTM D7290, a world recognized standard for pultruded profiles used for civil structures. The standard is intended to ensure that all manufactures publish their design data, so the engineering community can utilize the data for load and resistance factor design (LRFD) or allowable stress design commonly used today when engineers design bulkheads with legacy materials of construction. "We developed not only the sheet piles, but also the wales and caps a complete system," said Troutman. SuperWale® eliminates the need for concrete, timber or steel wale sections. Since they won't rot, decay, rust or spall, these FRP wales can be installed above or below the waterline or in the transition zone. Sheet pile corner connectors, caps, wale splice plates and washers are also available. The fender pile solution Always looking for creative solutions to changing needs and ongoing issues, CPI next tackled fendering (bridge protection systems). FRP structural pipe piles have high strength, but less stiffness than steel, allowing for greater deflection of energy. Troutman said, "We turned a perceived threat into the development of a system that absorbs a lot of energy." In 2010, SUPERPILE® was made available a composite fender pile system that makes use of the material's superior performance in harsh marine locations with no corrosion or harmful substances leached into the environment. The system is low maintenance, extremely long-lasting and installed with traditional pile-driving equipment. Troutman said, "Our piles are much lighter than concrete or steel 80 percent lighter than steel making them easier to use, not to mention the higher degree of safety involved in terms of handling." SUPERPILES® can be driven twice as fast as solid wood, concrete or thermoplastic piles, can be field drilled and cut and have very low electrical conductivity. This excellent dielectric strength is an important safety factor when driving piles near underground electric lines. Realizing they were ideal for docks and bearing piles, three years ago CPI developed the SUPERPILE® Legacy Dock Pile 10 inches in diameter with 3/8-inch thick walls. According to Troutman, the average Floridian wood pile lasts five to 20 years, depending on the environment, but these composite piles last over 50 years. The Legacy Dock Pile is more expensive than wood, developed for owners who want to install a dock and forget about the future replacements of the piles. Moving up and out into the world In 2008, recognizing these advancements in CPI's products and innovative applications, Hill & Smith Holding PLC, an international group involved in design, manufacturing and supply of infrastructure products and galvanizing services, took Creative Pultrusions under its wing as a subsidiary company. "They saw a future in composites for infrastructure applications," said Troutman. "Since then they've been very supportive of what we're doing." In turn, under its composite growth initiatives, CPI acquired three companies in the last two years: ET Techtonics (prefabricated pedestrian bridges), Tower Tech (cooling towers) and Kenway Composites in March 2017. Kenway has been in the business of supplying composite products to heavy industry since 1947. Bringing them in as a subsidiary of CPI and expanding custom manufacturing and field services work was the next step towards the growing future of composites worldwide. "It's a really good fit for us," said Troutman. "We wanted to add other manufacturing methods, such as vacuum infusion and filament winding, to our repertoire. They were already manufacturing and marketing HarborPile™, a composite pipe pile that can be made up to 78 inches in diameter with wall thicknesses ranging from a half-inch to two inches, and HarborCamel™, used as a log camel to dissipate vessel hull mooring loads across multiple dock fender piles." With Kenway's product lines already in place, this allowed CPI to expand their product offerings in terms of fendering systems and bearing piles without making a major retooling investment. Replacing old with new In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to Liberty Island, home to the Statue of Liberty. The surrounding docks sustained the worst of it and the pier used to bring heavy equipment onto the island was completely rebuilt using Creative Pultrusions SUPERPILE® pipe piles to replace the destroyed timber piles. Corrosion-resistant and designed to withstand extreme weather, 198 FRP fender and bearing piles, 49 feet long, 12 inches in diameter, with walls half an inch thick were equipped with steel-pointed driving heads to protect the pipes from filling with dirt so they could later be filled with concrete. The next year, CPI Supplied 230 SUPERPILE® fender piles ranging in length from 60 to 66 feet for a total rebuild of a U.S. Navy refueling pier near San Diego. Each pile carried a 20-inch HDPE sleeve designed to help mitigate abrasion from marine camels. They were installed using the APE 150 vibratory hammer with steel driving head. "We've done quite a bit for the U.S. Navy," said Troutman. "That's because they want something that will stand the test of time. Although most of our business has been domestic, there have been some applications in Australia and the Caribbean." The future is now Word is getting out about the many advantages of using FRP composite products in the pile driving industry, and that means the CPI team spends a lot of time teaching engineers how to use these unique products in their design. "We have experts on staff who test the structural integrity of our products all the time, supporting the development of design codes and specifications for the materials," said Troutman. "We are now ISO 9001:2015 approved for manufacturing and design." "Eventually we are going to get into the foundation side of the Bearing Pile market wherever it makes business sense dealing with corrosion issues associated with our aging infrastructure." Troutman talks about 200-plus great employees dedicated to the group's products, not only in terms of manufacturing, but also in development and sales. A strong safety department pays particular attention to all the moving parts in the factory, while the company works with the community, helping out wherever they can, such as the recent donation of piles for a local baseball field lighting project. As a member of PDCA for six years, CPI takes part in the larger community of the industry, participating in trade show events and networking with a variety of member companies involved in the marine industry. Composites hold an important place in the future of pile driving, both in replacing old corroding and damaged infrastructure and in new projects. With its commitment to product design and manufacturing, and belief in innovative applications, Creative Pultrusions Inc. is taking its place in the pages of pile driving history.
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