Anyone in the tower industry can appreciate the concept of the IsoTruss product: An extremely lightweight structure with a tremendous strength-to-weight advantage that is made possible through the geometry of its structure and the use of composite materials such as carbon fiber and fiberglass to create a unique product.
Two young entrepreneurs from Orem, Utah, founded IsoTruss Industries. They had a vision to reinvent not only the tower industry, but also many other commercial fields with a need for lightweight, high-strength, noncorroding structures. David Jensen, Ph.D., who invented the technology, shares the founders’ goals of this innovation. The MIT graduate provides ongoing support in the continuous development of the product for multiple business and scientific sectors.
To date, more than 40 patents for its design and manufacturing processes protect the company’s composite product, with more pending as the company implements the product with other technologies. Jensen said that the product “eliminates the environmental issues and maintenance problems attributed to creosote, rusting steel, cracking concrete, decaying wood, and woodpecker- and moisture-induced damage, while simultaneously reducing the weight and improving the visual appeal.”
Jensen began working on the design more than 15 years ago. Over the course of development, the structure has undergone extensive testing for many of its targeted applications. One of these tests included two towers being installed by the U.S. government at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Shortly after the towers’ installation, hurricanes Frances and Ivan hit the area. After the storms, a survey of the base revealed that the composite towers were two of the only structures left standing in the affected area.
Shortly afterward, the government requested the delivery of 1,000 towers. Unfortunately, Jensen was working at a university at the time and lacked the required production capability, so the order went unfulfilled. Today, IsoTruss Industries has implemented automated manufacturing processes in its U.S.-based facilities that allow market demands to be met. The company is aggressively taking the towers and other products to market.
“We believe that IsoTruss is at the forefront of an infrastructure movement,” said Nathan Rich, the company’s CEO. “A change where market makers are transitioning away from traditional steel, aluminum, and wood applications and toward the future with lightweight, noncorroding, and environmentally friendly IsoTruss.”
The U.S. government has tested the tower extensively through several Small Business Innovation Research contracts.
A 200-foot tower on a wind farm in Spanish Fork, Utah, also has withstood the tests of time. The guyed tower showed itself to be nearly self-supporting when IsoTruss tested it with no additional support from the guy wires. As an additional display of the tower’s capabilities, the foundation has a small tilt-base supported only by stakes driven into the soil. The success of the tower further proves that the foundation requirements for the composite product are greatly reduced when compared with a steel tower of equivalent strength.
In most cases, the light weight of the composite tower reduces the need for heavy machinery, including cranes and helicopters for installation. Furthermore, these composite structures are 100 percent noncorroding by nature and require no additional toxic coatings to achieve this characteristic. They don’t need the type of maintenance usually required to mitigate problems stemming from rust and oxidization of steel and aluminum. Even more impressive, the manufacturing process emits up to 70 percent less carbon dioxide when compared with steel of comparable strength. Because steel alone accounts for 6.7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, using composite equivalents instead of steel structures from now on would massively reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The composite structure achieves its incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio with a special geometry that uses longitudinally and helically wound members. The words “Iso” and “Truss” in the name “IsoTruss” come from its efficient geometry: The structure’s isosceles triangles form a truss of pyramids, which gives the structure its unique strength and stiffness.
The structure incorporates stable geometric forms with members that spiral in a piecewise, linear fashion in opposing directions around a central cavity. The helical and longitudinal members are repeatedly interwoven, yielding a highly redundant and stable configuration. In fact, testing has shown that the structure has 40 percent redundancy, meaning this percentage of the structure’s nodes could be compromised before failure. Problems can be detected long before the risk of failure, and repairs can be done to prevent any catastrophic outcomes.
The IsoTruss lattice design resembles traditional aluminum or steel telecommunications towers. The lattice design makes the structure superior to a solid composite tube because it uses far less material, making it more cost-efficient while remaining stronger and lighter because of its geometry. Open lattice structures are ideal for tower structures because they reduce wind loads.
Several large tower companies have shown interest in using the composite structure exclusively as a replacement for their current tower models. IsoTruss is in the process of conducting beta tests with these tower companies. The tests are being performed in various geographical areas across North America to demonstrate the tower’s performance in all weather conditions. These towers are outfitted with wind-measuring devices and have been fixed with payloads that will demonstrate the towers’ ability to handle real-world scenarios. This provides further evidence of the product’s superiority compared with similar commercial structures made of steel and other materials.
Jordan Oldroyd is vice president of engineering at IsoTruss Industries. Visitwww.isotruss.com.