Innovations: Normanís AvPro assures right recipe used to create advance composite materials

Published: Monday, June 27, 2016 By: Jim Stafford

NORMAN — Tom Rose walked into a conference room recently at Norman's Advanced Processing Technology Inc. (AvPro) carrying what resembled a large dorsal fin from a great white shark.

Rose actually had his arms wrapped around the vertical stabilizer for an airplane, fabricated entirely from composite materials instead of aluminum.

The founder and president of AvPro, Rose brought the aircraft piece into the conference room to demonstrate the strength and light weight that composites provide the aerospace industry.

AvPro is a service company that provides software, training and installation of sensors used in manufacture of composite materials for the aviation industry. The tools developed by AvPro measure and control the process of applying heat, pressure and time to carbon fibers and epoxy materials in an oven-like autoclave.

“An easy analogy is to think about baking a cake,” Rose said. “One of the ways you bake a cake is to set a temperature at 350 degrees, hold it for an hour and cool it down. Another way that you can assure that you have baked the cake properly is to put a straw in the cake and see if it is wet or if it's dry.”

Tom Rose, 71, is a Minnesota native and chemist who was involved in some of the earliest projects to develop composite materials for use in aircraft. He played a role in the development of the Lear Avia Lear Fan, one of the first aircraft composed entirely of composites rather than aluminum.

By the 1980s, Rose was involved with a California company that won a contract to set up a composites laboratory at Tinker Air Force Base. Rose came to Oklahoma to work on the project, and while he was here the company went under.

Bankruptcy didn't end the Tinker project, however.

“They said ‘we don't care what happens to your company, we expect you to finish the job,'” Rose said with a laugh.

So, he stayed in Oklahoma to complete the work and eventually incorporated AvPro as a Norman-based company.

Fast-forward almost 30 years. Today, AvPro provides a diverse menu of services to the composites and aerospace industry. It provides hardware, software, maintenance support, thermal analysis, a statistical database and training.

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