Thursday, July 16, 2009

Composite Carabiners & the Dollar per Pound Ratio

A common goal for manufacturers of composites is to create and sell products that have the highest dollar per pound ratio possible. The higher the dollar per pound ratio is, the more margin the product will likely have. Lets look at some products/industry and examine their $/lb ratio.

At the low end, are commodity type composite products, typically made with e-glass and vinyl ester, are readily available, and have no significant variations between one manufacturer to the next. An example of this are common pultruded profiles such as I-beams, tubes, rods, etc. Obviously pricing will depend on quantity, but margins are very low and the dollar per pound sales prices can be in the $3/lb range...

At the other end of the spectrum are aerospace composites and recreational composite products. These products, often have a proprietary design, are carbon fiber epoxy, are specialty products, and often carry a brand name. The premium received is often due to the extra weight savings, durability, and extra labor involved in the product.

In recreational equipment, a constantly growing segment of composites and an early adapter of new materials and processes, the price per pound is often extremely high. Bicycles, golf shafts, tennis rackets, even ping pong paddles, all demand a premium. For example, take a surfboard that costs $500 dollars, and weighs 6lbs. The surfboard, constructed from polyurethane foam, woven 14oz e-glass, and vinyl ester resin retails for $83 a lb. (Most of this margin goes to manufacturing...)

One interesting recreational sporting product, not yet composite, is the carabiner used in rock climbing. As of now there is no composite counterpart, this study states that although a lighter weight carabiner would be desirable, it is currently not feasible. (I do not believe this is the case...)

This particular carabiner here, weighs 36 grams, and sells for $23 dollars. By my calculations, this is over $300 per pound for aluminum. A lightweight composite version could absolutely command a premium over this.

These are the type of products composite manufacturers are beginning to look at, niche markets with opportunity.

Photo Credit: Phil Hawksworth via Flicker


  1. I read your blog as an RSS feed because I'm very interested in composite materials, it was with great surprise when I saw the title of this post! I wouldn't have expected to see composite carabiners mentioned.

    But when I clicked through to the article you refer to I realised something quite amusing - the spadout article is almost paraphrased solely from

    I don't mean to be plugging my website on your blog - I just thought it was interesting that Sean Gavin's article seems to be solely based on my research and yet reaches entirely different conclusions. (Not to mention the somewhat ethically questionable lack of source acknowledgement ;)

  2. Virgil,

    You are absolutely correct, it is one thing to use your study and it is quite another to not give you credit. I edited the post above so that your interesting and through study is sited instead of the previous article.