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Jan 16, 2015

Applied Composites Engineering


Applied Composites Engineering (ACE) started in 1982 with one employee and has progressively grown to approximately one hundred employees. With a long and broad history in advanced composites within three distinctly different industries and over 30 years experience, ACE has excelled in their strategic focus on the aerospace and aviation industry over the past decade. Constant investments into research and development, new processes, equipment, technologies and personnel continue to bring ACE to the forefront of advanced composites product manufacture.

LEIGH SARGENT ACE Founder and President


From Melbourne to Indianapolis

"I was born and raised in Melbourne Australia and educated at a technical university under an apprenticeship in pattern making, which is foundry tooling. I was the recipient of a Rotary Foundation Scholarship that took me to England at the age of 22 to study cast metals technology. From there, and through a second scholarship, I found myself working for a Formula 1 team for two years. After which, my intention was to return to Australia from America to undertake a temporary position for six months building an Indy Car for Long Horn Racing in 1982, but I decided to stay in Indiana when I met my wife of 30 years. It has proven to be my best decision ever. I love Indianapolis, which has been a great city to raise kids and enjoy the community and activities. My girls are now grown and off the payroll, so to speak."

Getting Started in Composites

"After studying metallurgy, I did a stint in Formula 1 where I ended up in the R&D department of Williams Grand Prix. It was there I was introduced to advanced composites. Completely by chance considering I had never been to a motor race in my life."

Composite Advantages

"Weight is an issue on everything that moves, be it a plane, car or surfboard. One of the many advantages of advanced composites is reduced weight. This relates to performance such as fuel savings."

The End of Steel?

"Absolutely not. There are many materials that go into a product, from plastics to metals to organics such as natural fiber. Each has its benefits and draw backs and each align to certain products or part thereof. I doubt you will see a dump truck made from carbon fiber any time soon."

Changing the Way We Make Things

"Composites have already changed the way we make things, and will continue to do so. Some newer aircraft are now a molded advanced composite structure rather than a fabricated metal structure. The difference is that aircraft have been made from aluminum fabrications prior to World War II, and metal manufacturing methods have been around for centuries and have had time to develop to a mature state. Advanced composites is a relatively young industry, with a history less than 80 years, and it is still in its infancy."

Higher Cost of Composites

"It's not about being competitive on a cost per part basis. You have to evaluate the cost per performance, not cost per part. Only then can you justify the advantages of composite structures."

 New Opportunities for Jobs and Investment

"Innovation will always create new opportunities, but to gain acceptance and longevity it has to provide a viable solution both in performance and cost. Electric vehicles are a good example, as it is tough to justify the cost savings compared to the original price tag and its performance based on distance per charge, time to recharge and availability of a charging station. Transitioning is always costly but if one does not take the step into the future you can guarantee you will be left behind. Future employment has to have competitive pay and stability to attract good people. You also need to educate and train from the floor to management, which has two different but interconnected paths. Collaboration between academia, University and Technical Colleges is paramount."

 Indiana Workforce

"I find the workforce in Indianapolis to be committed in doing quality work. They wish to do their very best. We have to provide the tools and training necessary for them to be successful."

 Breakthroughs in Composites

"They are coming. Advanced composites, whether it is in sporting goods, aerospace, marine or racing went through significant development in the 70’s through 90’s. I am a great believer that in the next 10 to 20 years you will see fundamental changes in the materials and processes. Like all things nothing will be a panacea."

 Barriers to Progress

"Cost is always a barrier but that applies to all industries, and more so for advanced composites. I also see automation playing a bigger part, but material advancements will need to take place simultaneously to bring this to fruition."

 New Developments

"There is a crossover between injection molding and thermoplastic long fiber advanced composites. This is already seeping into the market in smaller product, but I believe these will grow in size and scope. More significant changes are still further out."


Indiana is a state that works because it’s about more than just good business sense. It’s about building something that will last. It’s about the freedom to set our own terms. It’s about the place we call home.

Our state government spent years developing a knack for sound fiscal policy, low taxes and a balanced state budget. It’s one of the main drivers of opportunity and prosperity in Indiana, and it’s earning us a reputation as one of the top U.S. states for business. But until you’ve met some of us who live, work and play here, you only know half our story.

It’s a story about working together to bring innovation to the global marketplace with the same can-do spirit and know-how that has our state leading the nation in manufacturing job growth. It’s a story about leveraging our resources, paying our bills and investing in our future. Most importantly, it’s a story about how we got here, what we want, and why we plan on staying.

These are our stories about how Indiana is a state that works for all of us, told individually, one face, one vision, one accomplishment at a time.