An entrepreneurial Connecticut honeycomb and finished panel producer is upgrading capabilities to make NorCore-backed marble, granite and concrete facings for decorative architectural applications. Using a proprietary process, Norfield Corp. bonds slabs of granite or marble to a structural backing of honeycomb panels and cuts the stone portion to create wall facings or floor surfaces. Most often the facings fit into renovation projects involving interior walls, floors, ceilings, counter tops and furniture.
Danbury-based Norfield invested about $400,000 in capital equipment, in September doubling its capacity to form honeycomb panels and in October adding a stone-working center.
``Our strategy is to effectively utilize markets in industrial, architectural and transportation segments with relatively lightweight, easy-to-bond materials,'' said Edwin F. Phelps, Norfield owner, president and chief executive officer.
While targeting the U.S. market, ``word-of-mouth'' advertising among Europeans and the Japanese has led the firm to export about 5 percent, he said.
``Getting to the architectural niche is easier said than done,'' Phelps said. ``Architects look for beauty and economics, but, on the other hand, they are conservative.''
Architectural applications accounted for about 10 percent of Norfield's 1994 sales and should reach 30 percent this year on a substantial increase in the company's overall volume.
Phelps expects architectural sales to double in 1996 and hired Louis Rumunni, a Danbury architect and professional engineer, to help on projects and sales. For now, industrial applications generate larger sales, some to thermoformers who transform the honeycomb into their own products.
Norfield's structural materials are ``more expensive than foam and paper but less expensive than aluminum or Nomex,'' Phelps said. Other competing materials include plywood and particle board.
Norfield's honeycomb cells are conical I-beams with a truss-shaped matrix. The geometry results in generous surface areas for bonding. Variations of the thermoplastic honeycomb use, at times, high-impact polystyrene, ABS, polycarbonate, polypropylene or low density polyethylene.
A missionary for the concept of engineered composites, Phelps, 62, was with General Electric Co. from 1961-1984. He purchased Norfield in 1987 and acquired up to 30 percent of Lunn Industries Inc., a Wyandanch, N.Y., producer of composite plastic sheeting, in 1988.