A Pennsylvania firm has begun production in Russia of a high-strength glass fiber using technology from an early development of S-glass. Initial test marketing of the trademarked Vertex HSG has scored with customers. ``We saw a need for a new supply for the S-type glass in the marketplace worldwide,'' said Walt Norley, president of IVG Compos-ites. Now, ``we control and micro-manage the best of six privatized facilities that made high-strength glass, known as VMP or V-glass, for Russian military and aerospace applications.''
Initially, Norley looked at the business of natural-gas vehicles and its use of filament winding for tanks. Sub-sequently, he analyzed the market for polymer matrix composites and made contact with glass fiber consultant Rob-ert Wong of Granville, Ohio.
Decades earlier, Wong had developed S-glass sizing formulation processes. He was a research scientist with Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning from 1955-1986 and knew the Russians had a basis for the technology.
``The Russians were the third [worldwide] source that made high-strength glass'' behind France's Cie. de Saint-Gobain and Owens Corning, Norley said. ``The Russians had done a pretty good job through the '70s in keeping up with technology against the West.''
Those advances ceased with Russia's economic decline.
IVG managers and Wong conducted an extensive search for a production site, rejected a Mos-cow facility and were thinking about Southeast Asian sites when the previously high-security facility in Ufa, Russia, came on the market. Ufa is about 1,000 miles east of Moscow.
IVG completed a deal with the Republic of Bashkortostan for control of the plant, equipment and about 10 million pounds of V-type glass marble material in late 1993 and bought Wong's technology in early 1994.
The Ufa venture, known as IVG/Steklonit, employs 160 people who manufacture Vertex in a 100,000-square-foot plant.
The facility has an annual ca-pacity of about 2 million pounds, based on its bushing and roving positions. Production on a limited basis began in September and has grown to fill orders and inventory.
IVG has ``boats in the water right now,'' Norley said, bringing Vertex material to the United States and plans to ship two 40-foot containers per month.
Since October, material distributor Composite Materials Inc. of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., has test marketed Vertex to five targeted accounts in marine, industrial, recreational and ballistic armor industries.
The marketing was successful, Norley said, and CMI will be Vertex's exclusive North American distributor.
Norley could develop additional deals. ``I've been looking for some integrated vertical products,'' he said.
IVG Composites is affiliated with the International Venture Group, a Radnor, Pa.-based limited partnership. IVG Composites employs seven in Radnor.