DALLAS — While Andersen Corp. of Bayport, Minn., is well known for its vinyl-clad wood windows, the company quietly has been working on developing uses for its wood-vinyl composite material.
Anderson showed some of the results of its research at the International Builders' Show in Dallas. The company devoted a section of its huge show booth to its Fibrex line of materials. The display included a video about how the composite is compounded and extruded and a sample of the finished pellets.
Anderson, which has used Fibrex for door and window components for several years, also displayed a Fibrex deck and an exterior siding panel, although company representatives would not say if they planned to market those products.
``Fibrex is a category,'' Kurt Heikkila, senior vice president of technology and business development for Andersen, said at the show. ``Windows are the most demanding application for a material like this.''
While Andersen makes more than enough wood fiber as a byproduct of its window fabrication business, it does not have enough vinyl scrap to meet demand and buys some of that raw material, Heikkila said. By weight, Fibrex is 40 percent wood and 60 percent PVC.
Andersen began making products with Fibrex in 1992, after 20 years of research, he said. The first application was subsills for hinged patio doors. The material's resistance to water damage and rotting made it ideal for the door application, and Andersen has since incorporated Fibrex components into parts of its double-hung windows.
Development work on siding and other applications has been going on for about four years, Heikkila said.
``Just as we've done in windows, we are starting rather quietly [on other applications]. We are making sure we are really able to have the entire packet of information [on the material] so we can take on the market,'' Heikkila said, adding he doubts Andersen will commercialize all of the nonwindow products.
No matter what it decides to do with Fibrex, Andersen will face competition.
A host of other companies have developed and patented similar materials. For example, Mikron Inc. of Kent, Wash., in 1998 said it was expanding its extrusion facilities just to produce its own line of wood-vinyl composite window profiles.
But Andersen hopes to benefit from its relatively long experience with the material, and a well-known corporate identity.
``We were here from the beginning of the category,'' Heikkila said. ``The time for this technology is now. We think we have an advantage.''
Heikkila said his company has a number of patents on the material.
``We will actively protect the category,'' he said.