IRVINE, CALIF. — Prepreg-maker Newport Adhesives and Composites Inc. aims to lower its historical core business in leisure sports.
``About 15-20 years ago, [Newport] chose to be in the leisure recreational markets,'' General Manager Patrick Kane said during a Feb. 8 plant tour in Irvine. ``As a young company, [Newport] did not have the capital to get qualified for [military] aerospace.''
The tour was part of the Composites Manufacturing and Tooling '99 conference, held Feb. 8-10 in Anaheim, Calif.
``When I came here in 1993, we were doing about $17 million in gross sales,'' Kane said. ``Now, we do about $33 million to $36 million. Our target is $50 million within two years and eventually to go to $100 million.''
Materials for recreational sports account for about 50 percent of Newport's sales while general aviation provides 15-20 percent, Kane said. Newport's marine and medical sales are smaller segments.
Newport employs 90 in a 53,000-square-foot facility, he said. Growth would ``mean inhabiting the building next door,'' probably by 2001.
Founders converted Navy soup pots to mix small resin batches.
``Today, we have the capability of making about 14,000 pounds of resin a day on two shifts,'' he said. Mostly, Newport uses Shell Chemical Co.'s Epon 828 system as a base resin. Use of water-borne epoxy avoids solvents and related environmental issues.
``We are experts at blending and formulating resin, making a film out of it and applying it to a commercial fabric,'' Kane said. ``We blend approximately 120,000 pounds of resin a month, which is either made into film with broad goods or made into unidirectional tape.''
Customers use Newport materials to make golf shafts, fly rods, racquets, race cars, bicycle frames, hockey sticks and baseball bats.
``With the abundance of carbon fiber this year, I think we will see a lot of unusual applications,'' he said.
Custom orders account for 90 percent of the business. Average delivery time is three weeks.
``We are going to grow the business in the direction of a diversified marketplace,'' he said. Newport was relying on sporting goods but found that the golf-shaft business went to China and Mexico.
``American manufacturers are having a difficult time competing,'' he said.
Industry changes have prompted a recent enlargement of Newport's quality-control laboratory. ``The business has evolved tremendously in the last five years,'' he said.
Newport ``can prepreg anything commercially available,'' he said, but often uses standard-modulus high-strain carbon fiber from sister company Grafil Inc. in Sacramento, Calif. Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd. of Tokyo owns Newport and Grafil.