Bedford Reinforced Plastics Inc. is wrapping up a 15,000-square-foot fabrication plant at its Bedford, Pa., headquarters that will free up space to expand processing capacity.
The firm's 65,000-square-foot plant pultrudes fiber-reinforced plastic products for a range of uses, from structural applications to specialty parts for power-plant cooling towers. The new fabrication plant will open in December.
It's been 30 years of slow, steady growth, by design. The market may force the company's hand as FRP products are expected to gain market share in an array of applications as building-code changes are implemented to include them.
``That's the thing that's really going to take this over the top,'' operations Vice President Mike Beaupre said by phone.
Those code inclusions are under way.
``There are a number of things happening across the board, especially in infrastructure applications,'' said John Busel, director of the Composites Growth Initiative for the Arlington, Va.-based American Composites Manufacturers Association. ``There continues to be an emerging market for FRP composites.''
Bedford officials expect their sales to triple by 2009. Unlike other composites products manufacturers, Beaupre said, Bedford's products should be used as a last resort.
``It's like this: If steel works, use it. If aluminum works, use it. If wood works, use it. Because we're more expensive than all three,'' he said.
Angles, channels, beams, tubes, plates, and other structural products are available in a variety of materials. When all else fails, turn to FRP composites, Beaupre said.
Bedford's pultruded products are made from specialty resins like thermoset polyester and vinyl ester.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and ASTM International are adding code language that includes FRP composites, Busel said.
``That will have a major impact to not only the pultrusion industry, but also the structural composites that are used in building applications,'' he said.
``The building industry is very cost-sensitive. The gap has closed in price between composites and steel and concrete. But we still have to demonstrate what composites will do in the end.''