Molder and extruder IPL Inc. is getting in on the ground floor of a promising, new skating technology.
The Saint-Damien, Quebec, firm has inked a contract to make and assemble components for a heated skate blade developed by Therma Blade Inc. IPL will earn about C$10 million (US$10.2 million) during the three-year production contact.
The heated skate blade reduces friction between the blade and the ice surface, allowing skaters the ability to improve stamina and speed. It was invented by Alberta resident Tory Weber. Therma Blade is based in Verdun, Quebec.
IPL got involved in the project about a year ago.
``It's proved we have the engineering skill to produce and put together the components,'' said IPL Chief Executive Officer Serge Bragdon in a telephone interview. The parts and their molds are complex, he added. At full speed, IPL expects to mold components and assemble a pair of blades per minute.
IPL has begun molding several composite parts used to assemble the heated skate blade. It has been molding around the clock, seven days a week in a special skating-rink shaped production area that will be dedicated to the project.
The firm has invested C$1.3 million (US$1.33 million) in new equipment to carry out the work that began in mid-October. The job may create as many as 40 new jobs for publicly traded IPL. It's the first skate molding contract for IPL, which makes a range of custom and proprietary products.
The revolutionary blade is endorsed by hockey great Wayne Gretzky, who says on Therma Blade's Web site that the technology is an ``advantage that can't be ignored.'' Gretzky also is an investor in the company.
National Hockey League players could begin adopting the system this season after a group of players test the technology under hockey game conditions.
For general consumers, the blade will be offered at specialty stores in Canada for about C$399.99 (US$407.99). The blades are separately fitted onto skate boots.
Therma Blade's system relies on a rechargable battery and a microprocessor to maintain a blade temperature of about 40° F. The warm blade creates a thicker water layer under the blade that reduces friction compared with regular blades.
In other news, IPL will invest C$1.2 million (US$1.22 million) in three new injection molding presses at its Edmundston, New Brunswick, plant.
Bragdon said the project is primarily aimed at making food packaging containers. Beginning in January, it will install Husky and Netstal presses with clamping forces of 300 and 600 tons. The two 300 tonners will replace older presses while the 600-ton machine is a capacity addition, Bragdon said. The site employs 160 and operates 29 injection presses.
``This investment will allow us to improve our competitive position,'' Bragdon said.