Strongwell Corp. has built and added a 60-inch-wide pultrusion machine with 40,000 pounds of pull force to its Bristol, Va., facility, just weeks after buying and adding a 36-inch-wide machine.
Most common pultrusion machines have about 10,000 pounds of pull force.
The company wants to differentiate itself from other pultrusion firms by focusing on large parts.
``Most pultruded parts are small. We, as a company, tend to make and emphasize larger parts,'' said Glenn Barefoot, Bristol-based Strongwell's marketing manager, in an April 2 telephone interview. ``There is not as much competition in the larger parts.''
The 36-inch machine was made in Dayton, Ohio, by Process Design Associates.
Strongwell pultrudes fiberglass-reinforced plastics using thermoset resins like polyester and vinyl ester.
The company operates a 400,000-square-foot plant in Bristol, a 120,000-square-foot plant in Chatfield, Minn., and a 130,000-square-foot plant in Abingdon, Va., which the company plans to eventually expand to about 500,000 square feet.
Strongwell is the largest pultrusion company in the world, in terms of capacity, Barefoot said.
FRP products typically replace steel, aluminum and wood products in various structural and industrial applications.
FRPs are often used to replace wood or metal in a highly damp or corrosive environment, but they still have little market share compared to the so-called traditional materials, Barefoot said.
``Little by little, we're replacing traditional materials,'' he said. ``People are now realizing there's a better solution. It's just a long, slow process.''
As with most replacement materials, upfront costs are somewhat of a deterrent.
``We're more expensive upfront,'' Barefoot said. ``You have to look at it as a value proposition. If we were cheaper than wood, it would be an easy sell.''