SELMA, ALA. (Dec. 7, 2:35 p.m. ET) — Eovations LLC, which is developing a thermoplastic mineral composite material that can be handled much like wood, is opening a new production plant in Alabama.
“In Selma, Ala., we will be launching a siding and trim line with our very own technology,” said Dick McBride, operations general manager for Eovations' parent, Universal Forest Products Inc.
The material, which can be worked with common woodworking tools, is being developed by Eovations using an extruded oriented process in which a fully fiberized thermoplastic mineral composite is created. Durability and strength are among its key assets and it could be used in challenging environments, McBride said in a telephone interview.
The new production area in Selma will occupy about 60,000 square feet. It has a small crew of about 10 workers preparing the site, but expects to add another 10-15 employees as it starts up. McBride said the first production line will be ready by the first of the year and that it will ramp up in the first quarter of 2013.
He said the Selma footprint is favorable for continued growth and will allow for multiple lines in the future.
Eovations opened a research and development center dedicated to developing its technology in Bay Center, Mich., 18 months ago. The facility has 15 employees, a production line and laboratory equipment. It continues to look for new uses for the composite.
The material can be used as a replacement for wood, wood-plastic composites, plastic and metal, according to the company. Eovations is also planning to license the technology to others for use in commercialization of products and components. McBride said that company officials are talking with a variety of door and window manufacturers, and other companies about other uses.
The company said that the material can be processed using a variety of polymer and mineral raw materials and that it allows properties such as density to be controlled for different products. A plus is that it can be machined, milled, cut and drilled much like wood. It also works with conventional nails, screws and staples.
Details of the siding and trim product launch are not ready for release, but it will be a controlled launch, he said.
“We've done some test installments and it is showing unbelievable durability. It has performed very well and goes up similar to wood lap siding,” said McBride. But, he added that the company sees it as a higher-end product that can compete with lap-type siding.
The initial plan is to provide three different color products at the start, he said. Those will be named at a later date and more colors will be added as the market develops
Universal Forest Products, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is the majority stakeholder in Eovations.