Roofing systems maker Duro-Last Inc. says it installed a one-of-a-kind extruder at its facility in Buena Vista Township, Mich., that is 5-stories tall at one point and uses a unique process to laminate PVC membranes that protect buildings from leaks, punctures and high winds.
The mammoth machine, which was custom-made by a German supplier that the company would not identify, also is capable of manufacturing rolls of 12-foot wide roofing products — a size that appeals to the commercial construction industry.
Duro-Last has a lot of customers that build restaurants, hospitals, schools and multi-family housing complexes and it had to outsource some orders for rolled products that were more than 5-feet wide, Jenny Bruzewski, marketing communications director, said in a telephone interview.
Now the company can do everything in house. The new equipment can process 14,000 pounds per hour using a single-pass system with two twin extruders. However, it is the lamination step of the manufacturing process that has Duro-Last staff excited, particularly about making roof membranes of knitted polyester scrim sandwiched between PVC layers.
“We're the only one in the world to have this particular technology right now,” Bruzewski said. “There's a certain way this extruder laminates the different parts of the membrane together.”
Duro-Last is going after a larger share of the market for low-slope roofing systems with the 12-foot wide sheets.
“Doubling the width almost halves the number of rolls that roofing contractors have to take up,” Bruzewski said.
Machine specialists from four countries worked for 1½ years on the behemoth project. Duro-Last, a privately held company, isn't disclosing the cost but Bruzewski said the equipment represents the biggest investment the 38-year-old company has ever made.
“This comes as part of founder John R. Burt's idea of vertical integration and controlling our own destiny,” she added. “Manufacturing every part of our product in house allows us to control both costs and quality.”
The late Mr. Burt started out making swimming pool liners. He figured vinyl liners that were good at keeping water in should also keep it out. He started the roofing business in 1978 and three years later based it in Buena Vista Township, near Saginaw, Mich. Today, the company also has manufacturing facilities in Oregon, Mississippi, Iowa and Texas as well as distribution centers in New York and Ontario.
Although Duro-Last is not putting a price tag on its new extruder, it did offer some other interesting numbers of note:
• The new extrusion operation takes up 50,000 square feet of the facility.
• The tallest point is 78 feet high to accommodate the mixing system.
• Construction took 105 days while a machine that size would typically take a year to build.
• One of the boxes of shipped parts weighed 60,000 pounds and had to be brought into the plant on a flatbed truck.
• Seventeen electricians installed 17 miles of wire, which was purchased locally.