CONCORD, ONTARIO — Manfred Lupke, a German immigrant to Canada, had never seen a pipe corrugator before when his new employer asked him to make one. He knew nothing.
“And that was my biggest luck,” said Lupke, an engineer with a bit of a flair who runs Corma Inc. He didn't make the mistakes he said others had made with corrugators for polyethylene and vinyl pipe and conduit.
He started Corma in 1973. That first year, he sold a perforator saw to a customer, and saw their corrugators.
“That really opened my eyes how lucky I was that I had no knowledge of these machines when I designed my corrugator,” he said.
Lupke, 75, holds 848 patents for corrugators — deceptively simple-looking devices that make the indented corrugations in everything from drainage pipe in fields and along highways, to sewer pipe down to tiny tubing conduit for fiber-optics. Corma recently built a corrugator for pipe six feet in diameter. The company has built a line for conduit with an inside diameter of just one millimeter.
Corma, which employs about 200 people in Concord, north of Toronto, has built more than 1,300 corrugators sold around the world. The company also makes saws, perforators and dies — everything downstream from the extruder. Corma runs a foundry in Sarnia, Ontario, to control its own castings.
The company has gained a reputation of aggressively protecting his patents by going to court around the world. And Lupke is a major force in the narrow but important niche of the plastics industry. Corrugation makes stiff pipe with less weight. It can be flexible, to go around corners, such as electrical conduit in a wall.
Lupke was named Leader of the Year by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association in 2007. Three years ago, he was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Now Lupke is getting more recognition as a new member of the Plastics Hall of Fame. Corma also is exhibiting at NPE 2015, in Booth W2431.
Life in Germany
Luck played a role in Lupke's childhood. He was born near Frankfurt Oder, a town in eastern Germany along the Oder River. As World War II wound down, 6-year-old Manfred, his mother, grandmother and aunt, became refugees, moving west. Retreating German soldiers blew up the bridge that connected Frankfurt to what is now Poland.
The young boy witnessed a violent history.
“One thing that I will remember is, we were in the track in between the horse-drawn cart. And fighter planes came. And they had under the wing the German national emblem, the swastika. And then they turned and showed on top of the wings, it was a Russian emblem. And they were just shooting in between people, and there were dead animals and dead people,” he said.
The family members survived and kept heading west to Berlin. His grandfather was a captain for a river barge company.
“Then we were lucky that my grandfather was there. And we got on this barge and it was towed up to Hamburg,” he said.
The family lived in the barge docked at Hamburg. More wartime memories for the boy: the bombing of Hamburg. “We were in a bunker for three days. And then we came out and we could see from those bridges to the main railroad station. And this is like 5 kilometers. Everything was all flat.”
They remained on the boat even when the war ended. His father, who served in the German army, was released from a prisoner camp and reunited with his family, and they lived in Essen.
Lupke met a cute girl in second grade, named Renate — and they got married in 1962.
“She remembers exactly what I was wearing when we met!” Lupke said, laughing.
His parents, along with his brother and sister, immigrated to Canada around in the mid-1960s. Manfred and Renate Lupke followed in 1969.