Magnum Venus Products, the maker of composites equipment including chopper guns, pumps and equipment for mixing and metering, and spraying systems for adhesives, plans to build 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space over five years in Knoxville, Tenn. — the heart of carbon-fiber country, said an executive.
The plant is close to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which has led work into reducing the cost of carbon fibers.
Peter Hedger Jr., Magnum Venus' director of marketing and communications, said that the Knoxville factory will have access — within a three-hour area — to all the major U.S. carbon-fiber weavers. And within six hours are the major suppliers to the composites industry, around 60 to 80 companies, he said.
“This Knoxville area's really going to taking off in composites,” Hedger said. “I imagine it's going to be what you'd call the Silicon Valley of composites.”
Magnum Venus bought 7.25 acres in a business park. The new plant is expected to have a total economic impact of $12 million, including 70 jobs over the five-year period, he said.
Phase one, a 40,000-square-foot factory, will be ready for use in the second half of this year. Company officials detailed the plan to the local media in mid-December.
Knoxville is Magnum Venus' second manufacturing site, but it's also where the machinery company has been headquartered, although before this investment, it had no manufacturing there. Magnum Venus also employs about 100 people at a 75,000-square-foot factory in Kent. Wash.
The Knoxville region is a major technology center. Composites is a specialty. ORNL runs a Carbon Fiber Technology facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that includes a 390-foot-long processing line to make fibers. Cycling legend Greg LeMond is working with ORNL to find a way to make high-volume carbon fiber at low cost.
Magnum Venus Products, which goes by MVP, offers a wide range of equipment for composites processing — chopper guns, equipment for closed-mold infusion/resin transfer molding, filament-winders, a pultrusion process that uses high -pressure injection into a die, and pumping systems for applying adhesives used in many products such as cars, buses, boats and bathtubs.
Peter Jr.'s father, Peter Hedger Sr., is president and chief financial officer. His own father, Jim Hedger Sr., started in 1938 as a distributor for coating equipment, called Graves Spray Supply. The company won growing business from automakers, and moved to full manufacturing in the early 1950s, turning out automated paint-spraying equipment.
Graves got into the new industry of dispensing systems for spray-up fiberglass, and in the early 1970s, Jim Hedger founded Magnum Industries to target that spray-up market.
The company was founded in Chicago, and the corporate headquarters relocated several times.
Peter Hedger Jr. said MVP is well-placed to help the industry solve challenges of high-cost carbon fibers and slow processing times.
“We're growing about 10-11 percent on average the last five years,” he said.
Fiber-reinforced composites have a bright future, since they are used in applications as wide-ranging as wind turbines, the bus/truck/rail market, automotive, panels for refrigerated trucks, even components of self-driving cars.
Carbon fiber-reinforced composites are light and strong. But they compete against much lower-cost steel and aluminum, as well as magnesium. And composites are a relatively new area for the automotive industry, which for its mass production is more accustomed to traditional materials, according to a report from the Center for Automotive Research that surveyed material usage, and looked at lighter-weight vehicles.
Construction and infrastructure also is an area of large-volume growth. Composite bars for reinforcing concrete — known as rebar — is a giant market for bridges, Hedger said.