Mexico City — The main markets for corrugated pipe in Mexico remain highway drainage, storm sewer and sewage uses, with the extruded infrastructure often made from PVC or high density polyethylene, but new materials and applications are emerging.
Polypropylene, long popular in Europe as a substitute to PVC, is gaining popularity with customers in Mexico needing stronger, lighter-weight products, according to Stefan Lupke, executive vice president of Corma Inc., a manufacturer of corrugators based in Concord, Ontario.
In addition, a new market is emerging for small diameter conduit for telecommunications infrastructure.
"That's getting stronger," Lupke said. "There's a lot of traction there. You run the electrical cables or telecommunication cables through there. It's really a protective coating. It can be PVC, but in Mexico, it's more polyethylene."
Founded in 1973 by his father, 2015 Plastics Hall of Fame inductee Manfred Lupke, Corma has 848 patents to its credit, including breakthroughs like the vacuum forming system for corrugated pipe, a mold block quick-release system and a compact die for corrugating large-diameter pipe.
"We only build machinery for corrugated pipe, so we always try to stay ahead of the curve," Stefan Lupke said, noting that Corma manufactures all the equipment, dies and tooling downstream from extruders.
Corma has been doing business in Mexico since the mid-1980s and counts among its customers a joint venture of Hilliard, Ohio-based, publicly traded Advanced Drainage Systems called ADS Mexicana, S.A. de C.V.; HDPE corrugated pipe extruder Todoren, which is based in Apodaca, Mexico, and serves the sanitary, rain, agricultural and highway drainage; and Plastics Technology of Mexico, which says it is the largest manufacturer of plastics pipe in Mexico.
About 70 percent of Corma's sales in Mexico are for infrastructure and pipe uses with a focus on large diameters. The company's equipment also helps produce thin corrugated tubes for automotive wire harnesses and respiratory tubing for medical markets.
"Mexico is a very good strong market," Lupke said. "It's also the gateway to Central America.
"There's some synergies with some of the smaller Central American companies and people in Mexico."
Corma has about 250 employees working at a few plants in Canada and a small facility in Shanghai. The business has exported to more than 100 countries over the years.
"I think our machines are the most versatile in terms of their production range," Lupke said. "They have high output capacity, and they're very easy to use, which helps us go to different export markets. Everything is built on the last 40-plus years so everything is a building block. We give the customer ways to upgrade their equipment over time, too. The machines are incredibly robust and easy to operate."
Corma received a leadership award at the 2016 Ontario Export Awards, in part for delivering more than 1,300 machines to six of the seven continents since opening. However, not so many to its neighbor to the south.
"The U.S. is a very mature market, which is why everyone has to go outside of Canada and the U.S. if you want to survive these days," Lupke said.