Copper tubing and alloys maker Mueller Industries Inc. has expanded its new plastic pipe business through acquisition.
The Memphis, Tenn., company announced April 3 that it bought Die-Mold Tool Ltd. of Georgetown, Ontario. Die-Mold is a tool shop that also produces fittings for cross-linked polyethylene pipe and related plumbing products.
Mueller entered PEX pipe markets in May 2017 when it bought PexCor Manufacturing Co. and HeatLink Group Inc., two Calgary, Alberta-based companies that shared common ownership. The company said at the time that the acquisitions were strategic to its flow-control products in pressure plastics. PexCor is a PEX pipe producer and Die-Mold's fittings expertise complements PEX pipe production.
Mueller deems PEX pipe as strategic to its piping systems segment, even though the PEX acquisitions are tiny compared with its sales of copper pipe and related metal products. Last year the piping systems segment logged sales of $1.56 billion, or 68 percent of sales.
"In 2018 we are excited about opportunities to grow in the pressure plastics piping systems arena," Mueller stated in its 2017 annual report.
PEX pipe is a fast-growing application in plumbing and radiant heating systems. Heavyweights in the market include Nibco Inc. of Elkhart, Ind., and Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co. of Charlotte, N.C.
Mueller took an ill-fated run at the PEX pipe market in 2014 when it tried to develop the business internally. In 2016 it wrote-off a $6.1 million research and development project related to PEX. The company said then that its initial tactic was slow and expensive.
Prior to being purchased by Mueller, PexCor and HeatLink in April 2016 entered into an intellectual property licensing agreement with Uponor AB, a leader in PEX pipe development based in Vantaa, Finland. The agreement resolved a five-year legal battle over a patent on PEX pipe manufacturing.
In a Memphis Business Journal news report, Mueller vice president of finance Jeffery Martin indicated his firm will continue to look for pressure plastics opportunities, including those not confined to PEX systems.
Mueller's metals businesses include copper and alloys, aluminum and steel. In addition to pipe, it makes rod, forgings and extrusions for construction, appliance, defense, energy and automotive markets. Its production facilities encompass North America, the United Kingdom, South Korea and China.