After making barrels for 45 years, Wexco Corp. is shutting down, the company announced March 3 in an email to customers.
"The ownership of Wexco Corp. has decided to close the business. As a result of this decision, all outstanding quotes by Wexco are rescinded and no longer valid, as no further orders will be accepted," the company said in the email.
Wexco will complete its current backlog and expects to complete its final shipments by the end of April.
President Dave Weber confirmed the email.
Wexco has about 78 employees in Lynchburg, Va., where the company makes bimetallic and trimetallic barrels for extrusion and injection molding. In the statement announcing the closing, officials said: "We want to thank our many loyal customers for the confidence they have shown in Wexco during the past five decades by placing orders for their needs."
Wexco has a long history that began in 1975, when John G. Hendrickson founded the company in King of Prussia, Pa. Wexco produced barrels for sister companies Welding Engineers Inc., a maker of twin-screw extruders, and sheet-line builder Welex Inc.
Wexco relocated to Lynchburg in 1977, then moved to its current plant in 1986. The company broadened its list of customers and increased in sales, investing in metalworking equipment.
Reaction to the Wexco news was immediate from one company. Santa Fe Machine Works Inc., a screw maker in Fontana, Calif., announced on March 3 it has signed an exclusive contract with Tan Star Material Co. of Taiwan to distribute its bimetallic barrels across the United States.
"It's unfortunate news. We sold Wexco barrels for over 30 years," said Scott Kelly, vice president of Santa Fe Machine. "The barrel marketplace has had a level of uncertainty, leading us to enter this agreement as a way to service our barrel customers to our satisfaction."
Kelly said his company has been testing dozens of barrels for more than two years and the Tan Star quality rivals that of domestic manufacturers. Santa Fe Machine will be able to add American-made options.
Don Smith, a veteran of Wexco who had been its vice president of sales and marketing, joined Santa Fe Machine in April 2018. A year later, Kelly and Smith inspected the Tan Star plant in Taiwan before signing the contract.
Smith, sales and product development executive at Santa Fe Machine, said he was impressed with the Taiwanese company's manufacturing and quality assurance. Tan Star's raw materials come from Germany and Japan.
"The casting process of the bimetallic inlay was superior to that which was done by Wexco," Smith said.
Meanwhile, as some barrel supply issues have hit machinery manufacturers and plastics processors, other U.S. operations are expanding production.
Nordson Corp. has opened a 194,000-square-foot screw and barrel factory in Austintown, Ohio, near Youngstown, to centralize its Xaloy operations. The facility reportedly has installed induction furnaces to make bimetallic barrels.
And in Maize, Kan., screw and barrel maker Reiloy USA is investing $20 million for a new manufacturing plant that industry sources said will include a barrel-making furnace. Reiloy USA is part of the German maker of machinery and screws and barrels Reifenhäuser Group.
Reiloy USA officials have not spelled out what will go into the new plant.