Vectorply celebrates 25 years, opens facility expansion
The Alabama-based manufacturer of high-performance non-crimp fabrics has added 53,000 sq ft with its new Advanced Composite Reinforcement Center.
Vectorply Corp. (Phenix City, AL, US), a manufacturer of high-performance non-crimp fabrics (NCF), celebrated its 25th anniversary and officially opened the doors of its new Advanced Composite Reinforcement Center with a grand opening ceremony in front of friends, customers and suppliers on June 14.
The new 53,000-ft2/5,000m2 facility features 38,000 ft2 /3,500m2 of manufacturing space dedicated to producing the company’s VectorUltra line of advanced multiaxial reinforcements. In addition, the new facility boasts 6,000 ft2/557m2 for Vectorply’s Technical Services and Engineering Team, including a fully equipped composite materials lab. The expansion also includes a two-story, 9,000-ft2/836 m2 office for the sales and service staff.
Currently, Vectorply produces 19 standard carbon products ranging from a 3-oz/100 gsm biaxial fabric to a 94-oz/3,193 gsm mirror-image quadriaxial tooling fabric. According to co-president Trey Sawtelle, the new manufacturing facility will be key to future product innovation for customers.
“This investment is important on many levels as it will give us the space and capacity to expand our carbon NCF product offerings while maintaining our commitment to our standard line of VectorUltra™ products,” he said. “This facility will be at the forefront of innovation of advanced carbon reinforcements, which will allow our customers to produce cutting-edge composite parts.”
Vectorply’s new composite materials lab was built with a goal of fabricating and mechanically testing composite laminates for customer project support and internal/external R&D efforts. The new lab provides the capability to fabricate laminates via hand lamination, vacuum infusion, wet bagging, LRTM, or oven-cured prepreg, with all relevant processing parameters tracked and recorded. The finished panels are then precisely machined for testing to determine tensile, compressive, flexural, in-plane shear or interlaminar shear properties on the company's new United SFM SMART 1 Floor Model 100-kN test frame.
With the addition of the Advanced Composite Reinforcement Center, Vectorply says it is further establishing itself as a "premier supplier of high-performance carbon fabrics for demanding applications where weight savings and performance are key." Targeted market segments include aerospace, defense, and transportation along with infrastructure, marine, and sports and recreation.
“Our new facility and engineering capabilities will provide the environment for designing some of the most unique and innovative multiaxial carbon products in the world,” Sawtelle said. “We look forward to working with new industries, markets, and customers as we develop these high-performance reinforcements.”
Vectorply’s new addition proudly reflects the name of founder and CEO Don Massey, who started the company in 1992 as Tech Textiles USA. In May, Massey was presented with a bronze plaque that was placed on the front of the building naming the facility the Donald L. Massey Advanced Composite Reinforcement Center, which included one of his core business principles for success, “A company’s reputation is its only sustainable competitive advantage. We will constantly strive to preserve our reputation of excellence.”
Massey was the featured speaker at the grand opening and recounted fondly how Vectorply was started and how, in 1992, the manufacture of technical fabrics for composites was in its infancy. He admitted to having "been bitten by the composites bug," despite just a modicum of knowledge about the product and the industry. The company's launch, he said, was tenuous, but promising: "I started this company with no employees, no products and no customers," he said, but within a few years it was established and growing. PPG was Vectorply's first glass supplier, and the primary market served was sports and recreation — particularly snowboards. Vectorply also began supplying the marine business and by 2001 it was acquired from parent company Johnston Industries by a private equity firm and the name was changed to Vectorply.
Massey and Sawtelle both called special attention to the long-term business relationship Vectorply has had with distributor Composites One, and each company presented the other with a plaque memorializing that relationship. Leon Garoufalis, president and COO of Composites One, noted in particular that his company recently passed the $350 million mark in total value of Vectorply material sold by Composites One.
Today, Vectorply employs 125 people and by early 2018 will have 27 stitching machines installed and running.
Not yet in full production, with one exception, all are aimed at accelerating composite part manufacture at fast automotive rates.
From multifunctional aircraft interiors to compounds using continuous fabrics to the growing use of recycled carbon fiber – compression molding offers new opportunities.
Software/hardware advances and peripheral equipment make flatbed cutters essential to automated production scenarios.