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Fibreglass milestone

Gisborne company Pultron cracks US market.

Gisborne-based business Pultron Composites has signed a strategic alliance with Owens Corning, the world’s largest manufacturer of fibreglass composites and a key figure in the building and infrastructure industry.

Owens Corning will be the sole distributor of Mateenbar™ Fiberglass™ Rebar in North America.

Collaboration with the US Fortune 500 company will drive new sales and increase awareness of fibreglass rebar technology, says Pultron chief executive Jasper Holdsworth.

Rebar (reinforcing bar) gives support to concrete structures. A more durable alternative to steel rebar, Pultron’s Mateenbar is designed to withstand corrosive conditions.

“We are excited to be working with such an iconic company with an outstanding international reputation as Owens Corning,” Mr Holdsworth says.

“The US footprint is an important milestone for Mateenbar.”

Mateenbar USA Inc. will produce Mateenbar™ exclusively for Owens Corning for the United States, Canada and Mexico from Mateenbar’s all-new manufacturing facility in North Carolina.

The North Carolina factory is a 110,000 square foot (10219 square metres) site fitted out with state-of-the-art pultrusion manufacturing equipment designed and engineered by Pultron.

“Mateenbar Limited has built a powerful product leadership position in the global concrete reinforcement market and we are proud to bring this world-class product to the United States and federal and state departments of transportation, to enable more durable and longer lasting concrete structures,” says Owens Corning Composites president, Marcio Sandri.

“We are incredibly proud to bring this world-class product to the United States market for our partners at the federal and state departments of transportation to enable more durable and longer-lasting concrete structures.”

Owens Corning supplies a lot of industries with glass fibre, Pultron business development director Peter Renshaw says.

“Rather than provide just glass fibre, they want go to the next level and that’s where we come in.

“Pultron has worked with Owens Corning in the past couple of years. We supply them with product and we’ve been working together to grow the market by increasing awareness of fibreglass rebar.”

As the demand for sustainable infrastructure increases, civil engineers and government agencies seek new technologies to achieve longer-lasting and carbon-friendly infrastructure, Mr Renshaw says. This is an especially significant development in countries where steel-reinforced concrete has deteriorated over time.

“Corrosion in infrastructure is a major problem worldwide,” Mr Renshaw says.

In the US, transportation agencies spend around 50 percent of their budget on maintenance of infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

“One of the two major problems in the US is the salt applied to roads in winter (de-icing) in some states. This is common practice but is a disaster for roads and bridges. The other is coastal infrastructure and that problem (corrosion due to salt) is exactly like what we have in New Zealand.”

As a coastal country, salt spray has a major impact in the longevity of infrastructure.

“A good example of the impact of corrosion is the Gisborne wharf wall. Once you can see corrosion and rust, the damage is deemed severe. In New Zealand, corrosion occurs not only in coastal areas but in high geothermal activity regions such as Taupo and Rotorua.”

The corrosive nature of steel has caught up with the world, says Mr Renshaw. It is expensive to repair and that costs the asset owner — often the ratepayer and government.

Transport agencies today focus on sustainability and best value, he says.

“Using steel rebar in many projects no longer makes sense. Mateenbar™ presents the question ‘why are you still using steel when there is a much better option to consider?’”

Unlike steel, Mateenbar™ eliminates the risk of corrosion, extends infrastructure life-cycles and reduces maintenance costs, even when used in highly corrosive environments. And it is better for the environment and the public purse, says Mr Renshaw.

“The American Concrete Institute (ACI) has a committee that deals with fibreglass rebar. Pultron, Owens Corning and other manufacturers have representatives on that committee working together to promote the product and ensure manufacturers deliver quality products. Working together we can develop standards of construction to give more industry confidence in using our products.”

Mr Renshaw understands the slow journey for engineers to make the change to new materials. Engineers need the security of knowing what they use will perform, he says.

“But fibreglass rebar has been around for more than 30 years. The technology has advanced and made it better and more price competitive. It has the support of the American Concrete Institute, the American Composites Manufacturers Association and a number of highly respected academics.”

That Owens Corning has selected Mateenbar™ is another huge recommendation, says My Renshaw.

Mateenbar™ continues to be manufactured at Pultron’s Gisborne plant and is used in local projects such as the Tokomaru Bay Wharf restoration and the Matawai dam.

Partnership with Owens Corning will entail expansion of the Gisborne plant and more jobs. All research and technical expertise comes from Gisborne. It is a major win for the local economy, says Mr Renshaw.

“We’re flat out building new machines for the US. We were building the factory anyway but the partnership will accelerate sales. We have a plan to build a number of machines and are ramping up the plan.”

While Pultron’s expansion in engineering is driven mainly by the need to supply machines to the US market, increases in employment opportunities and in manufacture to meet customer demand are forecast.

Although there are many rebar manufacturers in the US who would love to work with Owens Corning, Pultron is recognised as a world leader, Mr Renshaw says.

“They’ve known for a long time Pultron is a top rebar producer in the world. We spent a long time developing the technology and always had the attitude we can do better. We are always looking for improvements.”

Part of the journey for Mateenbar started 11 years ago with a vision to replace steel rebar with non-metallic fibreglass rebar, an innovation in building and construction, says Pultron chief executive, Jasper Holdsworth.

“This has been a decade of sustained effort from our team to bring it to market so to be acknowledged as a world-leading product in this emerging market is satisfying,”

Pultron also recently moved from its Dubai facility to a much larger facility, dedicated to mass producing fibreglass rebar, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

STRENGTH TO STRENGTH: A strategic alliance between Gisborne-based business Pultron Composites and US fibreglass composites manufacturer Owens Corning will drive new sales and increase awareness of fibreglass rebar technology, says Pultron chief executive Jasper Holdsworth.Picture supplied