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Drew Walker
Drew Walker
TT: How has the company progressed in last 5 years? What is the average annual production of the company?

AGY is a global business with 60% of its sales in North America, 20% in Europe, and 20% in Asia. Over the last five years, our product line has transformed from a mix of commodity and differentiated products to a focus on specialty materials for the aerospace, defense, industrial, and electronics marketplace. AGY is not a high volume production business, but rather, a producer of value added specialty products, which in most cases are in niche applications with lower production volumes.

TT: Which latest developments of nonwovens are likely to increase glass fibres’ global demand?

The latest developments in glass fiber yarn have been in the ultra-fine 4 micron fiber diameter yarn. These yarns are being increasingly used in PCBs for smart phones and tablets. Other new developments are in new airplanes such as the Boeing 787 where 50% of the materials used to build the airplane are composite, including carbon and glass fiber.

TT: The demand for specialty fabrics has been increasing. What can you predict about forecast the glass fibre demand and how are you planning to expand?

As I mentioned before, our company is into a specialty materials business. Our markets are termed ‘niche’ markets, where our competition feels that the volume is not the same as a commodity application. AGY uses its advantage to create differentiated products to exploit these opportunities. We make customers’ products lighter, stronger and faster in the aerospace, industrial and electronics industries.

TT: To manufacture glass fibres what kind of technology, machines, environment are essential?

Our company is the world leader in specialty materials and fine yarns - some as thin as 4 microns, which is a third of the width of a human hair. In order to be successful producing these high performing glass fiber products, we use several melting types needed for very low volume up to high volume applications. The company has the ability to invent a new glass chemistry and develop it into a prototype, trial it with a customer, and then put it into commercial production to meet commercial demand. It is the only glass fiber company in the world capable of developing new products in this manner.

TT: Do you think the increasing usage and production of nonwovens will affect the environment in adverse manner?

As we move into the 21st century, consumers are more aware of the environmental footprint that materials make. With this in mind, companies are very careful to develop products that follow EPA guidelines and where opportunities allow, promote the recyclability of their product lines with their customers. Our company also sells their glass fiber by-product to customers who use it for applications as diverse as automotive mufflers, filtration media, and swimming pool reinforcements.

TT: How have glass fibres revolutionized composite industry and what is its future potential?

Glass fibers have revolutionized the composites industry as they replace traditional materials like wood, steel and aluminum. The manufacturing processes for composites have improved and increased in speed over the years allowing the commercial viability of glass fiber composites and the making of glass fiber affordable enough to replace these traditional materials in everyday applications.

TT: Do you think the increasing fuel and labour costs are going to affect your business in anyway?

I believe that we are well positioned to be competitive in a global market due to our U.S. manufacturing facilities that take advantage of low cost (natural) gas and a business friendly environment. Interestingly, our main competition in China is suffering from high electric costs, high natural gas costs, and labor costs that are increasing at a minimum of 15% a year.

TT: In the global technical textiles market, can you define segment wise consumption of Glass filament and Glass fibre?

The biggest market for glass fiber is in printed circuit board substrate. In recent years, more than 150,000 tons of glass fiber yarns have been used in this application. Other markets, such as construction and industrial, use thousands of tons of yarn in applications as diverse as vinyl coated yarn for window insect screens to reinforcements for drywall used in the construction of homes.

TT: Which properties of glass fibres make it an irreplaceable option in technical textiles?

The key properties of glass fiber yarn are strength, stiffness as well as the ability to operate at very high temperatures well above competitive materials like plastic or other fibers such as aramid. Glass fiber is a third of the weight of steel which allows it to have extensive use in the aerospace market.

TT: Which regions are growing in terms of demand for technical textiles?

There are two key regions that are growing in AGY. One is Europe where the adoption in technology is replacing traditional materials as design engineers use the flexibility of composite design to create parts that are lighter, stronger and more affordable. In Asia, ten years ago, we saw companies manufacturing parts and then re-exporting them back to Europe and North America. Now, as Asia, and especially China, builds its infrastructure and develops into a world class economy, the company has seen applications being manufactured in China for use in Chinese applications such as electronics, power distribution and telecommunications.

Published on: 27/09/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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