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Drew Walker
Drew Walker

Interview with Drew Walker

The biggest market for glass fibre is printed circuit board substrate

Drew Walker, CEO of AGY says “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…”, in an interview with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi. Synopsis: AGY produces high performance materials which are used in markets like Automotive, Construction, Defense, Electronics, Aerospace, Marine, and Recreation. AGY produces 25 thousand tonnes of glass fiber yarn per year. It sells to all the major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Boeing, Airbus, Cisco, Apple, Samsung, and many other industrial companies. The company’s products are E Glass yarn, S-2 Glass fibers, Continuous Filament Mat (CFM), L-Glass yarns, S-1 HM Glass fibers etc. It is based in South Carolina, USA and its annual turnover is US$175 million. Drew Walker, President and Chief Executive Officer, joined AGY as part of the Senior Management Team in January 2005. Before joining AGY, Mr. Walker served as Global Sales Director for SAPPI (South Africa Paper & Pulp Industries). Mr. Walker was educated in England at Sheffield Hallam University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts Honors Degree in Industrial Product Design. Excerpts:

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: 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: 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.

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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