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Technology To Boost US Sales For Quiet Achiever

7 May 2001


The small town of Wellsford just north of Auckland is the rather unlikely home of one of New Zealand’s quietest achievers; a company with a mega-million dollar turnover that employs more than 500 people.

Measured by the number of tungsten carbide brazed saw tips coming from the factory, Izard Irwin International Ltd is also the world’s biggest manufacturer of circular saw blades for the professional and DIY markets.

Now, three years down the track of some heavy duty research in collaboration with Industrial Research Ltd, funding of $700,000 from Technology New Zealand and matching expenditure from the company, Izard Irwin is about to give the international saw blade market yet another shake up.

The $1.5million-plus research project has led to better understanding of cutting and brazing technology and a saw blade that could well be described as cutting edge. The resulting product will be launched into the North American DIY and OEM market later this year, currently responsible for 70% of the company’s sales.

Products arising from the research are expected to increase the company’s annual revenues by $10m plus,- as much as up to 50% of sales within three years. Technology developed through research will also allow the company to move into battery-powered saws, another big growth area.

Television’s ‘Tim the tool-man’ might like to take credit for the trend, but it’s a market that’s becoming increasingly sophisticated, according to Izard Irwin’s Marketing Manager, Kieran Rice. “The whole DIY sector is big and growing bigger,” he says. “As people tackle more complex projects they become very savvy about the tools they use.”

The new saw blade derived from the research has all the hype of a new car – it’s faster and quieter -but according to Mr Rice, it provides the smoother finish and freer cutting that the market demands. “The research helped us learn more about the actual science of cutting. We were then able to use the results to design higher performing blades using techniques to make the process smoother and more accurate,” says Mr Rice.

Izard Irwin has a 20 year history of smart innovation, getting an early start and riding on the wave of the rise of portable power tools. It was at the forefront of the trend away from steel to longer-lasting tungsten carbide tipped saws and it has a passion for integrating technology into better design.

Technology New Zealand, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, funded the two-part research project and the safety net of external assistance allowed the company to make an abrupt about-turn half way through.

“We found that part of the initial process we wanted to use related to the tungsten tip technology was not going to be commercially viable, so we put that aside and moved on to looking at the science of cutting which resulted in the new blade,” says Mr Rice. “However, we did meet our objectives of transferring knowledge and technology into the company and we were able to apply automation to traditional brazing methods, which will be of significant benefit.”


For more information:
*Kieran Rice, Izard Irwin, 09 423 8063
*Nigel Metge, Auckland office, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology,
09 912 6730, 021 454 095

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