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Image: Home-Grown Product Creates Exports, Jobs

From the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology

October 23, 1999
MEDIA RELEASE
For immediate release

Caption: Pyrotek technical director Mike Cooper, left, and general manager Craig Schweighoffer with some of the O'-Sialon products made at Pyrotek Products Ltd.

HOME-GROWN PRODUCT CREATES EXPORTS, JOBS

A new material developed in New Zealand is expected to produce export sales of $6 million a year and create up to 60 new jobs for an Auckland ceramics company.

O'-Sialon – a mixture of silicon, aluminium, oxygen and nitrogen – has been developed by Pyrotek Products Ltd and Industrial Research Ltd (IRL), with support from Technology New Zealand.

Production has started at Pyrotek's Auckland factory to make ceramic tubes, bricks, rods, and other items for the world's aluminium industries.

Pyrotek technical director Mike Cooper says O'-Sialon makes these products harder, stronger and tougher than traditional ceramics. “They have excellent heat resistance, wear resistance and chemical durability,” he says.

The ceramics can be used in refractories, furnaces and molten metal-flow processes. Ninety-five percent of Pyrotek’s production will be exported.
“This is leading-edge technology, developed here in New Zealand, and we’re going to keep it here,” Mr Cooper says.

Pyrotek is an overseas-owned private company with 55 branches in 19 countries. It specialises in supplying ceramic products to the aluminium industries. Pyrotek in New Zealand has grown from two people to 30 in six years, and more jobs are expected.

Mr Cooper says the company expects to produce export sales of $6 million a year within five years.

“We’ll double or treble the workforce,” he says, as the factory in East Tamaki gears up production.

“We used to be just a small warehousing operation in New Zealand," he says. "Instead of just bringing materials in, we’re going to be a net exporter of materials worldwide. Now the New Zealand operation is likely to become the high-technology research centre for the company’s industrial ceramics operations worldwide.”

O'-Sialon is the result of a partnership with IRL scientists, with funding coming from Pyrotek and Technology New Zealand, a scheme of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology that helps businesses develop new products, processes and services.

“We needed Industrial Research because we just did not have the facilities, or in some areas the expertise, to undertake the research ourselves in the time we have,” Mr Cooper says.

Ian Brown, IRL’s ceramics manager, says O-sialon grew out of an earlier project between IRL and Pyrotek that began in 1992.

“They wanted us to help develop a reaction-bonded silicon carbide product that withstands a lot of heat. That ran for three years. That then led to O'Sialon, and we worked on that for three years, finishing only in June this year.”

A specialised clay in the raw mix allows a greater variety and lower cost of forming techniques, including extrusion and slip-casting. In trials at local aluminium-casting factories, the new product lasted six months – traditional components lasted only up to 10 days.

Dr Brown says he was delighted with the project's success – "translating a good piece of science into a good piece of technology”.

The process is protected by patent.


-ends-

Contact:
- Michael Cooper, Pyrotek Products Ltd, Auckland. Ph: (09) 274-4415.
Email: mikcoo@pyrotek-inc.com. Internet: http://www.pyrotek-inc.com

- Nigel Metge, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), (09) 912-6730, or 021 454-095. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by I.D. Communications.

Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525. Ian@idcomm.co.nz

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