Ideal Products aims to revolutionize global mechanical insulation market

March 24, 2017— Edmonton, Alberta

Ideal Products of Edmonton, Alberta aims to transform the global mechanical insulation market with the introduction of its unique V-groove manufacturing technology. With advice and financial support from the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program, the company hired the engineers and consultants it needed to develop a commercialization-ready product.

Picture an oil refinery, or a fertilizer plant, and you probably imagine a forest of pipes with clouds of steam. But how do those pipes stay thermally efficient and protected in the harsh environment that surrounds them?

This is where Ideal Products of Edmonton, Alberta comes in — a Canadian company that is out to transform the market for cylindrical metal jacketing and insulation that covers the pipes used in heavy industrial and commercial applications. It's a huge market worldwide, and Ideal hopes to gain a technical competitive edge with the introduction of its new Safety Jacs™ and patented V-groove manufacturing technology that it developed with the support of the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).

"Our vision is to turn leading-edge innovation into the industry norm," emphasized Ideal's CEO, Robert Bertram.

Innovation: from strategy to reality

Ideal started out in 1991 as a producer of plastic jacketing. Being strategically located in the heart of the Alberta oilfields, in 2002 they entered into the manufacturing of metal jacketing for insulation. By 2015, the company had operations in the US, Saudi Arabia and China, and they saw the potential to diversify and to expand into additional complimentary product offerings.

"To stay in line with our vision and to be a leader in our market, we had to keep innovating," explained Bertram. With the market shifting to modular construction techniques, large production run type orders were being replaced by small shipments of customized orders. Ideal saw an opportunity to efficiently meet the demand created by this shift.

"Our goal was to use automation to eliminate the downtime in making the changes between orders and to reduce the chance of injury to workers by adding a smooth safety hem to the leading edge of the metal products."

In 2012, Ideal contacted IRAP for help with a project to test for the right materials for the safety hem. By 2013, the company was developing their novel Safety Jacs system with IRAP support, specifically through funding for technical development, allowing the company to hire the engineers and consultants it needed to go from research to prototype to commercialization-ready product.

"Having IRAP on board gave us the confidence to go forward with our dream of repositioning ourselves in the market through innovation and new technology."

Robert Bertram, CEO, Ideal Products of Canada Ltd.

"That's the typical story with IRAP – the company starts with a relatively small research and development (R&D) project, and if it's encouraging, they move to take it to a larger scale," explained Robert Roy, the IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) who currently helps support Ideal.

Packed flat, the V-groove makes it possible to fit more product than ever before in a transport container, cutting shipping costs and yielding substantial environmental benefits. The insulation is shipped to the field where it is applied to pipes with the cylindrical metal jacketing also produced by Ideal.

The company's next project was even bigger and more ambitious: designing a unique, automated V-groove manufacturing technology that would allow Ideal to generate additional revenue by cost-effectively supplying both insulation and metal jacketing to their customers.

With the success of the V-groove, Ideal can completely eliminate material waste from its lines and double conventional manufacturing capacity. The technology uses a water jet process to efficiently cut through the insulation board and then the machine flips alternate pieces to be gathered and glued onto a polyester backing. The finished product is then automatically packaged and shipped to the field where it can be applied to the pipe. Another plus of the V-Groove product is that it is packed in a flat form, making it possible to fit four times the product in the same transport container and, in so doing, to substantially cut shipping costs.

"The IRAP funding and advice on managing the R&D process helped ease some of the risk in the project and allowed us to focus on making the technology work," said Bertram.

Using new technology to win

Ideal's automated V-groove manufacturing technology enables the company to enter new markets and generate additional revenue by cost-effectively supplying both insulation and metal jacketing to its customers. The technology completely eliminates material waste from the process and doubles conventional manufacturing capacity.

The result is a set of products that merge multiple business advantages with environmental and safety benefits – a winning combination for Ideal, their customers and their employees.

"It's really quite revolutionary in our industry," said Bertram. "No other manufacturing company in North America is offering both pipe insulation and jacketing. "We're growing and significantly outpacing overall industry expansion right now."

Ideal currently has the automated line for Safety Jacs in operation all over North America, accounting for about 93% of its cut and roll business, compared to only 2% when it made the product manually. Since introducing Safety Jacs in 2013, the company has added six manufacturing positions to its staff. Revenues have grown by more than 50% from 2012 to 2015, and the V-groove will go into production in late 2016.

"Having IRAP on board gave us the confidence to go forward with our dream of repositioning ourselves in the market through innovation and new technology."

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