CONWAY — The machine manned by Chauncey Bennett, weighup coordinator at Metglas in Conway, is the core function of a new operation to improve efficiency at the amorphous metal ribbon plant.
Until late January or early February, cutting the metal beams – known as billets by the company – was handled by an outside contractor. But a $3.8 million investment by the plant added a 21,000-square-foot section to the plant where the raw material can be cut into a manageable size needed to transform it into a thin, shiny metal ribbon that is used by manufacturers worldwide.
The new operation comes just a few years after Hitachi, of which Metglas is a subsidiary, spent $25 million to add a third operating line at the plant. That expansion, said Metglas president Dodd Smith, increased the plant’s capacity by 50 percent.
The latest addition added three jobs at the plant that has more than 200 employees.
The latest Metglas expansion is one of at least five among Horry County businesses during the last year. Others were expansions at Frontier Communications, Canfor Southern Pine, Avcraft and Native Son.
Brad Lofton, president of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said no businesses have sought the EDC’s help because it was in danger of closing. Given the economy, he said, the area can count itself lucky.
“We are excited to see one of our top manufacturing facilities in the area reinvesting in their facility once again,” Lofton said of the Metglas expansion. “The expansion will bring new tax revenue to the area and is an indicator that the facility and the jobs associated with it will be here for years to come.”
The EDC didn’t assist Metglas with its expansion, although it was involved in the other four.
Bennett’s cutting machine is remarkably quiet, considering what it is doing. The noise of the steel chunks falling into the orange cylindrical container is multiple times louder.
The container eventually moves to the main plant floor where the metal inside it is liquefied and reformed with a different molecular alignment that makes the steel ribbon strong, hard and flexible all at once.
It also retains magnetism better than known magnetic materials, a trait that is valuable to increase the efficiency and longevity of transformers and other electrical motors.
Smith said the new cutting operation started up in late January or early February and will reach 90 percent capacity this month.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.