V.P. Group: Everything made from profiles
The company took the first big step forward when they introduced PVC profiles for bathroom doors in 1980. PVC came as a solution to the humid climate and the Asian ‘splash mentality’ in bathrooms. Wooden counterparts were consigned to the past. The profiles for bathroom doors also opened the door to SEA countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines, and even to Europe (Poland).
The V.P. Group consists of V.P. Plastic Product Co., Ltd., V.P. Wood Co., Ltd., and Fresh Garden Hydroponics Center Co., Ltd.. The company V.P. Plastic Product started with the manufacturing of thermoplastic sealing profiles for refrigerators, household appliances and construction 32 years ago. Today, the still privately owned V.P. Group is the leading profi le extrusion company in Thailand with the main focus on WPC (Wood Polymer Composite) and worldwide export.
WPC (Wood Polymer Composite): more than a wood alternative
In 1983 the Thai government implemented a law that strictly forbad the felling of tree (timber) and in return imposed a minimal import tax of only 0.1% on tree and timber products. However, this was a turning point when PVC became increasingly popular in windows, doors and other construction applications. Two years later the first WPC profiles were produced on single screw extruders. In 1990 the company purchased its first counter-rotating twin screw extruder which allowed a wider processing window and the incorporation of higher fibre content.
There are many environmental advantages of WPC compared to wood. During wood processing only about 40 to 50% of the source (e.g. tree or plant) can be utilized, the rest is waste because of cutting scrap. Unlike real wood, WPC can be extruded to make continuous profiles of any desired cross-section with dimensional constancy and very little waste (only start-up scrap). In addition it is weather resistant, will not warp or rot, and is free from insects, termites and fungus.
While in other countries PP (Japan & Europe) and PE (USA) are the predominant materials for WPC, the company focuses on PVC because of its well-known physical properties. Major advantages of WPC products made of PVC are that they can be painted without any additional adhesive/bonding and that the profiles can be ‘bent’ which results in a higher freedom of design. The WPC profiles are extruded in many different shapes and then used in applications such as railings, fences, ceilings, sidings, window & door frames, sunshades, gazebos, and pergolas.
Self-developed ‘one-step’ process
The WPC material is processed in a self-developed ‘one-step’ process, i.e. there is no initial pre-drying of the material. Mr Vichai Rosarpitak, Managing Director of V. P. Group, claims that the only drying comes from the sun. The company uses a variety of different fi bres such as from rice hulls, sugar cane, palm oil, and coconut. While single-screw extruders do only allow the incorporation of a low content of fi bre (approx. 10%), counter-rotating twin screw extruders allow a maximum of about 50 to 55%. And obviously this figure is an ideal share of fibre content and results in an optimum of properties regarding possible warpage and strength. About 20 extrusion line, both single and twin-screw extruders, are employed in the company’s two plants. The finished extruded WPC profiles have a moisture absorption of less than 0.12%.
The ‘Tom Yam Gung’ crisis as a chance
The Asian Financial Crisis gripped much of Asia beginning in July 1997. The so-called ‘Tom Yam Gung’ crisis started in Thailand with the financial collapse of the Thai baht. Many companies were swept out of business, but VP Group took this as a chance to expand into new fields. A gardening company was established! During the crisis the government supported companies in agricultural development and export. At first glance this seems quite unrelated to the profile business. But a closer look reveals that these hydroponics systems are made of PVC profiles. It is said that the systems allow vegetables to be grown up to six times more efficiently than on natural soil (on three different floor levels and up to two times faster in time than on soil). This system is already exported worldwide and will soon cover the high-rise roof tops of congested Singapore.
The determined stand of the classical PVC window
Countries with hot climate have a general tendency to windows from aluminium and wood as they are simply cheaper. 25 years ago VP Group also tinkered with the idea of producing profiles for ‘classical’ PVC windows and doors (as known from Europe and North America) and even took over a PVC window manufacturer. But at that time the costs of a wood window was only 300-400 Baht (10-13 USD) per square meter in comparison to about 4,000 Baht (130 USD) for a one-chamber PVC window system. At that time the classical PVC window could not gain acceptance.
Today there is a market for PVC windows in modern air-conditioned houses and condominiums. Companies such as Thai conglomerate and profile manufacturer SCGI Group actively promote PVC door and window systems which are similar to their oversea counterparts and can consists of up to seven to eight profiles. A bulk of PVC profiles available in the market are still imported from either European manufacturers (e.g. Thyssen, Veka) or from China. In order to fill the cost gap between the cheaper aluminium windows and the higher priced PVC windows, the company launched a new window system based on the its WPC ‘cabonyx’ product line. It is said that this system is significantly lower in price, not only due to the cheaper profiles, but also because of simpler and hence more cost-effective fittings.