SGL Group (SGL) has been around since 1878, when the former Gebr. Siemens & Co. (Gesco) first began producing carbon products. In 1992, after several mergers and acquisitions, the business, then-known as SIGRI in Germany, merged with Great Lakes Carbon in the U.S. to become SGL Carbon AG in 1995. Today, the company is one of the oldest producers of carbon and graphite products and leads the world market in manufacturing carbon fibers. While much has changed in more than 135 years in business, SGL still aims to provide innovative solutions for a broad market reach.
The international business serves clients all over the world. These products are used in everything from automobiles to solar industries. These lightweight materials are changing the game for construction and manufacturing on an international scale.
The company’s global headquarters is in Wiesbaden, Germany, with North American headquarters located in Charlotte, N.C. Operations within North America include offices and manufacturing facilities in Arkadelphia, Ark.; Evanston, Wyo.; Gardena, Calif.; Hickman, Ky.; Morganton, N.C.; Moses Lake, Wash.; Ozark, Ark.; Sinking Springs, Pa.; St. Mary’s, Pa.; Strongsville, Ohio; and Valencia, Calif.
A strong leadership team oversees North American activity for the international company, including Scott Carlton, president of SGL Carbon LLC, as well as Brian Ford, senior manager of business development in North America for SGL’s ECOPHIT Radiant Ceiling products. With 6,300 employees worldwide and a technology and innovation center in Meitingen, Germany, SGL draws from an enormous pool of professional resources to create innovative carbon technologies that offer light, durable, efficient alternatives to traditional materials and contribute to sustainable manufacturing and construction internationally.
Ecophit is a lightweight expanded natural graphite-based material, which has become a game-changing component for building construction. The unique properties of Ecophit, including high thermal conductivity, compressibility and conformability, enable the 100 percent recyclable and non-flammable product to enhance the thermal performance and comfort of the indoor climate.
SGL’s Ecophit lightweight panels are best utilized in radiant ceilings. When combined with traditional metal ceiling panels as finished grid system panels or as new seamless panels, which create a smooth, monolithic ceiling surface, Ecophit improves efficiency of temperature control systems significantly. The panels have serpentine copper tubing embedded in expanded natural graphite and can be integrated into building’s HVAC systems. The high thermal conductivity of the graphite, which surrounds the copper tubing 360 degrees, quickly and uniformly conducts thermal energy to cooling mode or from heating mode the water circulating in the tubing. Because thermal energy is evenly distributed across the entire panel surface, thermal capacity per panel is increased by as much as 30 percent, requiring significantly less equipment and energy to cool and heat the same space as a system that does not utilize Ecophit materials. Since water has approximately 3,000 times the energy transport capacity of air and because 88 percent less energy is needed to transport the same BTU per hour with water than air, HVAC systems using ECOPHIT radiant panels can reduce energy costs by 40 percent over all-air systems.
“The Ecophit system allows for the easy spread of heat across an entire panel,” Ford explains. “We recently commercialized a product with the dimensions and same basic installation method of drywall, but made of graphite, which satisfies architect’s requests for a radiant system with a smooth, seamless monolithic ceiling appearance. At only 6 kilograms/m², including water, each panel is very lightweight, only 1.2 pounds per foot squared compared to 2.75 pounds per foot squared for drywall. An acoustic version of this product is also available, which has a sound absorption rating of NRC 0.65. Ecophit systems due to their high energy efficiency, acoustic properties, comfort and unmatched design possibilities, are unlike any other systems on the market”.
A growing target market
Ecophit is just one of dozens of innovative products in the SGL line. The company has supplied construction projects all over the world with diverse and unique carbon, carbon fiber, graphite and composite materials that improve building performance and cut back ecological footprint for end users. In general, architects and mechanical engineers specify the usage of Ecophit products in the building. Contractors can purchase these materials through distributors all over the world.
The product line continues to evolve rapidly, gaining a strong market share in North America, Europe and Asia. “We now have over 1 million square meters of our product installed all over the world,” explains Ford.
“Our product was used in Deutsche Bank’s retrofit of their twin Greentowers, each 40 stories,” Ford continues. “The Ecophit radiant panels were installed beneath concrete ceilings, an example of a hybrid fast response low mass and high mass thermally active building [TABS] system. Energy costs for heating and cooling the entire building after instituting a variety of new products were reduced by 67 percent overall, according to Deutsche Bank. Approximately 105,500 square feet of Ecophit equipped products were installed in an Infosys office building located in Bangalore, India. We have also had our products installed in the new European Central Bank building in Frankfurt, Germany.”
While the business has experienced a lot of organic and merger-based growth over the years, SGL is still working to get the word out about new innovative products. Therefore, the team attended the annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo (Greenbuild) as an exhibitor for the fourth time in 2014. “There is a huge benefit there, because attendees are absolutely in our target market,” Ford notes. “The convention moves around every year, which gives us some great exposure.”
Like other suppliers, SGL certainly felt the effects of the economic downturn. Ford notes that his team did have a bit of an advantage. While many companies were still looking to upgrade facilities, the long-term energy savings Ecophit products offer served as an excellent option for many projects. Regulations are changing, requiring new construction projects to utilize green technology. This has opened up new opportunities for the team throughout the United States as cities rush to limit environmental impact.
“Even though we have produced carbon and graphite products now for over 135 years, we continue to find new uses and develop new products to solve problems that people face,” Ford says proudly. On a never-ending quest for innovation, SGL Group continues to lead the market by constantly introducing high-tech products with broad market applications.
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