By Peter Saunders
FusionCast is a sign manufacturer that came about by fluke. One day in 2007, a sign dealer and his manufacturing partner, who had been mixing different combinations of polymers and metals in a warehouse in Mississauga, Ont., discovered a blend of high-density urethane (HDU) and bronze had solidified in the bottom of a bucket. The mix resembled a hockey puck. Naturally, being Canadians, they extracted it and hit it around the floor with sticks.
The resulting abrasions peeled away some of the HDU ‘skin’ to reveal the metal within. When they sanded it down, they realized they had inadvertently formulated a lightweight—but still strong and durable—alternative to the traditional, foundry-produced cast metal used in plaques and memorials. The key was to place high concentrations of metal where they would be seen, i.e. on the sign face, and lower concentrations elsewhere.
Lacking the technical and financial resources to fully develop a new product line, however, they decided to sell the business to a group of investors, who saw market potential in the process. With prices for bronze, aluminum and copper rising, there was the sense a less expensive ‘cold-cast’ product could gain favour with sign customers.
The composite material was also seen as a ‘green’ alternative, since the process took place at room temperature and involved less metal overall, no smelting of raw materials and no heavy metals in the casting. It would meet California-style regulations for low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in its coatings. The lower weight—approximately half that of traditional cast bronze— would save on shipping and the business could reuse about 95 per cent of its wax mould materials. Further, the cold-casting process does not create any harmful emissions or pollutants and can use up to 100 per cent reclaimed metal.
With these factors in mind, the new owners patented the technology, hired polymer experts and continued research and development (R&D) efforts to perfect the product line. Randy Shermet was named general manager (GM) and he brought on additional staff members as needed.
Joining the club
The first market where they found success was golf courses, which offer steady demand for durable, uniformly designed signs posted in many locations, from entrance to exit. In the U.S., especially, golf tee signs made of cast bronze, copper and, to a lesser extent, aluminum are often stolen and sold off for their high scrap-metal value.
Working with two distributors—Golf Supply House (GSH) and Eagle One Golf (EOG)—and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), FusionCast quickly became a popular custom supplier of tee markers, directional signs, information plaques and property signs for both public and private golf courses around the world, with installations as far away as Europe, China, India and Australia.
“In essence, the value of our products is their lack of value,” says Ben Morgan, marketing co-ordinator for FusionCast, “as they are worthless to scrap metal dealers, but still offer the necessary resistance against the elements—and most golfers’ temperaments—and the ability to simulate traditional cast textures, represent photography with relief sculptures and even cast different kinds of metals in the same sign, which is unattainable through traditional casting.”
“Our membership loves the clean, classic look provided by FusionCast,” says Wade Beaudoin, superintendent at St. Thomas Golf and Country Club in Union, Ont. “Our customized range yardage sign has been the perfect fit for our redesigned driving range.”