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FRP Industry Pioneer Dies

  • Monday, 31st May 2010
  • Reading time: about 4 minutes

FRP Industry pioneer, Mr. Jim Hedger Sr., sadly died on April 28th, 2010.

Mr. Hedger began his career with Graves Spray Supply, Inc. In 1951, and spent a few years in various jobs, learning the business top to bottom before taking over as the head of the company. As the leader of the largest distributor of paint spray equipment in the United States, Mr. Hedger cemented relationships with customers like Ford, Chrysler, GM, GE and many more.

As Binks and GlasCraft made the move to manufacturing equipment for FRP in the early 1970’s, Graves Spray Supply, Inc., as their largest distributor, made the transition with them. Seeing the incredible potential of fibreglass production, Mr.Hedger focused the company’s efforts to develop the equipment that would begin to shape this promising new industry. It was during this time that Graves Spray Supply, Inc. developed the “airless air assist” technology that would eventually influence the industry.

Mr. Hedger recognized that this technology would be the new direction of fibreglass production, and after completing production on the first equipment prototypes he made the decision to create a manufacturing division of Graves Spray Supply, Inc focused on FRP systems. This new division became Magnum Industries. Operations for this new division began at the Graves Spray Supply, Inc. facility in Goshen, Indiana, and quickly grew large enough to require its own facility. The decision was made to move this new division, and Clearwater, Florida was chosen.

Receiving the patent on the “airless air assist” gun in 1986, Magnum Industries then had to convince the market that this new technology was the answer to the processing challenges. Through the loyalty of previous customers, and the proof of the technology itself, Magnum made a great impact on the industry. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Mr. Hedger personally guided the development of new equipment that would anticipate the market’s next requirement, and meet customer’s needs. However, the most important and exciting innovation in spray application was yet to come.

In the 1990’s, governmental regulatory agencies began to investigate the effects of high styrene levels in the workplace. Seeing the struggles that his customer’s were having in trying to meet the new regulations placed on them, Mr. Hedger challenged his R & D department to look into testing of new application methods and how it would relate to equipment and lamination.

Working with the CFA (now ACMA), and utilizing the extensive data that the organization was able to collect from tests run at Dow, Mr. Hedger was able to determine the direction Magnum needed to go. Under Mr. Hedger’s guidance, Magnum’s engineers continued to look into new ways of lowering emissions while improving application. The results of that research completely changed the face of “spray-up”.

Released in 2000, Fluid Impingement Technology (FIT) was to become an industry standard for achieving low emissions that exceeded MACT standards. The levels to which FIT lowered styrene emission surprised even those who developed the technology. Not only was FIT able to help customers meet the new government guidelines, but it also provided a more uniform application of materials.

In 2000 Mr. Hedger learned that he had the opportunity to acquire one of his most respected competitors. Successful negotiations were concluded that summer, and Venus Products became part of Magnum Industries. Forming a new company, Magnum Venus Products (MVP), Mr. Hedger personally oversaw the integration of the two companies and their technologies. Magnum Venus Products was now the largest FRP equipment manufacturer in the world, serving the needs of the small shop to supplying the demands of large automated and Advanced FRP operations. Receiving the U.S. patent on FIT in 2001, MVP could ensure its customers could meet and exceed governmental regulations while producing a consistent product.

Seeing the steady move of the industry toward more closed mould (RTM) production, led MVP to the purchase of Plastech Thermoset Tectonics. In December 2006, Magnum Venus Products became Magnum Venus Plastech.

Within the FRP industry, Mr. Hedger and his sons have worked closely with many of the industry experts for years on research and testing of new technologies to improve the industry. Outside of the industry, Mr. Hedger was an accomplished golfer who also enjoyed spending many free hours fishing, and he and his family were very involved with various charitable organizations in the Tampa, Florida area. His generosity made an impact both within and without MVP.

Overall, from his humble beginnings in a small store front shop selling paint equipment, to owning and managing one of the largest and most sophisticated manufacturers of composites equipment worldwide, Jim Hedger, Sr. was a leader in the FRP industry. He is survived by his wife, 6 children, over 25 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

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