Chico, CA – MTECH is a plastic fabrication company and family enterprise that started in the late 1990s in the garage of Tom Black, MTECH’s founder and CEO, with some handheld welders and eventually, a CNC router. Today, the company serves the firefighting, pest control and other chemical industries with durable, plastic-fabricated fluid handling solutions that perform in a variety of demanding environments. MTECH operates out of a 10,000-square-foot facility with seven full-time employees, and builds everything from copolymer truck bodies to 4,000-gallon holding tanks for mobile water tenders. According to Black, MTECH moved more widely into fabrication for the fire service industry in 2005. After investigating different polypropylenes, MTECH also began using Vycom’s copolymer, called Hitec, exclusively.
Recently, MTECH launched its QTAC product line—a series of lightweight fire suppression systems built for ATVs, UTVs and light-duty pick-up trucks. “The QTAC is designed to get into remote areas that are difficult to access with a full-size fire engine,” said Black “They can be used by private land owners, prescribed-burn foresters, fire service personnel or anyone looking for an added level of fire protection.”
“We began building the QTAC line when a rancher called us asking if we could build him a fire suppression system for his UTV,” explained Black. “During a prescribed burn, the fire crossed a road which is usually a barrier and burned not only his property, but his neighbor’s as well, which was extremely costly.” He now has two QTACs, and a neighbor recently used one of them to extinguish a blaze that ignited on his property. One of his design requirements was that the unit was lightweight, and that’s where the Hitec copolymer material comes into play.
“The water tank component is fabricated out of custom-ordered Hitec, which has worked very well for us,” continued Black. “The Hitec material is approximately one-third the weight of steel, which makes a huge difference when dealing with vehicles that have a limited payload capacity. And unlike straight polypropylene, co-polymer is extremely durable, even when subjected to large fluctuations in ambient temperature.” As an example, products MTECH has delivered to customers in Alaska, a region that has drastic temperature swings, have experienced no performance issues to date. Black explained that when prepped and welded correctly, a co-polymer tank or truck body should perform flawlessly, even in extreme conditions.
MTECH is able to apply decal graphics to the co-polymer material, so they’ve essentially branded their tanks with a custom color combination. This gives the systems a unique look that is immediately recognizable.
One aspect of the tank construction that is unique to MTECH is the technique used to prep the Hitec material before it is extrusion welded. “We start off with sheets of virgin co-polymer in our signature red, which has very few flaws and lacks the waviness we’ve seen in some other plastics. This is essential for workability on our CNC vacuum table. Then we prep the material with techniques that go beyond just removing the finish layer,” said Black. The material is then hot-air extrusion welded to form a strong joint that will last the lifetime of the tank. “We have a 100-percent success rate with Hitec and our welds.”
Fire service customers require a durable product, but they are also concerned about flame-resistance in the equipment they use. “The Hitec copolymer is highly flame resistant,” explained Black. “The way we explain it to our customers is that the tires and many other parts of the truck would melt before the copolymer was affected. This material can withstand temperatures exceeding 500 degrees and is self-extinguishing.”
Chemical and corrosion resistance is extremely important for the firefighting industry, and MTECH’s tanks can contain anything from water to harsh chemicals without any worry of corrosion. “Some of the fire retardants are corrosive,” said Black. “In the fire service industry you need a tank material that can stand up to those chemicals and perform for years in very demanding environments. Hitec is perfect for this.”
As MTECH continues to grow and define their niche in the fire service industry, co-polymer plastic will play an integral role in the development of new and innovative firefighting products. “With QTAC and the rest of our fire service product line, we are poised to meet the demands of customers looking for fire protection solutions that not only offer performance and durability, but also a tremendous amount of value,” said Black. “It’s very rewarding to know that our products help protect property and save lives.” For more information about MTECH, visit http://www.mtechincorporated.com. To learn more about Vycom plastics, visit http://www.vycomplastics.com