The engine cover for this Liebherr machine is produced by Peter-GFK.
The engine cover for this Liebherr machine is produced by Peter-GFK.
The company moulds front bumpers, rear bumpers and bonnets for bus maker Iveco Czech Republic.
The company moulds front bumpers, rear bumpers and bonnets for bus maker Iveco Czech Republic.
Peter-GFK moulds the engine cover and hydraulics cover for this Neuson excavator.
Peter-GFK moulds the engine cover and hydraulics cover for this Neuson excavator.
Hand finishing of Iveco hoods.
Hand finishing of Iveco hoods.
Preparing to manufacture a part using VARTM.
Preparing to manufacture a part using VARTM.
RTM production.
RTM production.
The top interceptor of Dethleffs Jubivan caravan is moulded by Peter-GFK.
The top interceptor of Dethleffs Jubivan caravan is moulded by Peter-GFK.
The interceptor, side fender and side skirt of this DAF truck are composite.
The interceptor, side fender and side skirt of this DAF truck are composite.
Spraying gel-coat on a mould.
Spraying gel-coat on a mould.
RTM mould for DAF.
RTM mould for DAF.

Peter-GFK spol. sro is one of the largest composites manufacturers in the Czech Republic and generally considered to be one of the most progressive. The company specialises in resin transfer moulding (RTM) and hand lay-up production and it provides a full range of services – from production of models and moulds, through manufacture of components, to painting and finishing.

As with many Czech composites manufacturers, much of the company's production is exported – around 80% last year. Its focus is on the automotive, truck and farm equipment sectors, and its products include panels and bumpers, and covers for engines and air conditioning units. Czech car maker Skoda, bus and truck companies DAF and Iveco, and farm equipment producers Zetor and Liebherr are some of its key customers.

History

The company started out as the firm Zdenek Peter in 1989, producing laminated parts at a site a site in Trhový Štepánov, near Prague. It began exporting to Germany in 1990. Peter spol sro was established in 1991 and over the next few years Skoda became an important customer for the company. The company Peter-GFK spol sro was established in Kocbere, in the north of the country, in 1994, and in 1995 the company started using resin transfer moulding (RTM), producing its own moulds.

Over a seven-to-eight year period Peter manufactured around 40 000 roofs and doors for the Czech car maker, developing and producing roofs and doors for the Skoda Forman Plus passenger car, hard tops for the Skoda A01 Pick-Up, and hardtops for the Felicia Pick-Up. When Skoda stopped production of these models, Peter began working with companies including tractor maker Zetor, truck company DAF, bus maker Iveco Czech Republic AS, construction machine maker Kraemer GmbH, and later with motorcaravan company Dethleffs GmbH and building machinery company Liebherr. One of its latest projects has involved working with Iveco Czech Republic on the production of reinforced plastic parts for Iveco buses.

Today, Peter-GFK has around 270 employees. About 70 of these are based at the company's facility at Trhový Štepánov, where the company focuses on the finishing of models, mould production, and small-series production in RTM and hand lay-up. Large-scale production for companies such as DAF and Iveco is carried out at the company's larger facility (and headquarters) at Kocbere. The Kocbere site also houses the company's painting and finishing operations.

RTM is ideal

The company's main production technology is RTM. This is the optimum technology for the production series the company is involved with, explains Peter-GFK's Director, Karel Machác. The closed mould process also has other benefits: no emissions of volatile substances to the atmosphere; and precisely defined wall thicknesses of 1.5-20 mm. In addition, the use of composite moulds means lower investment costs and shorter preparation time in comparison with metal tools.

“Bus and truck parts are good products for us – in small series of 1000 parts per year,” says Machác. “RTM is very flexible in terms of production volumes.”

Indicating the scale of the operation, Machác notes that each year Peter-GFK uses 500-600 tonnes of resin. The company mostly uses products from DSM Composite Resins, but also employs some speciality resins from other companies. RTM glass reinforcements (around 230-300 tonnes per year) come mainly from Chomarat and Saertex, and gel-coats from Büfa. Saint-Gobain Vetrotex Uniflo continuous filament mat and Ahlstrom's Rovicore are also used. The majority of the company's RTM equipment is supplied by Wolfangel.

Machác notes that Peter-GFK currently has around 15 key clients. The biggest of these are Iveco and DAF, and these account for 20% of the company's total production.

For European truck manufacturer DAF, Peter-GFK makes the side panel (skirt) interceptor, and side fender. For Iveco it produces front and rear bumper for old bus models, and more parts for the new models.

The company also manufactures front bumpers, rear bumpers, and bonnets for Czech bus manufacturer Iveco Czech Republic, and top interceptors for German caravan and motorhome manufacturer Dethleffs. For building machinery makers Kraemer, Neuson and Liebherr GmbH it produces a variety of engine covers for excavators and other construction machinery. Another important sector for Peter-GFK is farm equipment. For German farm equipment manufacturer Krone GmbH Peter produces external covers for Big M mower conditioner (8 parts in a set) and the Big X chop-forager (16 parts in a set). For Czech tractor maker Zetor AS it produces engine covers and splashboards.

The final main area of the company's business involves manufacture of products for air conditioning unit. German company Spheros supplies air conditioning systems for buses and commercial vehicles and Peter-GFK supplies the covers for the air conditioning units. Peter also supplies covers to Behr GmbH, a German supplier of automotive air conditioning and engine cooling systems, and to Ingersoll Rand Equipment, which supplies trucks and buses.

Production

A tour of the Trhový Štepánov factory takes in the mould making area, moulding area, and finishing room. The company is currently making bumpers for Iveco and parts for air conditioning units for Spheros.

Production of a bumper by RTM can take from 2 (minimum) to 5 (standard) days from start to finish.

The company makes its own moulds. A typical mould construction would involve using three layers of Reichhold tooling gel-coat (black in colour) or Vianova tooling gel-coat (green). This is followed by a concrete casting – a mixture of acrylic resin, sand and calcium carbonate which is heated to 70°C to cure. A male and female mould can weigh as much as 2.5 tonnes in total.

A mould typically takes 6-8 weeks to make, although if necessary this could be reduced to 2 weeks.

The product's design is supplied by the customer. Peter-GFK is not usually involved in this design process, which is a shame as the company could often suggest modifications for production optimisation.

The company is planning to install a carbon filtration system in the Kocbere to deal with styrene emissions. New regulations call for a limit of 30 mg/m3 styrene. The company also uses a lot of acetone in production and plans to install a recycling machine.

Business is good and the company is currently running at full capacity. The paint shop is working 24/7, employing 20 people. The Kocbere plant is operating 7 days a week in 3 shifts, and the Trhový Štepánov plant 6 days a week in 2 shifts.

Machác explains that two new halls are being built at the Kocbere plant to ease this situation; the first should be completed by the end of this year, the second by the end of 2008.

Training and retaining skilled staff is an important issue. The unemployment rate is very low in the Czech Republic (and under 1% in Prague). Peter-GFK operates a training programme in which staff are split into groups and one group will train the other. Staff are rewarded with extra money for training other people.

Future

Peter-GFK's sales have been increasing steadily each year since 2003 and total sales will be more than €12 million this year. In 2006, 80% of production was exported, but Machác says it is likely to be less this year as the company is now doing for work for Iveco Czech Republic, which is expanding production.

Next year the Peter-GFK will aim to further develop its RTM production, and perhaps look to adding new techniques such as sheet and bulk moulding compound (SMC/BMC) processing.