Marius Fair operates the brick press at the new CalStar facility on Charleigh Ford Drive Monday. The brick and paver manufacturing company began production in July. Photo by: Nathan Gregory/Dispatch Staff
August 26, 2014 9:33:31 AM
CalStar threw the switch on its brick and paver manufacturing plant in June to test equipment. In July, employees began making product.
Since then, 28 employees have come aboard at the company's Columbus plant in the GTR Global Industrial and Aerospace Park. The 100,000-square-foot facility sits on 23 acres there.
This is the Wisconsin-based company's second plant.
CalStar Vice President of Manufacturing Michael Telischak said in the plant's infancy, all of the facing units and thru-wall units are being made to order.
"There's not a whole lot in the yard, because it's pretty much been going out as fast as we could make it to this point," Telischak said. "We're not making any stock items. Everything is on a project basis until we get a feel for what we could keep in inventory."
What makes CalStar's product unique from the conventional clay brick, Telischak said, is the fact that it is made from 40 percent recycled content. Fly ash, which is a by-product of coal burning, is used as a binder. Patented chemistry and iron oxide pigmentation are added to each brick and paver. The patented process, which heats the material at a lower temperature than regular brick chambers require, emitting less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"The environmental impact has been taken at the power plant," Telischak said. "From our perspective, nothing has to be processed. Our proprietary process makes fly ash suitable as a binder. We can substitute it for Portland cement in the process. Portland cement is a very high energy consumer and carbon dioxide producer. Every ton of Portland cement produces a ton of carbon dioxide. It's a major contributor to greenhouse gases.
"The materials are all generally readily available," he added. "It's just how we put it together that makes it unique."
The dry-cast manufacturing process begins outside the massive manufacturing building, where a dump truck pulls sand from one of three large bunkers and places it in a receiving hopper. From there, the sand goes up a giant conveyor belt into a three-bin batch plant, where excess moisture is removed.
Independently, two silos receive the fly ash. Both processes make their way to the mixer inside the plant.
The mixer then adds patented materials before putting the mixtures in steel molding racks and transferring the plates to the brick press. The brick press is the machine used in the second step of the process, which is molding the bricks and pavers into shapes and dimensions requested by the client. These include 8-by-16 and 4-by-24 inch facing units.
The pressed product is then transferred by an automated machine onto large shelves that hold 99 racks and are rolled into one of six curing chambers. There, the bricks stay overnight, Telischak said.
"It's basically like a sauna," Telischak said. "It's a high wet environment. At the very end, what happens is the door opens just a little bit, and we suck relatively dry air from the plant into the chamber and it pulls all the humidity and moisture out so the product is cool and dry and ready to go onto the pallet."
Half of the room where the employees operate the brick-making machinery is empty. Telischak said this gives the company room to double its production in the future. CalStar anticipates more than double the employees they have now in the next few years, Telischak said.
"We've committed to 58 jobs, but we look to be somewhere north of that," he said. "Every job means the ability to produce more product."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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