Monofrax Featured In National Magazine

Local manufacturer Monofrax was recently published in the American Ceramic Society Bulletin. Kevin Selkregg, analytical and testing laboratory manager, began working on the article in May 2017 and submitted the finished piece in February. The article was then featured in the March issue. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

FALCONER — Monofrax, LLC, a local manufacturer of fusion cast refractories, was featured as the cover story in the March issue of the American Ceramic Society Bulletin magazine.

Monofrax’s fusion cast refractories are used as liners for the glass industry and have been used for nuclear waste disposal since the 1980s.

Monofrax is the only fusion cast refractory manufacturer in North and South America and is the only manufacturer that makes chrome fusion cast refractory in the world — and it’s located in Falconer.

“We’re the only ones,” said Kevin Selkregg, analytical and testing laboratory manager.

The company employs 200 people from the region and originated in 1933, according to Selkregg. The sole location is located at 1870 New York Ave., Falconer.

The manufacturer supplies 12 various types of refractories made with different types of compositions, which include silica, alumina, zirconia, magnesium and chrome. Some linings are comprised of a variation of the compositions. Each refractory has a different classification, the chrome fusion cast refractories are titled Monofrax K-3 and E. The refractories Monofrax produce, help make glass products such as flat glass, containers, fiberglass and touchscreens for smartphones.

Selkregg said the temperatures reached to make the refractories are twice as hot compared to lava flow that can be observed in volcanos in Hawaii. The heated mixture of compositions are later cooled in solid form and then stored for future application.

The article written by Selkregg is titled “Fusion Cast Refractories: Roles of Containment.” In the article, Selkregg details the history of the glass industry and the need for refractories — especially for fusion cast refractories.

Monofrax and Selkregg attended a Pacific Rim Convention in 2017 where they presented a paper detailing glass defects (a related but different topic). Selkregg and representatives from Monofrax were approached by the American Ceramic Society about possibly publishing an article related to refractories. Selkregg began working on the article in May 2017 and submitted the finished piece in February 2018.

The response to the publication earned Monofrax and Selkregg an invitation to the 2018 International Commission on Glass Winter Meeting at Wuhan University in China.

The need for Monofrax’s refractories comes mostly from the production of glass. In order to mold and create glass that coats the screen of a modern day smartphone, temperatures from 3,000-3,200 degrees fahrenheit are required. Industrial glass manufactures heat the glass to its molten state in highly engineered high-temperature furnaces. In order to maintain safety, longevity and efficiency, an effective coat of lining is needed for the inside of such furnaces to withstand corrosion and erosion.

In the late 19th century, the original refractory for lining these furnaces was fireclay, a bonded alumina refractory. In time, a new type of refractory was created called fusion cast refractories. This method was invented by the company Carborundum, based out of Niagara Falls, in 1931 who would later found Monofrax, according to Selkregg.

Ninety-five percent of Monfrax’s business is providing fusion cast refractories for the glass industry, but in the 1980s the company began making lining for nuclear waste disposal as well. A process called vitrification is utilized to turn the nuclear waste to glass and essentially a solid in order to be stored and disposed of.

In West Valley, a nuclear plant was constructed, but shortly after those in charge vacated the facility due to new federal regulations that would make the company less than profitable. In the aftermath, New York state needed to now dispose of the nuclear waste that would include concealing the product in containers. Monofrax was contracted to provide refractories that would withhold the nuclear waste. Thereafter, Monofrax would be contracted by the Department of Energy to handle many more nuclear waste projects. Selkregg said the DOE recommends Monofrax as the primary provider for government related projects.

Now, Monofrax is, for the first time, on its own, so-to-speak. Several years ago, Monofrax’s previous owner sold the company to Callista Private Equity. While Monofrax is owned by Callista, the access to resources is now limited. But Selkregg noted the company has grown by 35 percent in recent years.

“We’re looking to expand by more exposure,” Selkregg said.

Selkregg said the manufacturer is looking to expand its operations into different markets that might include work with molten metals, molten salt, ballistics testing and even aerospace engineering in some capacity. Monofrax currently has representatives in China where the nuclear industry is growing rapidly. Selkregg cited China for having an estimated 30 different nuclear related plants currently in construction.

“They’re going to have to deal with their nuclear waste,” Selkregg said.

Monofrax recently hired a new business development manager to “get (Monofrax’s) name out there beyond the glass industry,” as Selkregg described it.

He said the company competes with quality, and remained optimistic that their reliable work would help grow Monofrax.

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