Companies See Growth in Camo
September 29, 2003
Filed under Features
Talk with powersports manufacturers and distributors and you’ll find anything camouflaged is sure to catch a hunter’s attention. What was once not an such an easy product to produce, camouflage covering is now being offered by a variety of sources in North America.
To capitalize on its proprietary 3D technology for camouflaging powersports products, Canadian firm Datran recently added its third production facility in ten years.
Specializing in paint application and décor transfer on plastic and composite material, Datran—founded by Marcel LePage in Pointe-au-Pere, Quebec in1993—has grown from a single-facility painting service with one main customer to a three-facility, robotized supplier offering services to North America’s largest powersports manufacturers. The new 40,000 sq. ft. plant is fully automated and dedicated to the firm’s décor transfer technology.
“Finding a way to produce quality décor transfer has been a hot topic, and everybody in the field who has an interest in camo décor transfer knows of the problems associated with adhesion and consistency in the end product,” Michel Robitaille, Datran business development manager, recently told Powersports Business. “Using our 3D Cubic technology and robots, we’re assuring consistency in our production output.”
Datran’s 3D process for applying paint schemes can most basically be described as a process using a patterned film rolled through water. When the film touches the water, paint molecules leave the film and cover the water surface. Programmed robots then dip parts at a predetermined angle, allowing the paint molecules to adhere to the product surface.
Bombardier was Datran’s first major client and originally contracted LePage to paint watercraft parts. Although shying from names, Robitaille says his firm was recently also contracted by two major U.S.-based manufacturers.
“Bombardier used to be 90% of our business while today it is perhaps 20%,” he said, adding that total business in 2003 is up 30% over the same period in 2002. Camo coloring for ATVs has been the company’s main field, but the trend in carbon fiber has led the firm into new directions, such as snowmobiles.
“In fact, we just signed a contract to produce grab rails, bumpers and skis in the carbon fiber look for a U.S. firm, and we’re having some discussions with other firms to produce similar product,” Robitaille said.
Robitaille says the market was burned by inferior décor transfers as recently as three years ago. A result, he said, was manufacturers moving product to Taiwan for décor transfer.
“The product didn’t stick, either the it wasn’t strong enough or the process wasn’t consistent enough,” he explained, “and a lot of manufacturers backed away from the North American companies offering the service.
“Now we’re offering the opportunity to have it done right in North America, so we’re just hoping to make enough noise to make our existence known.”
Robitaille says Datran’s décor transfer line is currently at 30 to 40% of capacity, and says the firm is seeking more business.
But Datran is not the only supplier of unique coloring schemes for powersports vehicles. Last March, Kolorfusion International, Inc., Centennial, Colo., revealed its patented decoration technology had been licensed to Polaris Industries, Inc. on an exclusive basis for Polaris's ATVs and other off-road vehicles for up to five years.
Kolorfusion is the owner of process patents for three-dimensional product decoration invented in France by Jean-Noel Claveau. The firm's process transfers any design with any colors into a product's coating or directly into the plastic or aluminum part itself. Per the terms of the License Agreement, Kolorfusion received an exclusivity payment for four years, which can be extended for an additional year.
Polaris implemented the Kolorfusion process at its factory in Roseau, MN, in conjunction with its subcontractor, QC Technics, Inc.
Kolorfusion President Steve Nagel said his paint method will provide Polaris with an improved ability to decorate parts of ATVs, such as rims, racks, and brush bars.
“After completing our tests of the Kolorfusion process, we knew we had a superior method for the decoration of our ATVs, as compared to the industry's current methods,” Tony Fichter, Polaris purchasing manager, commented at the time of the announcement. “Accordingly, we want to provide this break-through technology on an exclusive basis into our markets and we are planning to expand it well beyond camouflage oriented consumers.”
“Polaris is the type of company we have been seeking that validates our technology to the surface finishing industry,” says Kevin Geraghty, National Sales Manager of Kolorfusion. “Polaris will purchase its ongoing print requirements from Kolorfusion and we anticipate starting annual revenues to Kolorfusion in excess of $1 million.”
Kolorfusion reported revenues of $2.5 million for the year ended June 30, 2003, an 80% increase over the $1.4 million in revenues posted for the prior year.
“During the past year, we've seen interest in the Kolorfusion process grow tremendously,” said Steve Nagel, CEO of Kolorfusion International. “Polaris has been a real focus by our team the past two years and we knew that a successful launch would bring many other accounts to use our patented process.”
“Since our process is a breakthrough in surface finishing, it takes a few good accounts to validate to others that the process can be put into significant production,” said Kevin Geraghty, national sales manager. “The recent addition of Garrity Industries for flashlights, along with Moen (faucets), PSE (archery), Polaris (ATVs), Sunrise Medical (wheel chairs), Daisy (air rifles), MasterLock (locks) and others, demonstrates that the process can be used on a variety of products at various price points.”