Specialising in working with aluminium, Fano-based Profilglass also produces aluminium discs for non-stick enamelled pans. Here are some hints from the owner, Giancarlo Paci, about how the market for this type of kitchenware could be increased.
Our tour of Italy’s manufacturers and districts this time takes us to Fano, in the region of the Marches. A stone’s throw from the local airport and backing onto the area where the river Metauro flows rather placidly into the Adriatic is the huge area of the Bellocchi industrial estate. The main industrial activity here is the shipyard, where vessels of up to 30 metres are built, with all the upstream input expertise they require: resins, woodworking, mechanics, steel etc… A little closer to the town of Pesaro are businesses that manufacture furniture, kitchenware and aluminium fixtures.
At home on the Bellocchi industrial estate, Profilglass concentrates mainly on producing separator and decorative profiles for double glazing and is the only firm that specialises in laminating aluminium, turning out a total annual production of approximately 35,000 tonnes.
Giancarlo Paci, 57, started working with aluminium as a young man in a firm producing window frames. He then established Profilglass, now a world aluminium processing leader, which he co-owns with his brother Stefano.
Giancarlo Paci, co-proprietor of Profilglass with his brother Stefano, describes the company’s past and present for us. From manufacturing aluminium elements for the furniture industry, Profilglass progressed first to aluminium surface treatments before focusing in 1982 on the specialisation of producing aluminium profiles for double glazing, a sector where it is now a market leader. Five years ago, the company invested in the infrastructure for laminating aluminium, which starts from 8 mm thick rolls and reduces them down to the required thickness. In addition, for the last two years it has been producing continuous cast rolls made with unprocessed raw materials.
Aluminium, most of which is extracted from bauxite, is a lightweight material that resists corrosion; it is a good heat and electricity conductor and lends itself very well to shaping and moulding and to taking such surface treatments as oxidation, paint and enamelling. Most bauxite comes from Russia, South America and South Africa and Italy has only two plants that transform it into aluminium.
“About three years ago, some of our customers persuaded us to start producing aluminium discs for pans enamelled on the outside and coated with non-stick Teflon on the inside,” explains Giancarlo Paci. “The experience we have acquired in the meantime puts us in a position to state that the 4.006 alloy is the best suited to this type of application. We have a production capacity of 18-20,000 tonnes a year, in a world market that absorbs about 150,000 tonnes. The largest manufacturers of discs for pans are located in Italy, France and the Middle East. Obviously, what we are talking about is a niche market, if you consider that the world market for kitchenware (made of ordinary steel, stainless steel or enamel) absorbs about 6 million tonnes every year.
“Consumers need to be told that aluminium pans are better because they are lighter, more hygienic and less deformable, as well as being easier to decorate and serigraph and because of their heat transmission,” continues the Profilglass manager. “There are good reasons why we don’t eat off iron plates, unless it is enamelled or has a stainless steel finish, while aluminium pans can be used as they are and all the great chefs prefer them to the others. Among other things, we also produce big aluminium cauldrons for the Algerian army”.
“Enamelled pans with an aluminium base have the unquestionable advantages of being very attractive and having something more than the others”, adds Paci: “colour, imagination and design. But they do have a problem with the detergents that are used in dishwashers, so the ideal solution is to wash them by hand. That is a problem on which we are working: if we manage to solve it, it will be a significant landmark for us, because there are bound to be more and more dishwashers around in future.”
Talking as a manufacturer accustomed to taking the bull by the horns, Paci then continues: “I believe that one of the responsibilities of the C.I.S.P. is to be independent and vigilant, to ensure that kitchenware manufacturers respect the rules and control procedures that apply to alloys, to discs and to production processes; that way, we will also be in a better position to provide guarantees of quality.”
Continuing his description of the qualities of aluminium, Paci then calls attention to the fact that it is ‘eternal’, recyclable with very low costs and very lightweight. “New applications could be found in road signage, 50% of which is now made of steel and the other 50% of aluminium, where Profilglass produces triangular elements. And there could also be new horizons for enamelling.”
Business takes precedence as Giancarlo Paci is called away by his staff, leaving us in the hands of his son Matteo, the manager of the foundry department, who is a graduate in mechanical engineering, with a thesis about aluminium, of course. Matteo gives us a guided tour of the whole plant, dominated by the huge silvery coils that give the whole place a sense of airy tidiness that is simply foreign to any iron or steel foundry. The long sheets of aluminium flow silently towards the machines that press or shear them to produce the discs of up to 150 centimetres diameter and whatever thickness you want. Quite a lot of waste is left over from the shearing process: this is first pressed into big cubes, then recycled back into the furnaces at 800°C, so nothing is thrown away and the result is that raw materials are saved, which also benefits the environment.
Sober, lightweight, clean, hygienic and beautiful: those are the qualities of non-stick enamelled kitchenware. And an important contribution is made to all this by the aluminium discs made by Profilglass on the Bellocchi industrial estate at Fano.
Established by Giancarlo and Stefano Paci, Profilglass started out producing aluminium elements for furnishings before progressing, a few years later, to processing aluminium and applying such surface treatments as oxidation and painting.
Since 1982, Profilglass has been designing and manufacturing separator and decorative profiles for double glazing, for welded tubes (ski sticks, tennis rackets, stepladders and baby buggies), growing to the status of a world leader in the field that exports 90% of its total turnover to 85 countries.
Maintaining a constant policy of infrastructural investment, Profilglass acquired two continuous cast plants and two laminators that enable it to create finished products, starting from unprocessed raw materials.
In recent years, the company also embarked on manufacturing aluminium discs for producing enamelled kitchenware.
Profilglass belongs to a group of companies (with Eurotubi and Metalgamma) that occupy an undercover surface area of 110,000 square metres and employ 450 people (260 of them at Profilglass), generating a total annual turnover of more than 200 million Euros (110 at Profilglass).