Materials designs for high performance in niche applications- EPI Group

Rapid commercialisation through international collaboration through the Product Accelerator

Company Profile

Based in Cambridge in New Zealand’s North Island, with more than three decades of experience and well-established partnerships in China and the rest of the world, EPI Group is one of New Zealand’s leading product suppliers for the electrical and rubber sectors. EPI Group specialises in collaborating with designers, manufacturers, testers and distributors globally to introduce innovative and high-performing products to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, including halogen-free fire-resistant high-impact industrial plugs, durable rubber pylons for harness horse racing tracks and electrical products. Founders and joint managing directors at EPI Group, Mark Eagger and Andrew Neal, are Kiwis with passion, vision, knowledge and expertise in the product servicing industry in Australasia. The duo has vast experience in various sectors, including electrical and rubber products.

Company website

The Relationship

EPI Group distributes 80cm tall pylons to harness racing tracks and engaged with NZ Product Accelerator (NZPA) to identify a solution to the problem of PVC pylons that were failing in less than six months. The NZPA polymer expertise identified the issue due to the Low Molecular Weight Plasticizer (LMWP), used to introduce flexibility to rigid PVC, leaching out of the pylons, making them brittle in service. These LMWP are banned in many countries due to health and environmental risks associated with toxic dioxin emissions in hot temperatures. NZPA proposed a solution employing rubber with inherent rebound resilience, impact resistance, flexibility, durability and overall performance in harsh weather conditions. Rapid commercialisation was made possible through a manufacturing facility overseas for commercial scale production through NZPA, and the product is now performing excellently on Australasian harness horse racing tracks.

The Impact

Harness racing is an international business and sport in more than 15 countries, watched by millions of fans and valued at $US3B annually in the US alone. Flexible pylons on the inside of the track replaced the previous solid hub running rail for safety reasons and through this relationship, EPI 2020 has directly increased revenues from these two products, which equates to more than 50% of the absolute sales growth seen in the past three years.                                                                                      

This first project established the NZPA’s ability to solve EPI’s problem, and the relationship has grown to develop new products for the company.

In 2020, the EPI Group formed a new company, EPI 2020. With technical support from NZPA and DSI International Sri Lanka, Dr Karnika De Silva (from the NZPA) developed a halogen-free, fire-resistant, high-impact industrial plug that passed many stringent compliance tests needed by the construction sector. During the project, Dr De Silva visited the manufacturing site to develop the prototypes and support the implementation of quality control measures. These electrical components are now distributed through J A Russells, the country’s most prominent New Zealand-owned electrical wholesaler.

The Value

EPI Group’s Eagger and Neal said, “EPI Group engagement must be an excellent example of collaborating leading-edge science and technology to develop and introduce innovative new products into NZ markets. NZPA helped us to build strong relationships through a well-established manufacturing facility overseas to manufacture high-performing products in Australia and New Zealand. We are impressed with the NZPA and in-house R&D expertise at the overseas manufacturing site that provided us with rapid pathways to commercialisation utilising existing manufacturing facilities. NZPA’s relationship with the manufacturer was able to connect EPI Group to new technologies unknown to EPI Group, and the critical networking link established via NZPA is commendable. We look forward to working with NZPA again on new product development”.

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