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Nov 29, 2023

Macon, Ga.-based Cherokee Culvert Inc. is making its first foray into the plastic pipe market with a high density polyethylene composite product for storm water and culvert applications.

After 50 years of selling steel corrugated pipe, Cherokee is marketing a smooth wall, composite product that it says resists corrosion and is stronger than conventional HDPE smooth wall pipe.

Cherokee is manufacturing its steel reinforced corrugated pipe (SRCP) in a unique process in sizes from 12-48 inches and is looking at going up 120 inches in diameter. SRCP can reach sizes up to 126 inches, according to Canasia Plastics Machinery Ltd., a Thorndale, Ontario, company that provided the equipment and training.

Cherokee Culvert's goal is to offer something new to compete with dual-wall plastic corrugated pipe, Canasia Sales Manager Hayden Albert said in a telephone interview. Cherokee President Robert Jarrard declined an interview request.

"They could offer steel but some of their customers liked the corrosion resistance of plastic," Albert said. "Having been in the steel pipe industry for so long, our customer didn't have 100 percent faith in the strength of 100 percent plastic. We told him about this product and it was right up his alley. You get the strength of steel — what he believes in and what his company focuses on — and the corrosion resistance and benefits of having HDPE in the pipe as well."

GSM Goldstone Group of Chengdu, China, supplied the technology, which Albert said he believes is being used for the first time in North America at Cherokee Culvert. To produce the SRCP, a steel band is coated with an adhesive resin and passed through a series of forming rollers. After it conforms to the corrugation profile design, it enters a bending unit. Then, the steel-formed corrugations are preheated and the extruded PE layers are applied by wrapping them around a mandrel, producing the pipe to a desired length.

"We're cupping the profile with that steel corrugated piece," Canasia Vice President John DeSumma said in the telephone interview. "The competition follows the straight below the profile like a foundation wall. We're covering the whole thing as a dome. This is a different kind of process line that's coming to North America."

With steel and resin priced fairly similarly, Cherokee's products should be comparable to, and competitive with, what's on the market, DeSumma added.

"The advantage is strength and some cost savings, especially in the larger diameters," he said. "We can use less material. We don't have to rely on pumping more plastic into the pipe to produce our strength because the steel is strong. We use less plastic and the pipe weighs less. Your production value is on par with HDPE, maybe a little cheaper."

When producing pipes in sizes of 48 inches or greater, Canasia says a 40 percent material savings is possible because the steel band contributes more ring stiffness compared to increasing the wall thickness of HDPE.

This SRCP manufacturing technology is used in China and Europe, according to Canasia. Cherokee Culvert is producing its pipe to meet the ASTM-F2435 requirements for non-pressure applications for sanitary sewers, storm sewers and drainage pipes. Albert expects it to be embraced in North America.

"Whenever you bring a new product to market, certain customers will be concerned as to why there's not 10 others doing it," he said. "The majority of Cherokee customers need steel pipe and they see the benefits of HDPE and steel mixed together. I think it will be widely accepted for them right away."

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