Weihai Julia is on a mission to make not only the best rods in the world, but also the best rods for the world. The Italian-owned company is already well known for being one of the largest producers of OEM rods and poles in the industry. Now it is set to add a whole new dimension with the introduction of materials never used before in the field of fishing tackle manufacture.
The radical move, backed by considerable investment, is part of the company’s steadfast commitment to become increasingly eco-friendly and will see it building the first Basalt-based fishing rods ever produced. “Basalt is a green material that comes from lava rocks that will enable us to build a better carbon/basalt rod,” said Alberto Solza, Executive Vice President of Sales for Weihai Julia.
“It also offers better performance when compared to E-glass, so we can replace fibreglass with a better material. We are the first company building Basalt-based fishing rods. We have already made the prototypes but have not yet sent samples to our customers. The results have been quite surprising. We achieved a 15% blank weight reduction together with a 10% increase in strength.”
Working with a Belgium-based partner specialising in the extrusion of Basalt fibres from 100% basalt volcanic rocks, Weihai Julia aims to establish itself at the forefront of a market heading inexorably towards an eco-friendly future. The new rods will incorporate uncontaminated fibres that combine volcanic rock with other minerals and which comply with the strictest environmental criteria.
The production process includes a high performing technical fibre which, when compared to glass fibre for specific stiffness, has a 50% better tensile performance. Further advantages are vibration damping properties that are much greater than carbon fibre or glass and a less fragile fracture behaviour than carbon fire.
Weihai Julia’s research and development department also now offers rods made from plant-based Ekoa, a natural bio-composite used in a variety of applications including sports equipment which also adheres to the company’s environmentally-friendly credentials. Weihai Julia is ready to develop any range of rods, depending on the needs of its OEM customers. “We feel that both materials – Basalt and Ekoa fibres – will work best for predator, lure, casting and spinning rods, without major cost increases compared to traditional builds,” added Solza. “We expect to be able to supply the new rods to customers in early January next year. However, since the development process might take some extra time, we are ready now to initiate customers’ rod design requirements.”
What makes Basalt so special?
Basalt is the most common volcanic rock type on earth, being a key component of oceanic crust as well as the principal volcanic rock in many mid-oceanic islands. Basalt fibres are extruded from the high temperature melt of carefully selected Basalt stones and are well above the limit required for being inhaled. Basalt fibre products have a natural, low ecological footprint, a unique performance when exposed to fire and heat, excellent mechanical properties and high chemical resistance.
Packaging that reduces waste
Weihai Julia’s efforts to make its operations and products more eco-friendly do not stop with fishing rods. The business is also reducing its environmental impact by introducing eco-friendly packaging, which includes rods bags. By collaborating with Waste2Wear, a company that specialises in the recycling of post-consumer plastic waste like plastic bottles, it aims to make a significant impact on its sustainability rating.
Combining its expertise in recycled polyester with its experience as a product developer, Waste2Wear produces a wide range of fabrics for apparel in the fashion, work wear and sportswear sectors, as well as textiles for interiors and packaging. “By using these traceable, sustainable materials in our rods and packaging we believe we can reduce our carbon footprint by as much as 50%,” says Alberto Solza. “All our samples are now being delivered in the new packaging.”
The initiative involves numerous measures that extend right across the company’s packaging operation. Cloth rod bags are made from up-cycled PET material, using plastic bottles collected from the oceans of Asia and processed in China. Approximately eight plastic bottles are needed to build a single cloth bag. Durable rods tubes are made from bamboo fibres and bio resin, replacing PVC tubes; and durable, while rigid tube caps are made from recycled cork. Other steps being taken include:
• Outer boxes made entirely of recycled cartons made just five miles from the company’s Chinese factory
• The introduction of recycled paper swing tags
• Plastic fasteners replaced by jute fasteners
• Paper and glass fibre anti-theft tape
• Elimination of plastic strapping
• Recycled paper films instead of plastic foam
• Poly bags made from vegetable-sourced bio-plastic