Airside Winter 2019

Butzbach looks to further international growth

A family-owned business (son Thilo took it over from his father in 1999), Butzbach has been making doors for over 35 years, selling its first hangar door to Nuremberg Airport more than three decades ago. But it is now determined to enter a new period of rapid expansion

Butzbach manufactures both industrial doors and hangar doors, large and small, from a range of materials, although its forte is fibre glass. Employing approximately 350 people, it has a primary engineering plant in Unterroth, Germany, and another factory (as well as its headquarters) in Kellmünz, also in southern Germany. Butzbach manufactures the bulk of the materials it uses in its hangar doors itself at these plants, including the fibre glass doors that are a cornerstone of its offering.

Its business is not dominated by German airports, however. Butzbach is a truly international company, having sold into markets right around the world; it recently completed a job in Nagpur, India, for example, while next year it will begin work on its first project in the Middle East. Another big project will see Butzbach fit giant hangar doors on a high-end new glass hangar facility at Denmark’s Billund Airport, with work starting in March next year.

Approximately 65% of the hangar doors that it has installed are of essentially fibre glass composition (the balance incorporating a range of other materials, such as glass). It offers the fibre glass leaves from which its hangar doors are built in different colours, but they each share the natural advantages of the material.

These are primarily to be seen in light levels: while glass is fully transparent and incoming light can be blinding for those working within the hangar, fibre glass offers a pleasant alternative without shadows. Other beneficial properties of the material include its thermal insulation properties, its resilience and durability, and its comparatively light weight.

The doors that Butzbach fits vary widely in size, some measuring more than 30m in height. They come with an innovative, patented safety system on their leading edges that incorporates both a crumple zone and an automatic stopping capability should a closing door meet an obstruction (in fact, a door that meets an obstruction will automatically begin to reverse).

Over the last 35 years, the company has handled about 850 different hangar door projects, says chief sales and marketing officer Roberto Blickhan. It is currently working on roughly 15 such projects around the world.

Yet, Butzbach continues to innovate. Blickhan points by way of example to its development of a new modular form of door that can be delivered in a kit-like form from the factory to the hangar. The prefab package for doors right up to 13.6m high can be installed very quickly, as most of the work on the leaves and the fibre glass is completed in advance at the Butzbach factory. The first such prefab was installed at the airport at Wevelgem in Belgium recently.

The company has also designed and built innovative solutions for many individual projects, especially with regard to what it describes as ‘king size’ hangars. It developed a special centre door leaf with a length of 110m for quick opening to receive A380s for the Airbus facility at Hamburg, for instance.

Another project for Airbus saw the design of a cutaway in a hangar to allow that part of the massive Beluga XL that does not fit within the hangar confines to remain outside while the doors nevertheless shut snugly around the fuselage. Cutaway modifications to hangar doors allowing them to close around the body of tall or extra-long aircraft can also be made on a retrofit basis.

The top and bottom rails guiding Butzbach sliding hangar doors support efficient and safe opening and closing. The bottom rail not only controls the exact movement of the door leaves but also allows rainwater to drain away from the hangar safely. Loads, from wind and the weight of the door itself, are transmitted directly into the bottom track foundations, and the rails are engineered to remain flush with the ground surface (particularly important when wheeling helicopters in and out of hangars).

Door motors, controlled by a simple button, are used to move heavy door leaves.

These high quality standards will help Butzbach as it drives ahead with its ambitious growth programme. Now branded as ‘The Door Company’ able to meet all needs for both hangar and other industrial purposes, Butzbach is investing heavily in new sales staff and its global presence as it works to stretch its international footprint yet further.