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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the August 7, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

The Family That Works Together . . .

In this family business, everybody pitches in for everything,

and seniority does not prevail. "When we are at work we treat

each other like co-workers," says Sarah Richards Wright. Her father,

Neville Richards, founded a company that designs and manufactures

industrial heating systems. Her brother has a related service business,

and her husband has a luxury ceramic tile company.

All share the same space — expanded space, as of June, when the

three firms moved from Marlen Drive to North Gold Drive. The new quarters

are just 100 yards from the old.

Hotfoil Inc. is the design and consulting center for a British firm

that makes the heating systems. It was founded by the late Paul Eisler,

known for inventing the method for etching printed circuits that is

used by most manufacturers today. Eisler’s research in the metallurgical

content of various elements and in foil design helped to change inefficient

circular heating elements (round) to flat foils, with six times the

surface area.

Hotfoil uses this principle on a big scale. "In coal silos and

chutes, the `bag house’ collects the ashes," says Neville Richards,

"and we heat the hoppers at the bottom to prevent condensation

from turning it into cement."

One area client is Mercer County Generating Station on Duck Island,

which smashes coal into powder and burns it to produce electricity.

Hotfoil heats the ash portion left over from coal after it has been

burned to keep it from setting up like concrete. "We keep it at

300 degrees Fahrenheit so it is dry and free flowing. It is piped

away, sucked out by big vacuum cleaners, or pumped into a settling

pond, sometimes two or three times a day. Some people use it for lightweight

concrete blocks or an under-road surface for black top," says

Richards.

Neville Richards grew up in Birmingham, England, and worked in the

coal mines while going to college at night. "I just loved mining

and engineering, and the National Coal Board gave an extremely good

free education," he says. In 1963 he joined Hotfoil in Great Britain.

In 1977 Richards came to the United States and settled in Hamilton

Square. In 1993 he bought the North American part of the business,

which does the design and consulting work for clients worldwide. The

manufacturing is done in England, and the company now has clients

worldwide, in Australia, China, India, and Latin America.

The Richards’ 33-year-old son Matt, a drafting and design graduate

of Mercer County Community College, is vice president of Hotfoil and

has a separate service business, Electric Heating Systems, which provides

supplies and onsite expertise for heat treating equipment. He is married

to an accountant at RCN Corporation, and they have a preschool son.

Matt’s company designs electric heating systems for

utilities, refineries, and big construction companies that weld pipes,

steel beams, and tanks. These systems heat the pipes to more than

1,000 degrees Fahrenheit before welding, and they do post-welding

treatments at up to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit for stress relieving

of welds. One of these systems consists of a group of heaters with

a junction box, control equipment, and all the mounting hardware.

The heaters are placed at strategic points, where angle irons are

welded to the hopper.

When boxed, a small system would be as big as an automobile. The big

systems are 30 times that. They are constructed with Lego-like inch

square concrete blocks, for which Matt Richards was able to tap the

expertise of his brother-in-law, a ceramic engineer.

Kevin Wright has a bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering from Stoke

on Trent in England. His company, Stratford Tile Works, fits right

in with the other two businesses. He produces art tiles on a made-to-order

basis.

Needless to say, tiles, not wood or drywall, cover the floors and

walls of the Wright home, says Sarah Richards Wright. She majored

in environmental science at Montclair State, Class of 1996, and has

been working here for six years. She "does anything and everything"

including office administration for the three firms. Her mother, Irene,

does some of the designing, carving, and handpainting of the tile,

and fills in with office work. Her father also helps with the Stratford

business, extruding the tile, placing the tile in the kilns, and handpressing

the tile.

"We always been a fairly close knit family, because when we moved

here, we didn’t know anybody," says Neville Richards. "Tensions

do arise, but you tend to respect the other person’s point of view.

Then we just sit down and discuss it and talk it through. Invariably

we can see the other person’s point of view. We have never really

had a real good argument or fight."

— Barbara Fox

Hotfoil Inc., 109 North Gold Drive, Robbinsville

08691. Neville Richards, owner. 609-259-4118; fax, 609-259-4119. Home

page: www.hotfoil.com

Electric Heating Systems, 109 North Gold Drive.

Matt Richards, president. 609-259-4116; fax, 609-588-8333.

Stratford Tile Works, 109 North Gold Drive. Kevin

Wright, president. 609-259-8453; fax, 609-588-8333.


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