Our History

Applied Composites: a proud past… an exciting future.

The company was originally started as Hawley Products in 1924. At that time, they were a wood fiber product manufacturer. Hawley produced a wide variety of products including wood fiber hats used by the military in the Korean War, the wood fiber “insides” for American Tourister hard-sided luggage, and the wood fiber back-side to Zenith television sets.

One of the specialty products they made were wood fiber speaker cones. The St. Charles plant manufactured the speaker cones used by virtually every speaker company in the world in the ’60s, 70’s and early 1980s.

In 1967, the company purchased its first Sheet Molding Compound machine to produce a fiberglass composite material that could be molded into intricate, high strength applications. The machine was installed in their St. Charles Illinois plant. As the company started producing some of the early SMC products, they continued to run their wood fiber business line, which finally ended in 1983.

From the mid-’60s to the mid-’80s, the company was purchased by several different owners. One early owner, Armco Steel Corporation saw this new high strength composite material as a viable replacement for metals in a wide variety of construction and consumer products.

In the mid-1980s, Armco Steel purchased Hitco Corporation, a company with strong military product component manufacturing experience. With that exposure, Applied began it’s an investment with producing a wide variety of components for this military industry including ammunition cases, spall-liners, and components for aircraft (F16 and Harrier jets) and ground transportation (Bradley fighting vehicles and Hummers).

In 1987, the company was purchased by BP Chemicals. By this time, Applied had developed an expertise in the manufacture of the sheet molding compound (SMC) material, and the compression molding of the parts that reached far outside of the traditional molded product applications.

Over the years, Applied’s strong focus on material development earned them patents for a wide variety of innovative composite material advancements including a transparent microwaveable material, a low profile molded-in color material, and method for in-mold painting a compression molded composite part.

During this time, Applied was making parts for Corvette cars, the outside body of the IBM Selectric typewriters, housings for snowmobiles, bathroom sinks, lawnmowers, and golf carts to name just a few.

In 1992, Applied was purchased by a private investor and remains under that ownership today. Since that purchase, two additional plant purchases were made: an SMC plant in Rock Falls, IL (now known as Applied’s subsidiary, Diversified Composites), and a plant was purchased in Orrville, OH and all its compression molding equipment moved to St. Charles.

During the Ohio acquisition, the company acquired several large presses including a 4000-ton press. The press weighed so much, that they had to use the largest truck in the United States to move it. Known as “Big Red” the rig took almost a week to travel the small back roads to St. Charles.

Currently, Applied Composites along with its subsidiary Diversified Composites comprise one of the largest non-automotive compression molders in the United States. The company continues to place a high degree of emphasis on material development and part design to create the most optimum parameters for their clients. Applied has successfully helped companies convert products from metal, wood, thermoplastic and other materials into fiber-reinforced thermoset materials. With those conversions, products using Applied’s SMC materials have often been kept in production for over 20 years.

With hundreds of products produced in its plants and thousands of formulations made in its lab, Applied’s experience is highly sought out by product engineers around the world. Whether a company is looking to produce a new product, or redesign an existing one to eliminate problems, Applied’s engineering staff can offer a year of experience on how to take full advantage of the many benefits of composite materials.