Flip through the pages of trade magazines or walk
down the aisles of industry trade shows and you're
sure to see plenty of new patterns being introduced
by vinyl liner manufacturers and fabricators. Some years
it's new shades of old standby colors like blues and greens. Other years earth tones and non-traditional pastels are trotted out. Recently, glass-tile and mosaic patterns have been
popular. Industry leaders spend a good deal of time and
money developing these patterns in an attempt to distinguish themselves from their competitors and increase their
chances of catching customers' eyes. Some changes, however, aren't visible to the eye. While there may not appear
to be any difference from one year to the next other than
new combinations of colors and shapes, there's been a lot
of innovation going on with the vinyl itself.
AQUA spoke with manufacturers and fabricators about
these changes, and about cooperation among fierce competitors to improve the product across the board.
Among the newest innovations in the vinyl-liner industry
is Haloshield, introduced last fall at the International Pool
& Spa Expo in Las Vegas by PolyOne Engineered Films. Haloshield is essentially an additive that's put into the topcoat of printed pool liner sheeting, according to Bob Hayes,
a salesperson for the Winchester, Va., manufacturer.
"The additive attracts the free chlorine molecules to the
surface of the liner, where the free
chlorine can kill the many biological
organisms that can grow on the surface of the top-coated vinyl liner," he
explains. "The fancy way of saying it
is the Haloshield additive creates a
'chemical hook' property where it attracts the free chlorine to the treated
Another benefit, according to
Hayes, is that as the pool water ages
and the free chlorine is used up by
the Haloshield-treated surface, the
surface can be recharged simply by
adding fresh chlorine to the water.
"The Haloshield-treated surface
will perform, as long as the topcoat
has not been abraded or compromised, for the life of the treated surface," he says.
Several fabricators have agreed to
try Haloshield in their liners this year,
including Pen Fabricators in
Emigsville, Pa., and Robert Hotaling,
president of Pen Fab, says he's excited about it.
"A lot of work has gone into making the vinyl UV-resistant, and there
are biocides in the vinyl, too," he says.
"But Haloshield is the biggest thing
that's come up in quite a few years."
For the additive to be effective, Hotaling and Hayes caution, pool owners need to keep a chlorine residual in
the pool. In other words, Haloshield
is not a panacea that will eliminate
chemical maintenance. That's something everyone who sells it is going to
have to keep in mind. Failure to do so
will hurt the industry by disappointing oversold customers.
"My fear is if we don't have enough
literature and a good story to tell, the
dealers will tell their customers they
won't have to take care of their pools,"
Hotaling says. "But of course we
know that isn't true. It will help them,
but they're still going to have to do
maintenance and use chlorine."
Hayes shares Hotaling's enthusiasm
and concern. "We're trying to be careful
so this new product's capabilities are
not oversold or misunderstood. A concept like this can be misunderstood," he
says. "It's neither a magic bullet nor a
cure-all for all vinyl-liner pool issues.
"As we understand it there are
three parts to a successful liner. No. 1)
proper raw material ingredients and
correct processing to make the vinyl
for the liner by the vinyl sheeting
manufacturer, No. 2) the liner has to
be measured and cut properly by the
fabricator to the correct dimensions
so the liner is the correct size for the
pool site where it will be installed,
and No. 3) the homeowner/pool dealer/service company has to correctly
chemically and physically maintain
the pool. It's similar to a three-legged
stool. If one leg of the three is compromised the other two cannot make
up for the loss. If any of those legs is
kicked out, you'll see problems such
as shortened liner life."
Another of PolyOne's customers
for Haloshield is Newmarket, N.H.based fabricator Vyn-All Products
Corp. Company president J. Kevin
Shea says he sees a segment of the
market that will gravitate toward the
new product, but like the others
thinks everyone involved needs to
market it carefully.
"I think it'll require some specialty
marketing on the part of the fabricators who offer it — maybe in conjunction with the manufacturer," he
explains. "PolyOne gave us promotional materials for the national trade
show, and now it's up to us to figure
out how to present it to the dealers. They will then have to figure out how
to promote it to the homeowners. So
I see it as a three-part process."
Haloshield is far from the only innovation to come out recently. Victory Plastics, Haverhill, Mass., recently introduced a product designed to
catch sunlight hitting the liner. "The
industry is still design-driven," says
Mark Delaney, vice president of
market development. "So we developed an innovative product that consists of glitter particles imbedded
into the liner during the manufacturing process. This creates a
sparkle effect when sunlight or pool
lighting hits it."
Delaney adds that Victory is active
in materials innovation, too, citing
his company's X-Treme formulation,
which he says aids in chemical resistance and helps prevent fading and
bleaching due to direct UV radiation. "That's definitely a premium product," Delaney says, adding that Victory will also be offering a topcoat additive like Haloshield, which was
developed by Vanson HaloSource.
"I'll call both the X-Treme and the
Vanson additive upgrades," he says,
estimating that a liner with Victory's
"chemical hook" topcoat additive will
cost about 20 percent more than a
liner without it. He, too, cautions
against overselling the benefits of the
chemical hook. "I can't claim it will
save maintenance . . ."
Fierce competition among the industry's manufacturers and fabricators
spawns many innovations, but sometimes these adversaries sit down to
work on common problems and to
make improvements to the product in
the name of advancing the category as
Vyn-All's Shea is among the leaders in this area. He's the chairman of
the Vinyl Fabricators Association, an
industry group that's been meeting
twice a year since 2000.
"The focus is to identify problems
that, if left unattended, would hurt
the vinyl segment," he says. "We've
tackled abrasion problems related to
automatic pool cleaners, copyright issues and codes of ethics aimed at protecting time and investment."
Working on the abrasion problem
was the new association's first accomplishment, Shea says, and it came
about because of cooperation from the
vinyl industry and the makers of automatic pool cleaners, which changed
wheels and brushes to lessen the impact on the printed liners.
The APC abrasion problem has always been around but is made more
noticeable when the surface area of
a printed liner is covered by a heavier coating of ink, says Ken Garrett,
president of Garrett Liners in Fallsington, Pa.
"APC abrasion is only a problem
on a small number of liners, it's not
widespread," Garrett says. "I thought
we'd resolved the problem, but I'm
hearing of at least one brand still
Still, Shea says, the problem is "almost non-existent" compared to several years ago.
Another material-related issue the
industry is working on is what's
known as "snap back."
Garrett explains: "When the vinyl
is wound on a roll by automatic machinery, it's wound on tightly. But
when it gets into our plant and it's
taken off the roll for cutting, it
Fabricators factor in this shrinkage
by making the pieces of vinyl slightly
larger than they need to be. These calculations are made more difficult because when a liner gets out into the
field, it should be slightly smaller
than the size of the pool. "That's so
the weight of the water will stretch it
out and give it a very tight fit."
As yet, the association hasn't come
up with a solution to this problem,
but Shea remains optimistic, citing
the success it had working on the
"I can tell you it's started to lead us
in a very positive direction. We're independent but we come to share common problems and work on solutions, and that's very healthy.
"If we can all attract another five
percent to the category it stands to
reason it'll be up to us to compete for
it. But none of us would be competing for it if they were going with
fiberglass or gunite."
From Resin To Residence
A vinyl liner’s journey.
Ever wonder how vinyl liners come to be. Or what the difference
between a manufacturer and a fabricator is.
The first thing to understand is that there are two players at
the front end of the equation: the manufacturers and the fabricators. Manufacturers, which include Canadian General Tower, PolyOne and Victory Plastics, take the raw resin, heat it and send it
through large steel rollers that spread it out according to the
fabricator's width and gauge specifications. This process is called
From there the material is taken to an engraving house, which
will apply a pattern in a rotogravure printing process.
"Each manufacturer will have an in-house line to offer to all
fabricators," says Mark Delaney, vice president of market development for Victory Plastics. "We have six to 10 patterns that
we'll sell to anybody. Those patterns are fairly generic, but
In addition to these stock patterns, fabricators like to offer
proprietary patterns, which they use to differentiate themselves
from the 20 or so other fabricators competing for the attention
of distributors and dealers.
"We go see the fabricators in October or November and we'll
present them with design concepts based on current trends,
which we get from the Color Institute and from outdoor living
textures and patterns," Delaney says. "Once we've presented
the customer with a portfolio, they'll select three to five and
focus-group them. Ninety-nine percent of the time they'll want
"We have creative people here that know about visuals and
colors and the casual furniture trends, so that helps us," says
Robert Hotaling, president of Pen Fabricators. "If you've got
creative people in-house, you don't have to rely only on the
Hotaling and other fabricators say it's important to offer a mix
of proprietary and stock patterns. Proprietary ones attract customers but have to be ordered in large quantities and must be
stored. Stock patterns, on the other hand, offer fabricators efficiency and savings, but not a way to separate themselves from
the other fabricators.
"The key it to have a good blend. You can't sell only me-toos,"
says Hotaling. "There are several reasons customers come to a
fabricator, and patterns are only one, but if you start to eliminate
the patterns that make you unique, then service, quality and
price would be the only difference. And if you all had the same
patterns, price would be very close."
Once a fabricator has selected its patterns, it'll introduce
them at industry shows or put them into their new catalogs.
"That's when they'll start placing orders from us for the actual
vinyl," Delaney says.
The vinyl, after it's been calendered and printed, comes to the
fabricators in roll form.
"The fabricator then cuts it to the pool size he requires, welds
the panels together by one of two welding methods, then assembles the pool," Delaney says.
Barrett Kilmer, has been on the editorial staff of AQUA magazine since 2000. He has a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and currently lives in Madison, Wisc.