The white stuff has only recently melted from city streets, but an innovative Falconbridge-based company is ready to help clear snow when the temperature drops below zero.
Plowbrush is a company approximately four years in the making, and the snowplow-mounted device they manufacture is simple at face value.
It’s like having a giant push broom behind a snowplow blade.
“It’s a flat blade, and our roads really aren’t that flat,” Brennan Chaput, vice-president of operations, told Sudbury.com during a recent tour of their facility.
The brush, which includes plastic bristles similar to what you’d see on a streetsweeper, lowers and raises pneumatically by the operator.
“When the plow operator wants to use it to sweep, they flip a switch and it puts down pressure on the road and it sweeps,” Chaput said, adding that each brush lasts approximately 1,200 kilometres and is easily switched out for a fresh one.
Plowbrush is a product of Chaput and his father, Rob, who were inspired by friend and Emcon (snowplow contractor) employee Jay Jewett, who came up with the idea.
The Chaput duo made a few modifications, and created the product they have today. The latest, third version, is stronger than past versions, with more cylinders and stainless steel to help prevent rust.
Last month, they received a $728,433 grant from the province as part of a broader funding announcement which saw $11 million injected into Greater Sudbury’s economy.
One of the selling points for receiving the funds is that Plowbrush is estimated to reduce the amount of salt needed on roads by approximately 40 per cent, by their estimate. More snow is removed by the brush/blade configuration than blades alone, which lessens the need for salt, Chaput said, noting it also helps clear roads more quickly so there’s less driving time required.
The provincial funding has allowed them to purchase a waterjet cutting machine, which will allow them to fabricate their own pieces in-house, including cutting the brush’s bristles to size.
The company had previously outsourced much of this work, but came up against a wall when it came to people willing to do the brush work, which they can now do themselves.
The company is currently eyeballing an expansion, Chaput said, as there’s the potential to hire an in-house welder so their product can be fully made in-house at their Falconbridge shop.
A Plowbrush costs approximately $12,000, and they have been sold mainly to Emcon, which uses them in such places as Dryden, Manitoulin Island and Greater Sudbury. The City of Greater Sudbury has purchased one, and there’s one in use in Sault Ste. Marie.
Their main hurdle now is getting people to give Plowbrush a try, Chaput said.
“Ideally, we’ll get one on every plow out there, but it’ll take some time.”