Nupla’s history began with J. Allen Carmien, a mechanical engineer who recognized in the 1940s the opportunities presented by the development of plastics and related technologies. It was Carmien’s innovative uses of these technologies that earned Nupla the reputation it continues to enjoy today as the industry standard for fiberglass striking, cutting, and digging tools.
The company was founded by Walter Jahn in 1938 as New Plastic Corporation in Hollywood, California. Carmien was hired as draftsman at age 19. The Company made Lucite trinkets and novelties – a business Carmien had started in his garage from sheets of Lucite. While acrylics were a new material and had made some inroads, plastics, which were just beginning to appear, were nothing short of revolutionary. In 1939, as World War II spread across Europe, the aircraft industry began searching for a lighter alternative to steel that offered just as much strength and durability. New Plastic Corp. quickly transitioned from producing novelties to making precision-machined plastic parts for warplanes. The company’s experiments resulted in dozens of patents on plastic materials and processes that propelled it to the forefront of plastics technology.
In 1943, the company entered the fiberglass business when Carmien designed and fabricated 50-caliber ammunition boxes of high-pressure laminates for North American Aviation’s P-51 Mustang fighter plane that eventually became a standard in military aircraft manufacturing. Further experiments with composites led to Carmien’s design and fabrication of “B” staged phenolic resin-coated glass fabric trim tabs for the P-51. This was followed by 1000-round ammunition boxes of post-formed laminate for belted ammunition to be fed into aircraft machine guns. The labor-intensive process to produce aircraft parts required 99% labor and 1% raw materials based on direct costs.
As early as 1943, Carmien invented and patented the first soft face hammer for use in the aircraft industry and used patented Nuplaflex – a formulated vinyl material – for hammer tips. Tips were created in various hardnesses and became the basis for Nupla’s extensive line of striking tools, many of which started on wood handles.
Carmien and a few other employees bought the company in 1954 and in 1958 changed its name to Nupla Corporation. As the War came to an end the company pivoted to manufacturing US domestic products. Early products were for the housewares industry such as polyethylene ice cube trays, plastic storage boxes, fruit and vegetable crispers, defroster trays, plastic wall tiles, and picnic supplies.
By 1957, Carmien abandoned the housewares industry and concentrated on the industrial market using his several patents and extensive plastics technology developed and perfected during the War to make fiberglass-handled tools. To be successful in the civilian market Carmien needed to produce cost-competitive products, so he figured out how to reverse the labor-to-raw material ratio for making plastic aircraft parts by developing products with low labor costs that could be used in multiple finished goods, such as metal forgings and hammers. Remembering the tremendous strength achieved using laminates with fiberglass, he experimented with and patented an automated process for mixing liquid resins with fiberglass to make strong tool handles and structural rods for the telecommunication industry.
This patented and revolutionary process called pultrusion is still the basis of Nupla manufacturing today. Using the same patents and technology, Nupla expanded its offering more than ten-fold over the years to include new product lines and proprietary products. By the mid ‘80s, Carmien held a large number of trademarks and 69 patents covering the original pultrusion process and a multitude of unique handle-to-tool-head attachment methods. By 1985, he bought all outstanding stock to become 100% owner of Nupla Corporation.
Research and product development is ongoing at Nupla Corporation. All products are the result of extensive lab and field testing. New products, often based on customer requests, result in new and more efficient products being added to Nupla’s lines. A new product can be a new grip, head weight, blade style or length of fiberglass handle. For example, the non-slip Super Grip for striking tools was designed decades ago for workers constructing the Alaska Pipeline to prevent tool slippage while working with gloves. The Super Grip is now a standard in Nupla’s hammer line.
The company is equally proud of its dedication to addressing environmental issues, which management has been focused on for decades. In 1994, Nupla was awarded a Certificate of Environmental Achievement from the USEPA for its efforts to prevent pollution, reduce toxic emissions and increase energy efficiency, setting an example for the rest of the industry to follow.
Today, Nupla is a leader in every market that it serves, a position it has earned by producing innovative, reliable, long-lasting products for over 65 years. Please contact us today to find out how Nupla’s unique products and capabilities can be put to work for you.