Three years ago, Evendale resident Trevor Holekamp observed how auto workers made parts from carbon fiber and saw the opportunity for an industrial revolution.
Over the next two years, by a process of trial and error, he devised his own process, which took something done by hand and replicated using machines. At the time, he worked solo in his garage doing a lot of “grinding development.”
His wife would sometimes ask him who he would turn to when he ran into a problem.
“The answer is nobody. There’s no one resource I could count on to give me insight into what I was doing,” he said.
Now, Beast Carbon, the Lockland company he founded, can create parts in seven minutes that it takes two hours to do by hand, he said.
That’s a big deal, he said, because it has cut the cost of making carbon fiber parts, which has always been twice as much as parts made from inferior materials such as plastic.
That’s revolutionary, he said, because carbon fiber, made from carbon atoms aligned in a row, has eight times the tensile strength of -- and yet is much lighter than -- steel.
How does he do it?
Much of the process is proprietary, but generally, a high-precision forge uses extreme pressure to form woven carbon fiber layers, injected with epoxy, into parts.
Does the company have customers?
Holekamp declined to disclose revenue figures, but he said sales are growing consistently. The company sells carbon fiber window guards for Chevy, Ford and Jeep trucks through its website, www.beastcarbon.com.
The company is also making interactive kiosks for smartLINK, a Newport company that’s helping to wire Newport for Wi-Fi.
SmartLINK founder Jon Salisbury and J.J. Schaffer also founded Newport-based technology and cloud-solutions provider Nexigen. Together, they have invested $150,000 in Beast Carbon, Salisbury said.
Why did they invest?
“Trevor is full of energy, he’s very creative and he’s a do-it-yourselfer, which means that if he needs a machine configured in a new way, he’ll do it himself. He doesn’t have to buy time from someone,” Salisbury said.
He’s also found a market that’s ripe with opportunity, Salisbury said, and a technology that has lots of other applications.
How else has Holekamp financed the business?
With about $130,000 of his own money and with a lot of elbow grease.
Holekamp grew up on a 100-acre farm east of Columbus, where if a machine broke down, there wasn’t a mechanic to fix it.
“We fixed it all ourselves,” he said.
He’s brought that mentality to his business. Manufacturing is a very capital-intensive endeavor, but he’s cut costs by finding used equipment at auctions and by putting together parts found in junkyards.
“We get cutting-edge technology that we repurpose,” he said.
Production at the company’s small production facility in Lockland is at capacity, Holekamp said, so he plans to add four more employees to the current staff of four.
He started in the retail market because there are low barriers to entry in retail, and he wanted to get the kinks out of the manufacturing process before moving to other markets.
He said he has met with a supplier for Boeing about making parts for its airplanes. Airplane manufacturers like carbon fiber because it's strong and lightweight.
“Our big vision is that carbon fiber is the next steel,” he said. “It’s the next plastic.”