Carbon Fiber Parts Manufacturing Business Increases Production

Rocket Shells DrumPaul Hewitt owns and runs Rocket Composites, a company that makes carbon fiber parts for a wide variety of industries: boat parts, hang glider components, and hydrofoils for windsurfing, kitesurfing, and regular surfing. Rocket Composites even sells into the aerospace industry – they are developing a carbon fiber satellite structure. And his business is growing, thanks to his Autometrix cutting table.

Hewitt discovered the joys of carbon fiber when he was working for a windsurfing equipment manufacturer in Hawaii. The industry was in transition, looking for new ways to help athletes go faster and jump higher. Light, strong carbon fiber was the answer. Hewitt took what he was learning about carbon fiber, and applied it to drum manufacturing, and decided to start his own carbon fiber drum shell manufacturing company – Rocket Shells.

Automation is the Key to Increasing Production

Hewitt’s Rocket Composites business really took off when he got a request from a customer – backpack manufacturer Kuiu — to increase the production of backpack frames from 75 per week to 400/week. At the time, Rocket Composites was cutting the carbon fiber for the frame components by hand — 15-16 plies plus foam core for each backpack component. Three employees traced patterns with a sharpie and cut them out with scissors or a roller blade. If you’ve ever worked with carbon fiber, you know how tough it is. Cutting it by hand is far from easy. Hewitt knew he couldn’t increase production without an automated fabric cutting machine.

Rocket Composites uses the Advantage Cutting Machine to cut their carbon fiber

Today, Rocket Composites’ fiber cutting table runs six to eight hours a day, five days a week, cutting at about two feet per second. The Autometrix Advantage cutting machine gives Rocket Composites the flexibility to cut dozens of different materials without difficult tool changes.  Hewitt gives credit where credit is due: “This kind of high-volume production? No chance we could do it without our machine,” he said. “It would be a very poor financial decision not to own one.”

The Same Exact Part, Every Time

carbon fiber prepreg air intakes for a BMW 700 Series
Carbon fiber prepeg air Intakes built by Rocket Composites for a BMW 700 Series

Faster and higher volume production is not the only benefit Rocket Composites gets from its Autometrix cutting table. In an industry where every ounce counts, and parts need to fit together flawlessly every time, accuracy is even more important than speed. Hewitt explains: “If you have ten different people cutting things by hand, they are all going to be a little different, depending on if it is 8am or 4pm, Monday or Friday,” he said. “Now it’s the same every time when we put it in the mold.”

Cutting Table Shows Rocket Composites Means Business

Rocket Composites fabric cutting machine helps them continue to serve their existing customers, even as those customers grow and increase production. It also helps win new customers. “The cutting table helps give our business some validity,” said Hewitt. “It shows that we are doing everything we can to be efficient. It shows that we are on the cutting edge (no pun intended), and that we can take on big projects. It assures our customers that we can take on as much volume as they would like us to.”

Rocket Shell
Carbon fiber composites are used extensively in the aerospace, high performance automotive and sporting industries because of its’ high strength and low weight characteristics. Also commonly referred to as ‘graphite’, the material has become especially popular in the last decade as the material of choice for bicycles, high performance kayaks and paddles, race cars and, of course ROCKETS! – Paul Hewitt

Autometrix is proud to support a business like Rocket Composites. We ourselves are  fans of Carbon Fiber (see below video). In order to keep our machines light, fast AND practically indestructible, we use a carbon fiber gantry in all our machines. Interested in learning more about how an Autometrix cutting table could help you grow your business? Call us.