Clark County at Work: Protech Composites Inc.

By Mary Ricks, Columbian news assistant

Published:

 

Business name: Protech Composites Inc.

Owners: Jeff Olsen and Michelle Fennimore.

Address: 11700 N.E. 60th Way, Suite 3B.

What the business does: Protech Composites manufactures high-quality carbon fiber sheets, panels and molded parts. The company uses a proprietary process to infuse carbon fiber fabric with resin to create beautiful high-gloss panels used in yachts, car and boat dashboards and instrument panels, high-end cabinetry, furniture and many other uses. Carbon fiber, almost 10 times stronger than steel but lighter than aluminum, doesn’t expand and contract in hot and cold temperatures. It is invisible in X-rays, which makes it ideal for medical devices, and it is commonly used to make aerospace and aviation parts, robotics, sports equipment and knife handles. Protech also sandwiches high-density foam, balsa, or Nomex honeycomb core between two carbon fiber sheets to make a lightweight panel used for floors and tables in radiology suites, airplane bulkheads, yacht flooring and even high-end foosball tables. Protech ships its products worldwide.

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How has the economy affected your business: Jeff Olsen said his company has been very fortunate. He said while some segments of the business, such as DIY auto enhancements and hobbyists and people making stuff in their garage, have dropped off with the economic downturn, other segments have been growing. Olsen’s industrial and commercial business is up. He said another economic factor is raw material costs and availability. Carbon fiber fabric is not cheap and because Boeing, Airbus, and several automakers are using more and more carbon fiber, the world’s supply of polyacrylonitile, the material that carbon fiber fabric is made from, is less available. This year Olsen has seen a marked increase in carbon fabric costs.

Greatest challenge: Olsen said he has a diverse customer base and it is a challenge to determine how to target sales and marketing efforts. He said while there’s some commonality, some of his best customers are using his product for unique industrial applications — in robotics, assembly line pallets and in frame and support structures. Protech would like to target more of that business but he hasn’t found a clear way to identify those opportunities.

What’s ahead: Investments in new equipment that will allow Protech to offer faster turnaround on machining carbon fiber parts. Right now, Olsen said they send out machining to other businesses but he’d like to bring it in-house within the next year. Some form of a move is likely, as well, because they need more space.

Year established in Clark County: 2008.

Employees: Five.

Telephone: 360-573-7800.

Fax: 360-573-5876.

Email: info@ protechcomposites.com.

Website:http://www.protechcomposites.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.