Continuous Composites got its start with a stab wound.
When a strand of fiberglass punctured Ken Tyler’s skin, the North Idaho inventor started thinking about the strength of the lightweight material.
Tyler was working for a local boat manufacturer at the time, and he found himself brainstorming ways to fashion fiberglass composites without using molds.
The result was Continuous Composites, a 3-year-old startup company that its owners say could revolutionize manufacturing, dramatically lowering the costs for fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon fiber composites.
“It’s an amazing technology, and it’s going to change how things are built,” said Tyler Alvarado, the company’s chief executive officer.
A carbon fiber bicycle, he said, costs thousands of dollars not because of the cost of the raw materials but because of the process to manufacture carbon fiber composites.
“It’s very manual, extremely labor-intensive,” Alvarado said. “Low output, high costs.”
Traditional composite manufacturing requires layering materials with resins in a mold, which is then put into an autoclave that applies heat and pressure to cure the resins. Sometimes, the finished product requires hand sanding.
Continuous Composites’ breakthrough is using 3D printing and a robotic arm to build composite parts.