Champion Brake and Driveshaft
For a small manufacturer, taking on new business poses a challenge when the necessary state-of-the-art equipment required is too expensive to purchase. Rusty Efaw, owner of Champion Brake and Driveshaft in Grafton, solved this problem by collaborating with RCBI.
Efaw started his own business in 1986 out of necessity. When he was 13, he broke his back in a motorcycle accident. Because of the injury, he couldn't pass the physical exams that were required by companies after he graduated from school.
"So I thought, I'll just have to go into business for myself, and I've been very fortunate."
He taught himself machining and opened his own shop. His three-person operation makes driveshafts for cars, trucks and farm equipment. Most of his business is outside West Virginia, and he is so busy that he doesn't advertise: Customers find him through word of mouth.
"We've been fortunate to put out a good product, and they keep coming," he said.
He began using the services at the RCBI Bridgeport Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center several years ago after receiving a contract to produce precision parts for an oil and gas company. He leases production time at the Bridgeport facility, where one of his employees makes the parts using a combination of the lathes, mills, laser cutter and water jet cutter.
Efaw is using the RCBI Composite Technology & Training Center in Bridgeport for another project, as well. After seeing the high-tech composite equipment available there during an open house, he and his son, Trampas Efaw, an engineer, developed a driveshaft made of composite material that will be far lighter than the traditional driveshaft constructed from steel.
They received training from McLean Anderson, the company that manufactured the CNC Filament Winder available at RCBI Bridgeport. Efaw now has a prototype for the new driveshaft, but he wants to refine it.
"We need to have more testing to get it where I want it," he said. "I'm comparing it to a steel shaft. I want it to exceed that."
Few companies make carbon-fiber driveshafts, so Efaw expects there to be demand, especially among race car drivers, whose vehicles will benefit from the lighter part. Efaw expects that his carbon-fiber driveshafts eventually will be manufactured and sold for regular highway use as well. Efaw indicated that these projects, including the development of the new driveshaft, would be impossible if Champion Brake didn't have access to the equipment at RCBI.
"I wouldn't be able to do any of it," he said. "That's where RCBI helped a bunch."