RCBI Helps Fayette County Business Grow

Jan. 27, 2016

HUNTINGTON— The Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) helped the owners of a small Fayette County company expand their business by tapping Additive Manufacturing, better known as 3D printing. As West Virginia's Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, RCBI provides assistance to companies and entrepreneurs so they can take advantage of this innovative technology.

Phillip and Mary Peelish were looking for a way to distinguish their handmade soaps when they came up with the idea of bars that featured the state of West Virginia.

"My thought was we could put the shape of West Virginia in the middle of our soap because everyone wants a souvenir to take home with them when they come to visit," said Phillip Peelish, who started Wild Mountain Soap with wife Mary in Fayetteville in 2012.

They needed a reliable way to produce soap in the shape of the state, however. Peelish tried making a die out of Plexiglas, but the piece quickly broke. Then he was referred to RCBI where he found the assistance he needed.

The Peelishes applied for and received early-stage funding assistance at RCBI. RCBI worked with the Peelishes to design dies that were then printed on one of RCBI's 3D printers.

The specialty dies are fitted on the extruder through which the soft soap passes. It comes out in a shape – a pumpkin, owl or a moon, for example – that is then sliced into the correct thickness. To date, about 25 different shapes have been created on RCBI's 3D printers.

Peelish believes the bars featuring the state of West Virginia helped his company win a state contract to supply the rooms at all the state parks with soaps, shampoos and lotions.

"When they asked for samples, we had given them one of those," he said. "I know they really liked it, so I think that really helped us land that job.''

With the additional business they have received from the state parks, the Peelishes have hired three part-time employees.

The Peelishes sell their soap and other beauty products at craft shows, through their website (www.wildmountainsoap.com), and at their store at Dove's Outlet Village Shops near Fayetteville.