Rotorua family’s carbon fibre business diversifies from fishing rods to Star Wars
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From fishing rods to luxury cars, to a galaxy far far away, a Rotorua family’s carbon fibre business has diversified to produce an array of products over the years, proving versatility is key to surviving.
It’s been busy on the factory floor for 85 years. From starting out selling fishing rods it’s adaptability that’s kept Kilwell, on the fringes of Rotorua, exporting around the globe.
“There are certainly times where we are asked to make a certain thing that we don’t specifically know what it is used for – either they’re not telling us because they don’t want to, or they can’t. We have a recipe to build a piece of tubing and that’s what we do,” said Geoff Wells, Kilwell director of sales.
The company’s carbon fibre is sought after by the likes of luxury car maker Bentley, the British military and America’s Cup boats.
“With the carbon fibre tubing manufacturing plant we’ve ended up making a variety of different products for industrial use and sport use all over the world,” Mr Wells said.
Its currently building 3D printed modules which will form a giant carbon fibre structure at the Te Puia roundabout, welcoming visitors from the south to the city.
Kilwell has been in the fishing and hunting game for 85 years and during that time it has developed a number of carbon fibre products including the light sabres in the Star Wars films.
That relationship came about because the original aluminum light sabres kept breaking during fight scenes.
“One of the people on that crowd happened to be in a fishing tackle shop in Brisbane and saw a fishing rod that was made by us. One thing lead to another and they found us and we made a bunch of tubes to use for their filming,” Mr Kilwell said.
Rotorua Lakes Council says businesses are beginning to see the benefits of working in the regions.
“It’s essential to our economy to have that innovation, to have that success story. And it attracts brilliant people here to live and work,” said David Donaldson of the council.
The film industry is also looking to expand in the area, which could mean more unusual requests for the versatile company.