So I figured I’d use this post to introduce myself and give a little more of my back story. I technically started working with composites around 2005 (started there in 2003) when I worked at a body shop that would do body kits every now and then. If you ever worked with a cheap fiberglass body kit then you know how much work they are sometimes. This was my intro to fiberglass. Grinding and cutting and sanding stuff smooth. Mixing up fiberglass and applying chopped strand mat to areas that needed reinforcing. It was a good time. This stuff was few and far between tho. I was in the auto body industry for almost 6 years, before starting doing mechanical work. That was a short stint as I didn’t like it as much. I’d rather be dusty as compressed air will clean you off than greasy and smell like diff fluid. So back to body work for a few more years. It was around 2009 when I purchased my 99 Mustang for the intent of building it to race in NASA’s American Iron class. Its pretty much a road race series of Mustangs vs. Camaros. I did some custom sheet metal work, fabricated some fiberglass louvers in the hood, and a few other composite related things. At the time it was all “one off” stuff tho. I thought it would be cool to be able to reproduce some parts so thats when I started digging into what I would consider real composites fabrication. The first part I ever made a mold of was my headlights. I wanted to remove weight from the front of my car so this was a decent choice. So I watched some you tube videos and purchased a book and to my surprise, my very first attempt at making molds was a success. Then to make the first part, you are essentially making a mold of your mold. They turned out great and I couldn’t be happier.
(Picture of my first headlight, mold in orange, and first part in white)
The Spiral Begins
I was happy with the headlights for a little bit, until i realized that carbon fiber was lighter, and then vacuum bagged carbon was lighter and stronger. And so the spiral began. I actually do not remember what the second part I ever made was. By this time I had started my own business working on and fabricating parts for race cars in the garage behind my house. It was very early 2013 when a customer of mine backed his car into a pole and severely damaged his wing on his car. We were looking around for a replacement as the original manufacturer discontinued that part. We happened to come across a company in Texas that made wings, along with a few other miscellaneous parts. Somehow it was mentioned that that owner wanted to sell the business. I just so happen to be starting to dabble with composites so a deal was struck, and 2 months later I was driving a U-Haul truck from Texas to New Jersey. Again, fun times!
Setting up shop
I’ve now jumped off a spring board and dove into making parts pretty quickly. Altho the company I purchased was very small, it really accelerated the composites branch of my business. I now had a hand full of parts I could manufacture and sell to people anywhere in the world. I bought more books and watched more videos and made more molds and more parts. I needed a new shop now. One set up better for composites. I learned really quickly that a small shop is hard to work out of. A composites shop needs room and needs to be organized. So we moved our shop at the end of 2015 from a 2600 sq/ft space to our current 5200 sq/ft space in Millville, NJ. The extra room allowed me to separate the two halves of my business. AJ Hartman Racing, which specialized in race car fabrication, and AJ Hartman Aero, which developed and manufactured carbon fiber components for race cars. Having separate areas for all the steps and tasks has been huge in advancing the composites branch of the business.
Where were at now
This bring us to today. The composites side of the company has been growing rapidly. We are constantly developing new parts and tweaking old parts. We just closed our best year ever and couldn’t be more excited. We have plans to expand our capabilities and capacity as well. We are still constantly learning and testing new methods. We always look forward to the challenge that composites brings, but we still get excited when we make a brand new part for the first time. Its hard to not get a good feeling when the part pops off the mold and looks exactly like you expected it to. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that feeling and plan to keep doing it for years to come.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments. I am by no means an expert, but have a decent amount of experience and can hopefully point you in the right direction.