The NC Chamber’s annual quest to find the “Coolest Thing Made in North Carolina” concluded with two winners: a product that can make the difference between life or death and another that assists manufacturers of everything from plastic chairs to race car molds.
More than 45,000 votes were tabulated in the annual contest, which drew 130 nominations. The winning companies were Troutman-based C.R. Onsrud, which has about 200 employees; and Burlington’s Fjord, which employs seven.
Fjord’s Static Rope Edge Protectors, also known as STREP, keeps static lines from chafing on sharp edges or abrasive surfaces. Think about first responders working on a rope rescue team, technicians who use rope to access their work or rock climbers.
“STREP products are ‘cool’ in that they protect more than just rope, they keep the rope from chafing, thus keeping people using them safe where a cut rope means certain death,” Fjord President Michael Ratigan says.
Fjord’s primary product is Chafe-Pro, which was designed primarily for the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy more than 20 years ago to protect mooring and towing lines from chafe abrasion. Private boaters, supertankers and aircraft carriers now use Chafe-Pro. Offerings of STREP include wraparound style rope protection and mats that are laid down over
STREP has products to protect tightrope walkers at the Eiffel Tower and contestants on TV shows like “Amazing Race” and “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.” The products are also used to protect centuries-old facades throughout Europe as workers hang from ropes to do repairs or cleanings. Chafe-Pro was invented in 1991, while STREP was launched in the fall of 2021.
C.R. Onsrud’s Q-Series 5-Axis computer-controlled machine – also known as the Qube – helps manufacturers including Boeing, Goodyear and Steinway & Son with high-speed machining of advanced materials.
Computer controls direct the industrial machine to cut, drill, mill and saw materials for manufacturers who then make everything from race car molds to complex satellite components to foam Statues of Liberty. As a five-axis machine, it can cut plastic, carbon fiber, aluminum, woods and other materials from all directions without repositioning.
“These machines can create patterns that are so intricate and require such precision that they cannot even be created manually,” says Jennifer Kaufman, a technical writer for C.R. Onsrud. “Because of this, and their amazingly high speeds, manufacturers are pretty much only limited by their imagination.”
Oscar Onsrud founded his Onsrud Machine Works company in Chicago in 1915, making routers that were widely used in aviation, defense, furniture and many other industries. Onsrud’s grandson, Charles, established C.R. Onsrud in Iredell County in 1976 to be closer to the furniture industry. The company started making CNC machines in 1994, and they continue to be designed, fabricated, assembled and shipped from Troutman. Family members continue to lead the business.
The NC Chamber launched its “coolest thing” competition in 2020 to honor North Carolina manufacturers and highlight industry careers. The state’s manufacturing industry is the largest in the Southeast with about 475,000 workers.
Deerfield, Ill.-based Baxter is the presenting sponsor of the online competition, and Business North Carolina is media partner. The Fortune 500 company has a plant in Marion that produces intravenous and peritoneal dialysis solutions, empty containers and parts for other Baxter facilities. ■