Calico Coatings was founded by Tracy Trotter, owner and former racer, so it makes sense that the company got its start in the motorsport industry. Would you tell me more about Calico’s history and how it grew to cover a wide range of industries?
Calico Coatings has been in business for 18 years. It was founded by Tracy Trotter, who raced while growing up in Houston, Texas. When he was older, he moved on to full-body stock cars and eventually moved here to Denver, North Carolina, just north of Charlotte, with one of his buddies. He ended up working for a race team part time and opening a branch of a Houston-based coating company here in North Carolina. Eventually, it was sold out, and Tracy continued to work for the new owners for a while, but he was young and ambitious. That’s when he decided to open his own company that would provide surface finishes and coatings to racers. The main reason he opened Calico is because he wanted to race.
Let’s discuss your history with the company. How did you find yourself at Calico Coatings?
Calico was actually a customer of mine when I was selling safety equipment. I got to know the general manager quite well. They invited me to a race one weekend, and I’d help in the pit. It even got to the point where he was building a garage in his backyard, so I’d help him with that on the weekends and go to races with him. And that’s when he told me that he was looking to hire someone in sales. We had a great relationship. It’s been the greatest job I’ve ever had. I enjoy working with the people here because they all care about what’s going out the door. The next person in line is the customer.
Let’s talk products and services. What is it about Calico’s product portfolio that makes it stand out?
Our mission is to provide services geared toward extending the life of components by reducing friction, wear, heat and corrosion. We use surface finishing techniques and a variety of coatings including dry-film lubricants, fluoropolymers like Teflon and Xylan, thermal barriers, PVD like TiN, CrN, and TiCN, plus PECVD coating like Diamond-Like Carbon. Isotropic super-finishing is widely used to create a smooth gear interface reducing friction and wear. Dry-film lubricants also help with reducing friction. We have around 35 employees in a 32,000-square-foot facility located approximately 25 miles north of Charlotte, NC. We ship internationally on a regular basis.
Regardless of the coatings we utilize, we feel that the preparation process before the coating is applied is key. It not only makes the coating last longer, but the adhesion factor is much greater. Then, when you apply a coating like our CT-1 engine bearing coating to a bearing insert, you’ll extend the life of the bearing by reducing friction, heat, and wear. You won’t increase horsepower by any means, but by reducing the friction and heat you’ll release horsepower. We have a lot of different coatings like that used in motor sports. They basically work the same way by reducing friction, heat, wear, and corrosion; any enemies to making good horsepower.
On the other side of it on the industrial end, take gears, for example. In a marine application, they’re using gears in gear reduction from an engine to the final drive, and they were having problems with wear. They just weren’t getting enough life out of the part. So, in that instance, we used an isotropic super-finish to improve the surface itself of the part to reduce friction and failure by eliminating stress risers. Our goal there was to create a better part.
If you can make a gear last longer, the end user will have a better return on the investment for buying, just as an example, a quality gear that has been super-finished. Another example would be a transmission used in NASCAR where the gears and shafts are super-finished. What that does is eliminate some of the wear properties there and making it last longer. In NASCAR, if they don’t make the 500 miles to make the checkered flag and vie for a win, then they’ve basically wasted their money.
We take parts of our services from motorsports and inject it into other industries, like the gear industry where we see how we can make the gear last longer and reduce failure.
What can people gain from doing business with Calico?
Being a small company, we have found that the relationship we develop with the customer is key. By being able to listen to and understand the customer’s needs, we are able to use that information to assist in selecting the best process for the condition they are trying to correct.
Also, when it comes to the four key issues — friction, wear, heat, and erosion — we will do everything within our power to help our customers and potential customers solve their problem, but we also recognize a situation when there’s something we just can’t help them with. That’s why we keep a referral list; so that when a customer calls and — after we discuss their problem — we realize we can’t help them, we’ll recommend they call someone on that list who can. Our goal is to help people solve their problems and to make them happy with our services before we get off the phone.
What’s on the horizon for Calico?
Research and development has always been a big focus for us. We are constantly looking at improving our coatings, surface finishings, and processes to better fit the customer’s needs.