Anyone who’s ever lugged around an infant carrier (with baby) for several hours knows the weight of parenting.

Steel and metal parts are strong, but they’re also heavy. What if a new material came along, something light as air, that could lift the load from our shoulders and reduce the weight of bike frames, sporting equipment and more?

That’s the idea behind Rapid TPC, a startup in East Liberty’s AlphaLab Gear that’s building the technology to efficiently manufacture carbon fiber composite parts that may one day replace steel and metal parts in products.

Carbon fiber is five-times stronger than steel but considerably lighter, says Mark Jreissaty, part of the four-man team at Rapid TPC, all grads from Columbia University. The market for stronger and lighter products is huge, as in $195 billion.

“When plastics were first invented, they didn’t scale well,” he says. “Now you see plastics everywhere. This is exactly what our machine will do for the carbon fiber industry.”

Carbon fiber composites are found today in airplanes and high-performance cars, industries that can well afford the pricey manufacturing process and material costs of carbon fiber.

Rapid TPC’s machine will not only automate the manufacturing of carbon fiber at a lower price point but assist industries that previously were unable to pay the higher price. One of the benefits of AlphaLab Gear is that the startup is under the tutelage of Henry Thorne, the genius inventor behind 4moms robotic baby gear.

“By introducing composites to billion dollar industries, we will drive the demand of carbon fiber and drive down the manufacturing costs (by 90 percent),” Jreissaty says. “That’s the secret sauce. The goal is to make it as widespread as plastics.”

Nearly every product, from bikes to camera equipment, can benefit from a weight reduction, he adds. When the composite-manufacturing machine is completed, Rapid TPC plans to begin taking orders and manufacturing the parts in-house.

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...