CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) -- Click Bond workers remember where they were when the Mars Rover Curiosity sent its first images of the Red Planet back to earth.
"I know the whole world was zooming in to see the little green men in the hills. This team zoomed down to see if we could see the Click Bond parts on the top deck of that Rover and boy, you sure could. I think that made everybody here swell with pride to be part of that," said Click Bond President and CEO Karl Hutter.
The Carson City-based company has parts on almost every airplane, satellite and space craft in operation today.
Click Bond makes parts that are used in place of mounts that were once riveted on planes. The parts made by Click Bond are lighter and held in place with a powerful glue. The local company got its start because of a series of random events.
Hutter's father Charles G. Hutter III owned an Aerostar twin-engine prop plane. It was leaking fuel from the wings so he developed a round patch in 1977 to seal it up. The patch would have likely never worked if not for Karl's grandfather, his dad's dad.
Dr. Carl G Hutter Jr. used a powerful adhesive as an orthopedic surgeon. "Well, that fat and oil in the body isn't so much different than the oil in fuel that might be leaking out of an aircraft wing. It was my dad that put those two and two together and said maybe we've got something here that we can use in aircraft repair," Hutter said.
Hutter's father was in the Air Force, which was experiencing a unique problem in the late 70s. The United States was developing its top secret F-16 program at Edwards Air Force Base.
Soviet satellites were zooming in to count the fighter jets parked outside. They couldn't be parked in the hanger because their wings also leaked fuel.
Word spread of the patch developed by Charles. He showed the general his invention and the rest is history.
"The general's response was, 'Hutter, go back to your factory and start making these click patches and don't ever stop,'" Hutter recalled.
Today, Click Bond is working closely with Lockheed Martin on the F-35. Each fighter jet contains about 30,000 Click Bond parts, reducing the weight of each aircraft by hundreds of pounds.
Essentially every Boeing and Airbus passenger jet contains thousands of Click Bond parts. They are most commonly used to hold cables in place.
"If somebody launches something off in the air or into space, it probably has Click Bond parts on it," Hutter said.
The parts are made in the company's Carson City facility along Arrowhead Drive. About 360 people report there to work. Roughly 80 others work in the company's Watertown, Connecticut location and a small group works at the Click Bond location in Wales, United Kingdom.
Altogether, Click Bond employs 462 people. The workers make and ship 50,000 parts a day. They're designed to be lighter, stronger and easier to install than anything their competitors can come up with.
Vice President of Technology Alex Carter dreamed up a Click Bond part responsible for much of the company's success today. It's called a gummy worm. "We needed something that would temporarily hold the part to the structure while the adhesive cured," Carter said.
"We can bond on 50 to 100 nut plates in the same amount of time as it takes to rivet a dozen nut plates," Carter said.
The idea that put the company on the leading edge of its industry came from an everyday problem.
"I saw some rubber foot pads that had been used on electrical boxes like your computer box...I looked at how they were attached to the case and then I imagined, well, this is how we could attach our parts to the aircraft structure," Carter said.
This fixture was invented in 1989. The patent expired in 2009, but the company keeps churning them out and reportedly beating the competition because the Click Bond name is trusted around the world.
Another commonly-produced product is the adhesive-bonded fastener. This is the part that actually gives the company its name. It makes a click sound when pressed down to hold the fastener in place as the glue adheres to the object it's on, leaving a light-weight rivetless fastener in place.
Millions of Click Bond parts are all over the skies, space and beyond, and every single one is made close to where you live.
Click Bond remains a private locally-owned company. It is not traded on the stock market.