Carson Manufacturing turns the gears of the city

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Carson Manufacturing keeps an office shelf full of gearboxes, aircraft components, hard drives, and other products it has designed and built over decades. (Photo: Faith Evans / Nevada Appeal)

Behind the airport, in the industrial corridor of Carson City, Kenny Penn makes the components that “go into everyone’s business.”
He is a sales engineer for Carson Manufacturing, a company that designs and manufactures gearboxes. It’s a three-generation family business, starting with grandparents Eddie and Barbara Caps, who bought it in 1979.
“So a reduction gear, the simplest way to explain it, is a transmission for electric motors. It takes high speed and turns it into low end torque, ”Penn told The Call during an interview and in-person tour.
A gearbox works like the components that slow cars down – just because the engine is running at 2,000 rpm doesn’t mean the tires have to run at that speed.
But Carson Manufacturing reducers don’t fit in cars. They are used in robotic arms, medical equipment, conveyor belts, AstroTurf laying machines, top-secret military equipment, etc. It’s rare for the Penn Reducers to find their final home in Carson City.
“It’s just great that we’re in this little community and shipping products all over the world,” he said.
One of their recent award-winning designs came from a partnership with Attabotics, a company based in Alberta, Canada. It develops vertical storage systems for warehouses, reducing the space required for goods by up to 85%.
Carson Manufacturing produced the reducer that stores and retrieves products. In turn, Attabotics was among the Time Best inventions of 2019 and Fast business most innovative companies. In 2020, they received funding of $ 82.7 million.
For Penn, it’s exciting to see how Carson Manufacturing has helped other businesses grow. Attabotic’s first order years ago was only 50 gearboxes, but in 2019 they were asking for 500. Their business has grown from a dozen employees to 230.
“They get the (praise), but we make it work,” Penn said with a smile.
He said his goal for the company, to 2022 and beyond, is to start offering another product that Carson Manufacturing can design and produce. They’ve had a solid 25 year run with the reducers, but Penn is eager to find something that complements his reducers, or something that branches off in a whole different direction.
This won’t be the first time Carson Manufacturing has moved with the market. When his grandparents took over the business, they first made computer hard drives larger than today’s laptops. For a decade and a half, they shrunk the size to an engagement ring (with even more storage capacity).
When flash drives became all the rage in the 1990s, Carson Manufacturing made the leap to gearboxes to run its factories.
Although this time around, Penn will not grow out of necessity, but simply for the sake of innovation. After all, he’s the one who quietly turns the gears.


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