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From the Desk of Jack Healy, Viewpoints on the State of Manufacturing

Language- No Barrier When It Comes to Helping Manufacturers

Company Stories, part 2

By: Karen Myhaver, Program Support Coordinator, MassMEP

Bob Treiber, President of Boston Engineering-, a contract engineering development firm, hired by clients to help get their product to market. They do quite a bit of work for the government. He showed the Flex Stack product which his company received assistance from both MassMEP and the Strategic Technology Transfer (STTR) programphoto2 for. The Flex Stack was part of a torpedo telemetry system which reported navigational data after a torpedo was fired. The Navy solicited for redesign when the system became obsolete. “We redesigned the part for the Navy and STTR requested we have a local university assist us with testing.” Currently several models of the stack are in development as the platform for designing many commercial products.  “Our engineers are great at solving problems,” says Bob.” But, we are not good at commercializing- that is where Greg King came in. Now we have a solution looking for the problems. We could never have afforded regular consultants to help us,” Bob added. “With MassMEP we got very good consultants who could bring in very good help- I like that Greg and the MEP are not too well known because we want to keep them to ourselves!” 

fish“The Ghost Swimmer”, an unmanned robot for underwater applications, was also developed by Boston Engineering under the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program. They received funding from the US Navy and Homeland Security because of its potential applications. The government invested in two developmental phases of “The Ghost Swimmer”, a biomimetic (mimics biology) “tuna”, has a fully segmented tail that makes its swimming very life like. It can be deployed from helicopters into rivers to swim upstream and map out terrain and locations of enemy forces for our troops. Currently they are looking to partner with a prime government contractor to develop Phase III which would be deployed from warships.

“Greg King also helped Boston Engineering by providing us with resources to obtain our ISO 13485, which is the certification to provide medical design services,” added Bob. “There are many opportunities for medical applications so we wanted to get the certification and take advantage of them.”

An audience member asked if it was more difficult to get a government contract from the Navy or a grant from STTR? “There was a lot of serious competition on the fish,” said Bob. “For that we had to hire some very serious “smart people” in the robotics field. STTR was easier because they were more anxious.” Bob answered a question about commercializing the Flex Stack saying, “we had a lot of help with commercialization from our partners. The government assisted with funding and Boston Engineering invested in getting the right partners to assist us."

Next Jeff Gilling, President of Diamond-Roltran told the audience that in 1995 their company had thirteen employees. Today they have fifty-three employees and are doing between $5-10M in sales. With this type of growth they found themselves in need of senior managers and systems in order to develop successfully into a medium sized business. Greg King was instrumental in introducing Matt Edison, Diamond-Roltran’s new COO to the company. Most recently, they engaged Greg to facilitate planning and strategy with senior managers to come up with a future state and gain the buy in from managers as to the new company direction. Jeff said  “there is really no commercial consulting available to small manufacturers – at least none that I have found to be able to deliver the breadth of what MassMEP has and at a competitive cost. The MEP’s assistance in helping us apply for a state grant was also invaluable.”

Diamond Antenna & Microwave produces high precision rotary component products dantused in microwave for radar, satellite communications and air traffic control. They have several important prospects in Russia and specialize in parts for satellite communication and air traffic control for both commercial and military use. Jeff added that Diamond developed a product for a Kazakhstan customer which included 740 MHf frequency-the former Soviet Union standard for air traffic control, so they can work in both frequencies.
Diamond-Roltran, a sister company to Diamond Antenna & Microwave, has developed a complimentary technology, Roll Rings, to eliminate maintenance of the slip-ring portion of microwave air traffic devices. Roll-Rings are used to extend the service life for rotary interfaces that utilize a sliding or slipping rotary contact, the incumbent technology is knows as slip-rings. The “Roll” of Roll Rings refers to the rolling contact feature which means that as the rotor turns there is no wear from slipping, so costly repairs can be avoided. Diamond-Roltran developed the technology for the slip ring under the federal SBIR program. Jeffrey reports a $300,000,000 market for slip rings worldwide and an excellent potential for growth and job creation.

He asked the visitors for their help. Diamond-Roltran would like to enlist partners in Russia to manufacture Roll-Rings. An expert in the group from Russia handed Jeff his business card and offered to put Diamond-Roltran information on an International Export Network with both Russian and US members. “This is a no cost website which can work for you,” he said through the translator, and explained that his department financially supports the Russian portion of this site and will add Diamond’s information as a gift.A member of the audience asked how well Diamond competes with China?  Jeff answered, “We do very well against China because quality is the issue. If the parts are not perfect or are not made of the best materials they will not function satisfactorily and the system, like the air traffic control, will go down. These devices run 24 hours a day- every day and cannot fail. The Chinese do not make Diamond quality.”

photo3The last presenter was Jeff King, Vice President and COO of Flo Design, a technical development company which has created incredible technologies for applications in renewable energy, medical and non lethal weapons. They are also the fastest growing company in Massachusetts.

FloDesign has lots of technical intellectual property and have used MassMEP, local collaborations and SBIR’s to help look for applications for these. They began with gas turbines for aerospace and have accumulated lots of intellectual property over the years through patents. FloDesign’s strategy has been to use their portfolio of patents and try to find marketplace to grow a product and launch a spin-off company to deploy the technology. They license the technology to that company and FloDesign retains part ownership.

They have spun off a number of small scale companies utilizing mixer ejector technology- their intellectual property.  In wind turbines for instance, the mixer ejector has allowed them to shorten the length of the duct which sucks air into the fan. This permits the use of smaller rotors and increases the power because air flow is magnified. These smaller flodesturbines are much easier to ship and easier to work on than their larger counterparts
MassMEP helped FloDesign find a market that lead to the formation of the spin off – FloDesign Wind Turbine. In 2008, Greg King assisted the company with a business plan resulting in FloDesign winning a $300,000 award which they used to market their technology. Subsequently they have secured $53 million thru many different venture capitalists and the US Dept of Energy. A recent SBIR grant helped them obtain an additional $1.1M for a phase II product for the Department of Energy.

The same mixer ejector application is being used by the US Marines to minimize noise and flash at the end of the rifle muzzle. FloDesign deploys this through a large company that builds rifles for the government. Mixer ejector technology is also being used to quiet an unmanned aerial vehicle making it harder to locate. Phase 1 of this project is in the initial stage along with interactions with Western New England college to work on the new spin off- FloDesign Sonics.

“FloDesign uses engineering to generate innovation and technology which spawns the economy and helps start new companies and create jobs,” says Jeff.  “Working with MEP and the government and colleges has helped us raise the funds to allow us to do this.”

The program concluded with the Russian guests expressing desire to create a similar technical assistance program to the MEP in Russia.  
“The presentation was well received at a good, high, professional level,” commented Royce Anderson.”  “It is great that it opened the door to some potential opportunities for future cooperation.”

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