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Composite Advantage gives concrete, steel and wood a run for their money

Need a prefab bridge that you can drop over a small stream? Dayton-based Composite Advantage just might be able to fix you up.

Founded in 2005 as a spinoff of the National Composite Center, the company is making its way in the world using composite materials to replace old standbys like steel, wood and concrete.

Bridge decks. Drop-in-place portable bridges. Structural panels. Concrete forms. Pads to give cranes and other heavy equipment a stable surface. The list goes on.

In most cases, says company President, Scott Reeve, "they are fiberglass reinforcement with a polyester or vinylester resin. They're durable and corrosion resistant and can stand up to any environment."

Reeve says the company has benefited from market development projects through the Dayton Development Coalition as part of the Ohio Third Frontier's Entrepreneurial Signature Program. Starting with two employees in 2005, "we have grown to where we generally run with a basic workforce of 16 people. We have peak times where we will add another 10 people on a temporary basis."

The company's big focus at the moment is a composite mat now being used by Canadian Mat Systems to provide "big flat panels that become temporary roadways, work surfaces. When they go in and are going to drill for oil, they need a big work space around big oil rigs. The main advantages are corrosion resistance, lighter weight, they're stronger and don't take as long to install."

Reeve says the company grew in 2007 and 2008 and held steady in 2009. But he looks for more growth in the future as it introduces new products.

Source: Scott Reeve, Composite Advantage
Writer: Gene Monteith


Crystal Diagnotics helps pioneer liquid crystal biosensors; new jobs in sight

It can take as long as 24 hours to detect toxins (ranging from E-coli to anthrax) and the people affected could be long gone by the time lab technicians and health departments figure it out. Thanks to new technology, that may all change.

Crystal Diagnostics — with its parent company Pathogen Systems Inc. — is working to develop liquid crystal biosensors to detect pathogens in real-time, instead of a day.

The detection device — jointly invented by researchers at Kent State University and the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy in Rootstown — combines both liquid crystal technology and antibody research to find harmful pathogens.

Work at the Crystal Diagnostics Applied Research Laboratory on the campus of NEOUCOM is ongoing. And plans are in motion to move into Centennial Park at KSU for manufacturing the device.

As the project grows, so will the local workforce.

Walter E. Horton Jr., NEOUCOM's vice president for research, said there are a total of 15 full-time positions at Crystal Diagnostics, and that when the device goes "live" there could be a dozen jobs added immediately.

"We see this as one of the innovation success in Ohio," says Horton, who also oversees the millions of dollars the company has received from the Ohio Third Frontier initiative in the last two years. "We have two public entities — Kent State and NEOUCOM — working together. This is exactly the direction this state wants to go."

"This company is based in Colorado, but (Pathogen Systems) saw a real benefit of moving to Northeast Ohio, because of the support of the Third Frontier and because of the regional success in terms of biomedical innovation," he says.

Source: Walter E. Horton Jr.
Writer: hiVelocity staff


Performance Polymer Solutions involved in some sticky business

Performance Polymer Solutions, Inc. is embroiled in a sticky business -- high-temperature reinforced polymer materials used for  adhesive, resin and fiber molding products.

These days, the company is attracting plenty of attention from government and others who see the value of materials that can work at extreme temperature (600 degrees), a requirement for aviation and aerospace applications.

Based in Moraine, P2SI's products are part of the production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and are also well suited for missiles, space systems, electronics, off-shore drilling, and optical devices, says Jason Lincoln, vice president and co-founder.

The company was started in 2002 by Lincoln and David Curliss, who formerly worked on similar technology with the U.S. Air Force. P2SI recently received a Third Frontier Grant of $350,000 to expand its production.

Over the past six years, P2SI has received numerous Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer  grants through the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to develop its specialized materials. At least 75 percent of the company's business is related to military uses, says Lincoln.

In addition to high temperature adhesives, resins and prepags, P2SI offers high-temperature composite parts manufacturing, manufacturing support, contracted research and development and testing and analysis.

The company currently employs people 14 full time, but over the next three years Lincoln says P2SI will be adding three to five new employees in manufacturing and marketing as it ramps up production to meet higher demand.

Source: Jason Lincoln, Performance Polymer Solutions
Writer: Val Prevish


NanoSperse adding jobs, production capacity

Art Fritts says the market for nanomaterials wasn't completely clear when he launched his fledging company in 2004.

Luckily for Fritts and NanoSperse, the value has become crystal clear since then. In July, the Dayton-based firm moved from production space at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) to an 8,000-square-foot production facility at the National Composite Center in Kettering. Production capacity? A million pounds of material per year.

The move has prompted an increase in payroll, too. The company, which ended 2009 with two employees, now has eight and is expected to at least double that number within the next two years, says Fritts, NanoSperse's president.

NanoSperse has made its way commercializing a unique method of distributing nano-size carbon particles throughout materials to improve durability, reliability and functionality of composites for the defense, aerospace, and industrial marketplaces. The technology was developed at the University of Dayton, and Fritts -- with 30 years in the polymer industry -- started NanoSperse to commercialize it.

Fritz says that material is tailor-made for a desert environment by becoming the actual surface of the part, eliminating the need for more traditional coatings. He adds that the composite can be expected to hold up three to five times longer than traditional coatings. The company is now producing the material for aerospace uses and shipped its first big order in July.

Fritts says the relationship with UDRI was a godsend for the young company because it allowed NanoSperse to fill orders immediately while learning how to scale production to bigger orders -- and to work with cross industry teams as part of the Ohio Third Frontier's Research Commercialization Program.

Source: Art Fritts, NanoSperse
Writer: Gene Monteith


Swagelok grows with changes in industry

Supported by a $500 loan from an uncle, Swagelok was founded in 1947 by Fred Lennon as the Crawford Fitting Company. Shortly afterward, the business began manufacturing Swagelok tube fitting.

In the beginning, there were just two employees: Fred Lennon and Cullen Crawford, the original design engineer of the Swagelok tube fitting.

Today, the Solon-based company's products are delivered at more than 200 authorized facilities in 57 countries on six continents — by approximately 4,000 employees.

Swagelok products are still designed to provide leak-tight operation, reducing the possibility of fugitive emissions. Its newest product — the Swagelok compact gauge valve — is designed with a purge valve and tube-fitting-end connections to reduce leaking. That allows customers to save on both energy and maintenance costs.

"Swagelok's skill sets are in precision manufacturing," says Jim Francis, the company's vice president of human resources.

The company's special expertise was recognized in late 2006, when Swagelok, along with research collaborator Case Western Reserve University, received a three-year, $5.5-million grant from Ohio's Third Frontier initiative to research and commercialize a new method for heat-treating stainless steels to dramatically improve hardness and other performance characteristics.

"Because of Cleveland's history of precision metal fabrication and machining, we've always been able to rely on its diverse pool of talent," he says. "And the education system in Ohio has produced great engineers and business candidates."

But the learning doesn't stop when people are hired. The company hosts almost 100 classroom courses on a number of topics — including personal development, management and technical training.

Source: Jim Francis, Swagelok
Writer: Colin McEwen


Velocys puts pedal to the metal with energy, chemical expertise

Better. Faster. Cheaper. That's the credo in most industries, and especially the mega-dollar energy and chemical segments around the world – segments that keep all the others humming.

Velocys Inc., of Plain City, helps processors speed their products to market in the most efficient way. The key is proprietary "microchannel process technology" covered by more than 100 patents.

"Velocys chemical processors are characterized by parallel arrays of microchannels, with typical dimensions in the 0.01- to 0.20-inch range. Processes are intensified by decreasing transfer resistance between process fluids and channel walls. This structure allows use of more active catalysts than conventional systems, greatly increasing the throughput per unit volume. Overall system volumes can be reduced by ten- to one hundred- fold compared to conventional hardware," the company says on its web site.

In the area of next-generation biofuels, for example, Velocys' smaller, modular systems streamline procedures at refineries. Likewise, "microchanneling" helps makers of pharmaceuticals, food products, adhesives, and personal care products improve the emulsification steps of manufacturing.

A group of scientists and engineers developed that technology at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility operated by Battelle Memorial Institute. They founded Velocys in 2001, and seven years later became part of Oxford Catalysts Group plc, a UK corporation which designs and develops specialty catalysts for the generation of clean fuels from biomass and waste, as well as fossil sources.

Last year Velocys earned a $5-million Third Frontier Research Commercialization Program grant for improving biomass-to-liquid facilities. Also, the company was part of a consortium awarded $2.7 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance processing of biomass feedstock.

The company employs 60. Its growth plans for 2010 include beginning operations of its first field demonstration unit.

Source: Jeff McDaniel, Velocys
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs


Novolyte celebrates first year, adds jobs

Novolyte Technologies blew the candles out a little early to mark its first year in business, but the eagerness could be well understood: There was plenty to celebrate.

The manufacturer of products such as lithium battery electrolytes hired five people in Ohio (14 worldwide) in its first year, added $561,000 to the local payroll and plans to invest $750,000 at its Independence headquarters in 2010.

Spun off of from the chemical division of Ferro Corp., Novolyte consists of two business platforms: energy storage products (battery materials) and performance materials, says CEO Edward Frindt.

Among the uses for the performance materials are solvents and other specialty materials for pharmaceuticals, agricultural, coatings, inks and gas scrubbing. Frindt is also excited about the company's new green product line.

Those products are shaped at the Independence location, which doubles as a headquarters and a research/development facility.

Novolyte was awarded a $20.6-million grant from the Department of Energy and a $1.2-million Ohio Third Frontier Grant for the company's work on the "electrification of the auto industry."

"The company built its reputation on quality and service through custom manufacturing and established a loyal customer base by consistently meeting specific technical requirements," Frindt says.

Novolyte employes about 165 people, with 24 people in Independence, 90 at its Baton Rouge, La., facility and about another 50 at the company's plant in China.

"We have added 14 jobs in 2009, five in Ohio, during one of the worst recessions in several generations as we have continued to fund our growth plans," Frindt says.

Source: Edward Frindt, Novolyte
Writer: Colin McEwen


Hartzell Propeller grows from Wright Brothers tie to industry leadership

Aerospace companies with a colorful history are a dime a dozen. Aerospace companies with a tie to Orville Wright are something special.
 
Hartzell Propeller is the latter.

The company 's roots reach back to 1875, when John T. Hartzell founded a sawmill in Greenville, Ohio. The wood business took an upswing in 1917 when, amidst a growing airplane manufacturing industry, Hartzell's son, Robert, founded a wooden propeller blade business at his father's sawmill company, says Michael Disbrow, Hartzell senior vice president.

"The legend is that Orville Wright suggested the company start making wooden airplane blades," Disbrow says. "It had to do with a relationship with Orville Wright, who lived in Oakwood, two doors down (from Robert)."

While the fledging Hartzell Propeller never made blades directly for Orville Wright machines, the company did become an early supplier to the Dayton Wright Airplane Company, which purchased Wright's company when Orville left to pursue other interests.

Today, Hartzell seems worlds away from the early days of flight. Now headquartered in Piqua with 275 employees, Hartzell is a market leader in supplying both metal and lightweight composite blades for private and corporate aircraft.

Hartzell's website lists a fistful of firsts: the first composite blades in the 1940s; the first reversible blades, also in the '40s; the first full-feathering blades in the 1950s; the first practical turboprop blades in the 1960s.

In 1986, Hartzell manufactured the aluminum props that powered Burt Rutan's historic non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.

While Disbrow says the company was one of the pioneers in development of lightweight composite blades, "most of our props are still made from forged aluminum."

Customers include Hawker Beechcraft, Piper, Air Tractor and a number of others.

Source: Michael Disbrow, Hartzell Propeller
Writer: Gene Monteith


Firm focused on world's longest nanotube, job growth

Deploying new technology for growing the world's longest carbon nanotubes has created a world of possibilities for Cincinnati-based General Nano LLC in the aerospace/defense, biomedical, electronics and sensor industries.

Created in 2007 to advance the commercial application of groundbreaking research at the University of Cincinnati Nanoworld and Smart Materials and Devices Laboratory, General Nano is hoping to tap into the commercial market for the lab's creation of the world's longest carbon nanotubes, 18 mm.

Because of their excellent properties of electrical conductivity, heat resistance and extremely light weight, the nanotubes have tremendous commercial potential in such industries as aerospace, where lightweight conductive devices are highly desirable, says General Nano President and CEO Joe Sprengard, Jr.

In fact, General Nano has received phase I and II grants from the U.S. Air Force Small Business and Innovation Research Program of $400,000, plus an Imagining Grant of $25,000 from CincyTech.

The nanotubes, which are less than the thickness of human hair and float on ambient air, could eventually replace copper wire on aircraft and satellites, making them much lighter and more efficient, says Sprengard.

"About 4,000 pounds of the weight of a jet fighter is copper wire. Nanotubes would be a small fraction of that weight."

General Nano has four employees now and expects to double that number next year as it begins commercial manufacturing of the nanotubes. Sprengard said in addition to the jobs created at General Nano itself, there will be many more jobs created through the contract manufacturers that are chosen for the project, although he cannot name them yet.

Source: Joe Sprengard, General Nano
Writer: Val Prevish


Liquid Crystals Institute spawns jobs, revolutionizes industry

More than 40 years ago, researchers at Kent State University had an idea that liquid crystals could revolutionize modern technology. The soft, yet fluid, crystals could be aligned by electric charges, and voilε — crystal clear displays.

The idea was scoffed at — even ridiculed. Glenn Brown, the lead researcher on the project, was thought of as "crazy." But other Kent State researchers signed on. That mad-professor technology has morphed from a brilliant idea to a homegrown LCD Kent-made wristwatch, and into technology that has shaped the last few decades.

Modern televisions, cell phones and laptop computers are just a few of the products that simply could not exist without the innovation of the KSU Liquid Crystal Institute, says director Oleg Lavrentovich. He estimates that just last year the liquid crystal industry — for flat panel TVs alone — was worth about $140 billion. There are an estimated 1,000 jobs in Ohio related to the technology, and "tens of thousands" more around the globe

"The success story is not associated with the number of people employed, but the increased quality of life," Lavrentovich says. "Just about everything that carries information uses liquid crystal displays."

In 2008, the institute hauled in about $17 million in research dollars from state and federal agencies, divided among liquid crystal researchers around Ohio.

"Scientific exploration can lead to enormous economy impact in just a couple of decades," Lavrentovich says. "The 1960s in Kent is an example of that. From the first (liquid crystal) wristwatch in Kent to a $140 billion industry is just an illustration… it's mind-blowing."

Source: Oleg Lavrentovich
Writer: HiVelocity Staff


Wooster prof turns glass into gold, revolutionizing toxic cleanup options

Paul Edmiston, a chemistry professor at Wooster College, had been working on his experimental, patented nano-glass for a few years but couldn't quite figure out a way to market a product.

But thanks to a chance encounter on an airplane this past January with entrepreneur Stephen Spoonamore, that all changed.

Since then, Absorbent Materials Company has exceeded both of their expectations, creating a workforce of nine and manufacturing two operational products -- with a few more in development. By year's end, the reactive glass company hopes to pad its staff by as many as 10 additional employees -- including sales, engineering and production positions -- as the business continues to expand.

The mainstay of ABS Materials' product line is Osorb, a stable engineered silica capable of swelling to absorb eight times its weight in liquids. One of ABS Materials' products, Osorb Water Mesh, separates dirty, toxic water mined as a byproduct to gas and oil, using Edmiston's hi-tech, patented embedded glass mesh.

Another, Iron-Osorb TCE, soaks up and remediates excess chemicals in the ground near commercial production facilities.

During initial conversations, Spoonamore recalls Edmiston saying "No one is taking me seriously."

"I took his science very seriously," says Spoonamore, now chief executive officer of the firm. "I recognized his brilliance."

The company now has a lab in Wooster, as well as a production facility and office. ABS Materials hopes to add some labs at the Ohio State University in the coming year.

For its innovative work, ABS Materials was awarded a GLIDE award from the state, initial funding from private investors and is working with two initial customers on recovery and remediation operations.

Source: Stephen Spoonamore, Absorbent Materials Company
Writer: Colin McEwen


AlphaMicron's curved surface crystals gain attention of Air Force, snowboarders

In 1997, Bahman Taheri, Tamas Kosa and Peter Palffy were researchers at Kent State University's Liquid Crystal Institute. Then the U.S. Air Force came calling -- and the trio became businessmen.

The resulting company, AlphaMicron, Inc., set out to solve a nagging problem with the forward positioning of flight deck displays, says Kosa. Specifically, military pilots in a dogfight must always look forward, unable to turn their heads to look outside.

What if you projected the data on the inside of a pilot's visor instead? Problem one: No one had the technology to place a liquid crystal display on a curved surface like a visor. Problem two: The data needed to be visible even with the sun shining in the pilot's eyes. And it couldn't go dark if the pilot ejected.

"Our response was, let's start a company," says Kosa, now AlphaMicron's chief operating officer. (Taheri became AlphaMicron's chief executive officer and Palffy, who remains on staff at Kent State, is what Kosa describes as "a silent partner.")

AlphaMicron, based in Kent, solved the first problem by developing the world's only liquid crystal technology for curved surfaces. While the firm continues to perfect technology needed for a usable military visor, the 35-employee company is making waves with a line of "switchable" goggles that allow skiers and snowboarders to adjust to prevailing conditions.

Sun too bright? Push a button and dim your lenses. Sun behind a cloud? Push it again. Developed in collaboration with Uvex Sports in 2004, the goggles won a Popular Science "Best of What's New" award in 2004. Similar technology is now being used to commercialize switchable visors for other sports eyewear and motorcycle helmets, Kosa said.

Source: Tamas Kosa, AlphaMicron
Writer: Gene Monteith


American Trim adapts to modern marketplace, plans to add 60 jobs

Adapt or die, the saying goes. And had it not been for its ability to embrace changes in the marketplace, American Trim  would be a mere footnote to history rather than a cutting-edge 60-year-old manufacturing company.

American Trim began its life as Lima Tool and Die, a family-owned company that produced appliance handles for kitchen ranges. Today, the company is a leading supplier not only for the appliance trade, but also the heavy truck industry. An eagerness to stay on top of the latest technologies has made American Trim a pioneer in the areas of electromagnetic forming, digital printing and advanced surface modification.

Currently under development is a process called physical vapor deposition. This technology is used to deposit thin film coatings onto ferrous and non-ferrous substrates. In layman's terms, it creates a "near-chrome" finish that can be used to simulate stainless steel on refrigerators, ovens, washers and dryers. In the not-too-distant future, consumers can look forward to improved durability and beauty on a wide array of household appliances.

American Trim hopes to build a new production facility that will create 60 new jobs, replacing many lost to off-shoring. This facility is expected to generate annual revenues in the $12- to $14-million range.

American Trim's adaptability has landed the company more than $10 million in grant funding from the Ohio Third Frontier Wright Projects program, which provides grants to support specifically defined near-term commercialization projects. In collaboration with Lima's Rhodes State College, the company recently unveiled the Materials Deposition Center at its Lima facilities.

Source: American Trim, http://www.amtrim.com/news.asp
Writer: Douglas Trattner


Cleaner, cheaper, safer: Brighton Technologies making difference in coatings and films market

With all of the gains made in advanced manufacturing, some work still can be dirty, expensive and dangerous. But a Cincinnati area company is working to make manufacturing and medical processes safer, cleaner and less costly.

Brighton Technologies Group, in St. Bernard, has developed nearly a dozen new technologies including pretreatment, coatings and films for metals and wood. They include Oleophic Thin Films that prevent oil from clogging industrial filters, Water Resistant Thin Films that protect decorative metal surface finishes and Polymer Surface Treatment for tough-to-bond materials. All are designed to be cleaner and less hazardous to workers and the environment.

Brighton was founded in 1997 as an independent research and development consulting firm, but eventually evolved to improve and develop coatings for medical and airplane parts. BTG changed course when it invented a viable high performance alternative to the toxic, hazardous, and expensive chromate metal pretreatment processes most commonly used, the company says. Recognizing the gravity of the problem, the EPA and NSF provided substantial financial support for development of BTG's technology.

In June, Brighton was awarded $748,000 in Ohio Department of Development and Ohio Third Frontier grants to bring its Surface Energy Probe, or SEP, to market. The hand-held SEP assesses a surface's readiness for coating, printing and bonding to reduce work failure and rework costs. The automobile and packaging film industries are among those excited by this new technology.

"We plan to deliver beta versions to Lockheed-Martin, Boeing and the US Air Force before the end of the year," says Eric Oseas, BTG's Chief Operating Officer.

Brighton also is developing an anti-microbial coating for medical devices aimed at reducing infections that patients acquire in hospitals.

Source: Brighton Technologies Group news and Eric Oseas, Chief Operating Officer
Writer: Feoshia Henderson


Cleveland-area's GrafTech has feet planted squarely in both old and new economies

GrafTech International has one foot planted solidly in the past and the other in the future. The combination seems to be a winner.

The Parma-based company built its early reputation by supplying arc lights to Cleveland in the early 1900s -- making that city the first in the U.S. with electric street lights. Later, the company made it big in steel-making and continues to be a leading producer of graphite electrodes used in arc furnaces.

While industrial materials -- primarily steel-related graphite products -- constitute 85 percent of GrafTech's sales, the company is emerging as a high-tech innovator in Ohio's new economy.

Beginning in the 1970s, the company began working on products needed to drive a fuel-cell powered car, says Lionel Batty, GrafTech's director of research and product development. Today, 75 percent to 85 percent of all fuel cells -- including one inside the Buckeye Bullet 2, a speed-setting hydrogen fuel cell-powered car designed by Ohio State University engineering students -- have GrafTech components, he says.

But just in case you aren't using fuel cells, let's bring it down to earth. A pioneer in thin-film graphite, which is 50 percent more thermally conducive (meaning cooler) than copper and four times lighter, GrafTech has probably made its way into your home.

"Almost all cell phones have our material in them," Batty says.

And if you have a laptop computer or panel display television purchased in the past two years, chances are it's got GrafTech inside, too.

GraftTech's new economy efforts have attracted the attention of state-funded programs like the Ohio Third Frontier, which has provided funding for both fuel cell development and graphite nanocomposites for next generation electronics.

Source: Lionel Batty, GrafTech
Writer: Gene Monteith

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