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TecEdge, Air Force, collaborate on tough problems neither can crack alone

When industries and academians tackle tough problems, they often look to their own experience for answers. Ditto the military. If the TecEdge Innovation and Collaboration Center has its way, solutions will come not from silos, but from working together in cross-functional teams.

TecEdge and its sister organization, TecEdge Works Rapid Prototyping Laboratory, are part of the Wright Brothers Institute in Dayton. Recently relocated into bright new space next to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, TecEdge is hoping to break down barriers.

One way is through Discovery Forums, which are one- to- five day problem oriented sessions that bring together experts from diverse disciplines, says Wright Institute Director Les McFawn. Another is Resident Teams, which work at TecEdge for weeks or months -- or in some cases full time -- to intensely collaborate on problems, to experiment and to reach the initial stages of prototyping.

McFawn says it's not just the Air Force that benefits from the programs; "We had a commercial and industry partner on the very first project that we ran in the Discovery Lab. At the conclusion of the program were able to take what they had learned and apply it commercially."

In the meantime, both the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and TecEdge have teamed up to help develop the next generation of scientists and engineers, McFawn says. Summer at the Edge began three years ago with 15 students ranging from high school through Ph.D. Enrollment grew to more than 60 last summer. The AFRL is also sponsoring a new program called Wright Scholars in which students from the Dayton area spend time learning about technology needed for the future.

Source: Les McFawn, Wright Brothers Institute
Writer: Gene Monteith

Applied Optimization credits Dayton tech environment for growth

Like many start ups, Dayton's Applied Optimization Inc. was a case of smart folks deciding to work for themselves.

"I always worked very, very long hours, and was never home. So my wife said If you're going to work this much, you should start your own business," says company founder and Principal Scientist Anil Chaudhary, an MIT grad.

Chaudhary left a job in Air Force-related research to launch Applied Optimization in 1995. The specialized company uses computational mathematics to develop new generation manufacturing processes for the aerospace and manufacturing industries, eliminating trial and error. These new processes can reduce manufacturing costs while increasing efficiency. Clients include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing and Edison Welding Institute.

A more off-the-beaten-path application for the company's mathematical wizardry is in space sciences. Tamara Payne, the company's principal scientist, noted in December that the company has catalogued 36,000 pieces of space junk that can now be tracked in a less expensive and more timely manner.

The company has 11 full- and part-time employees, including three who were hired last year. Chaudhary says the company's move into the Dayton Entrepreneur Center in 2002 has helped it grow.

"The ability to speak with people in the corridor who have similar problems is very helpful. Also there are support services that are provided; if I have a question they will point me to right person," Chaudhary says.

"The federal customers and Air Force base are here in Dayton, and those were important factors. But the support that is here in the city for this kind of work is very encouraging and positive," he says.

Source: Anil Chaudhary and Tamara Payne, Applied Optimization
Writer: Feoshia Henderson and Gene Monteith

Dayton Aerospace Hub moves forward

The pieces are beginning to fall into place as Dayton prepares to leverage its recent designation as Ohio's Aerospace Hub.

In September, Gov. Ted Strickland and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher announced the first of what could be as many as a dozen Ohio Hubs of Innovation and Opportunity that promote urban revitalization and sustainable regional growth.

Dayton's selection is expected to create new companies, strengthen existing partnerships and attract new investment based on Ohio's research, development, and industry assets, including The University of Dayton and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Since September, a board representing five major partners --- the University of Dayton, the City of Dayton, Montgomery County, the Citywide Development Corporation and the Dayton Development Coalition -- has been laying the groundwork for development of a strategic plan that will guide efforts going forward.

While UD serves as lead partner, "it wouldn't be possible without the critical role of the other partners," says John Leland, director of the UD's Research Institute.

Adam Murka, communications director for the Dayton Development Coalition, notes that "Dayton achieved this designation because of how well folks in this region are working together. They really buy in, and that's very exciting."

Mickey McCabe, Vice President of Research and the UDRI's executive director adds that the hub designation is aimed not just at developing business partnerships, but an infrastructure of both business and quality-of-life components that "create a place where people can work, live, eat and play."

McCabe and Leland say a strategic board is starting to come together, after which an executive director will be hired and work on a strategic plan begun. While the hub begins work with $250,000 provided by the state, at least three times that will be needed for the first three years. Leland says the balance will be raised by the five partners.

Sources: Mickey McCabe and John Leland, University of Dayton; Adam Murka, Dayton Development Coalition
Writer: Gene Monteith

Silfex provides unique technology jobs for west-central Ohio

In the middle of Preble County, surrounded by the small town of Eaton and the cornfields beyond, stands an anomaly: Silfex. An anomaly because, as one of only a handful of U.S.-based companies that grow silicon crystals, you might not expect to find it here.

Yet, Silfex has managed to grab more than half the world-wide market for custom silicon parts used in machines that make memory and logic components -- at the same time other U.S.-based companies have found the required investment too daunting or been content to leave the business to foreign firms, says Michael Snell, general manager.

Silfex, a division of Lam Research Corp., started life in 1971 as Bullen Ultrasonics, a family-run business that specialized in ultrasonic machining technologies. In 1999, silicon crystal manufacturing was added. In 2006, Fremont, Calif.-based Lam Research Corp. -- one of Bullen's major customers -- purchased the company's silicon-growing and fabrication operations.

Silfex recently completed a large expansion of its silicon-growing operations and enhanced its capabilities for bonding, cleaning and clean room manufacturing. It employs some 250 in Eaton and another 50 at a sister plant in China, Snell says.

Snell says there are lots of good reasons to keep Silfex in Eaton, including the fact that "when you get to be this size, it's extremely costly to move. But our workforce is also an advantage. We have the experience and the work ethic in this area that we need."

He says the fact that Ohio has enjoyed relatively low electricity costs is another advantage. The silicon furnaces used to melt raw material and grow silicon into large, glassy crystals use megawatts of electricity -- so much that Snell says Dayton Power and Light plans to build a substation nearby.

Source: Michael Snell, Silfex
Writer: Gene Monteith

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

Heater Meals adds self-heating drinks to the mix

Innotech Products Ltd., already known to scores of soldiers and survivalists as the Heater Meals company, has begun offering a self-heating beverage kit.

Cafe2Go enables people to make 18 servings of hot coffee, tea or cocoa without striking a match or turning on an appliance. Its target users are police and firefighters, Red Cross workers and the disaster victims they assist, and even, on a lesser but albeit happier note, campers and tailgaters. Now, at any hour and under any circumstances, you can get the comfort that only a steaming jolt of joe can bring, says Dave Blandford, marketing director for the privately owned Cincinnati-area company.

Heat for the drinks and meals is produced when the user mixes salted water with a patented packet of powdered iron and magnesium. The simple exothermic reaction raises the existing temperature of the products around it by 100 degrees within about 10 minutes. In the case of Heater Meals for consumer use, that's enough warmth to turn an envelope of preserved food (tasty offerings like green pepper steak with rice or vegetarian pasta fagioli) into a decent dish.

Meals for military personnel are formulated with different calorie and nutrient contents for their special needs. For those purposes, Innotech provides the heater packets but not the food, Blandford notes. The company estimates its packets have heated about 1.5 billion meals. The used packets are biodegradable.

HeaterMeals are intended for a long shelf life. The "EX" line for extended storage last up to five years.

Innotech/HeaterMeals was founded in 1990. Blandford says the largest group of customers are military/government agencies; the earliest and longest-running fans of Heater Meals are truckers. Other buyers: hospitals, and social service agencies that aid homeless and elderly people. (HeaterMeals are donated to a local foodbank, too.)

The company employs 50 in Hamilton County.

Source: Dave Blandford, Innotech Products/Heater Meals
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs

From wooden legs to advanced prosthetics, Willow Wood changes with times

While recent economic woes have forced a number of established businesses to shutter, one long-lived Ohio manufacturer is thriving through innovation.

Ohio Willow Wood USA, in rural Mt. Sterling, manufactures several high-quality prosthetics. Started in 1905, the company, located just southwest of Columbus, has come a long way from founder William Edwin Arbogast's hand-carved artificial limbs. Arbogast, who lost his legs in a railroad accident, founded the company after being dissatisfied with other available artificial limbs.

Fast forward to today. Ohio Willow Wood is not only an industry leader in manufacturing but in distribution and development.

"Ohio Willow Wood's research and development team is constantly exploring and developing new product opportunities, testing new product designs, as well as enhancing current products for continual maximum performance," says company spokeswoman Lisa Watkins.

Landmark products include the Sterling Stump Sock (1921), Carbon Copy II Foot (1984), Alpha Liners (1995), the Pathfinder Foot (2001) and LimbLogic VS (2007).

The company employs 168, in engineering/R&D, prosthetists, accounting, IT and more. Willow Wood soon will hire a quality manager and a certified prosthetist/orthotist. Several state grants helped the company with ongoing worker training, including a $17,500 of an 2009 Ohio Department Jobs and Family Service training grant.

"The products developed by Ohio Willow Wood provide comfort and assist consumers in leading a functionally normal lifestyle, all of which allows Ohio Willow Wood to grow and succeed," Watkins said.

Source: Lisa Watkins, Ohio Willow Wood spokeswoman
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

Display refurbisher doubles employee base in Batavia

CKS Solution, Inc. in southwest Ohio's Batavia Township is a story of a fast-growing, innovative manufacturing startup founded in February 2008.

Since its founding, CKS has more than doubled its U.S. workforce from 26 earlier this year to 57 today. That kind of growth earned it Cincy Magazine's Manny Award for job growth. The Manny's celebrate growth and innovation in manufacturing.

CKS high-tech video display service provider repairs and services plasma televisions for well-known companies like Samsung SDI and LG and Dell. The company also customizes video displays, and provides warehouse, warranty and software application services to customers.

Housed in a 72,000-square-foot space, including a 20,000-square-foot environmentally controlled repair area, and 30,000-square-foot warehouse, CKS also has a branch in Seoul, Korea to make it highly accessible to its Asian client base.

"If something happens to your display, it will come here and we'll remanufacture it. And when you receive a replacement product, many of its pieces come from here," said CKS co-founder James Braun, who has worked in the remanufacturing industry for 15 years. "There are some companies that do a portion of what we do however our methods and machinery are one-of-a-kind -- we custom designed and built them for efficiency and we are the only independent plasma remanufacturing company in the U.S."

CKS chose to locate in Cincinnati because of its proximity to a majority of the U.S. population, the site selection help of Clermont County economic development officials and the region's workforce skill level.

Source: James Braun, CKS Solution
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

Kaivac keeps it clean, without harmful chemicals

Can you have the best of both worlds? Kaivac thinks so.

The Butler County-based company has found a way for janitors and other personnel to not just clean but sanitize the most grungy items without directly touching them -- all with use of "green" chemicals. The key is a high-pressure fan spray, then vacuum extraction and a recovery tank.

An independent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab recently confirmed two Kaivac products are effective sanitizing devices that, when used as directed, reduce E. coli, C. difficile, MRSA, pseudomonas, and salmonella bacteria by 99.9 percent.

"To date, we've sold approximately 30,000 units on every inhabitable continent. The vast majority of the business is in North America," says spokesman Robert Kravitz. "The primary segments are: K-12 schools (approximately 65 percent), higher education (approximately 10 percent), and building service contractors (approximately 10 percent)."

Business has risen since summer, as the public becomes more aware of the threat of a flu pandemic, he said.

Kaivac has 40 full-time employees. Last year, the company purchased a larger facility and moved its manufacturing and R&D functions there; the rest of the Kaivac will follow in the next year or two, according to Kravitz. "Kaivac will remain in Hamilton," he said.

CEO Robert Robinson is among executives included in the book, "The Success Effect: Uncommon Conversations with America's Business Trailblazers" by Cincinnati-area author John Eckberg. It is available on Amazon.com

Robertson and his wife, Carlene, are also majority owners of Hamilton-based Valley Janitor Supply Co.

Source: Robert Kravitz, Kaivac
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs

Dayton-area startup hits stride with heat-transfer technology

Imagine the typical American teenager. He or she is wearing a t-shirt that bears the image of a celebrity and may be chewing fruit-flavored gum or printing photos from a home computer.

That image makes Ibrahim Katampe and Emmanual Itapson very happy, because it personifies their dream for Iya Technologies.

"We can become a part of every facet of life," says Itapson.

The men, CEO and senior vice president, respectively, of the Dayton-area company, are responsible for heat-transfer papers (to put pictures on fabric), microencapsulation of things like flavors in gum, and photo imaging papers. "We are a technology company that specializes in product development, providing solutions," says Katampe.

The patented heat transfer paper technology has been licensed to a Fortune 500 company. Though Katampe said Iya has agreed not to disclose the name of that company, he said Iya's innovations are in products sold under that company's name in office supply and craft stores across the U.S.

Since its formation in July, 2004, Iya has grown from one employee to 10, with more expected. Katampe expects the specialty papers and microencapsulation businesses will expand greatly. Soon, the company will move from Kettering to The Mound Advanced Technology Center in Miamisburg.

One thing's for sure. Iya will remain in Ohio. Itapson says support from economic development programs conducted by the state, Montgomery County, and Dayton has won their loyalty. "All the businesses in the area support and embrace us. If our experience is a measuring stick, as many other entrepreneurs as possible should move to Ohio," he says. "We would shout it from the rooftops."

Sources: Ibrahim Katampe and Emmanual Itapson, Iya Technologies
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs

Color Savvy: on watch to bury the swatch

If you've ever come home from the hardware store with hundreds of little stamp-sized paint color swatches and tried to match them to your couch or carpet then you'll appreciate a new product that Miamisburg-based Color Savvy Systems Limited is introducing next year.

Founded in 1993, Miamisburg-based Color Savvy has been seeing tremendous success with its original product, Color-Helper, that uses digital technology to find a matching color for any item in a room.

It works by taking a picture of the item, and then, using mathematical equations, precisely identifying the color and also colors that closely match it from a data base of more than 18,000 possibilities.

Color-Helper has primarily been sold to the commercial contractor market and has been a sales success around the world, causing Color Savvy's revenues to double each year since 1999, except for 2009 due to the economy, says CEO Gary Bodnar.

With the launch of a new, less expensive version of Color-Helper aimed at the retail market in the first quarter of next year, Bodnar says he expects to see even greater sales growth.

"The consumer market is 100 times bigger than the commercial contractor market," says Bodnar of the potential sales.

The development of the new consumer tool was made possible in large part by a nearly $1-million grant from the Innovation Ohio Loan Fund.

Without that Ohio Third Frontier loan, Bodnar says the research and launch efforts would have been impossible during the slow economy of this year.

As revenues increase after the roll-out next year, Bodnar says he expects to hire a few more employees, but he is still cautious about adding staff too quickly from his current employee base of six.

"If the economy improves then we will be adding a few select positions," he says.

Source: Gary Bodner, Color Savvy
Writer: Val Prevish

Dry ice blasting systems: Not your mama’s Hoover

They're lean. They're green. They're cleaning machines, made by Cold Jet of Loveland, Ohio.

The company specializes in dry ice blasting systems. These machines make carbon dioxide pellets and shoot them through special nozzles at high pressure to remove unwanted material from a wide array of surfaces. Upon impact, the pellets return to gas and dissipate.

Applications include general maintenance, mold remediation, manufacturing environments, aerospace and power generation projects and historical landmarks.

According to company spokesman Kevin Wilson, many users prefer this process because it's simple and environmentally responsible – no chemicals or water are used. And there's no secondary waste. The process is especially useful in commercial bakeries and other sites where moisture from traditional cleaning can affect product outcomes. Customers in EPA-, FDA- and USDA- inspected facilities across the country use it, Wilson says.

Another market is finishing medical devices; pressurized CO2 smoothes edges without abrasion, making it superior to traditional techniques.

Recently, Cold Jet received a five-year General Services Administration contract, enabling use of dry ice blast cleaning and production systems for certain government buildings and equipment.

Cold Jet is headquartered in Ohio and has operations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Canada and Mexico. Next month, in Frankfurt, Germany, the company will exhibit its products at EuroMold, an expo for the injection molding industry. It employs 75 locally and 110 globally.

Source: Kevin Wilson, Cold Jet
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs

Picture becomes clearer with QED's job-creating MRI innovations

Hearts beat, lungs expand and patients squirm, all factors that can cause a magnetic resonance imaging machine to produce blurry images. And when it comes to detecting potentially cancerous tissues, a blurry MRI scan is not a good thing.

Quality Electrodynamics, located in Mayfield Village, is helping companies like Siemens and Toshiba produce machines that scan in a much shorter period of time, resulting in crisper, clearer images. Founded by Hiroyuki Fujita, QED manufactures the radio frequency coils that have made these machines the platinum standard of the industry.

"These machines are setting the standard for spatial resolution," explains Fujita, the company's president. "By producing better images of a patient's anatomy, we can find cancerous tissues that may be impossible to detect otherwise." QED crafts a variety of coils that are optimized for different parts of the body.

What began in a 300-square-foot incubator space at the Case Western Reserve University physics department is now a 27,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. In four short years, the company expanded from just two employees to more than 50. Things are going so well for QED, says Fujita, that he expects the company to double it staff in the next two years.

While Fujita deserves credit for the success of his company, he says that he couldn't have done it without help from the State of Ohio. "Without the Third Frontier grant for our business," he explains, "we never could have remained financially independent. Thanks to the state, we didn't have to raise any funds from venture capital companies."

Source: Hiroyuki Fujita, QED
Writer: Douglas Trattner

From salami to HERO, robot entrepreneur isn't talking sandwiches

When Mike Cardarelli was a University of Cincinnati mechanical engineering technology major, he only hoped that he could design a good salami-rolling machine for his senior project.

Now? He's the man behind the HERO – a Hazardous Environment Robot Observer being used by authorities all across the country.

Cardarelli's Amelia, Ohio-based company, First-Response Robotics, produces agile, mobile robots that are special not only because they detect chemical and biological hazards, but because they can transmit their data and video live. Previously, robots had to be decontaminated and their data downloaded for analysis before authorities could proceed.

A HERO is not like what we've seen in movies. For example, "Bomb disposal robots are large; they grab the threat and dispose it," Cardarelli says. These robots are more sophisticated.

The HERO can lift more than 100 pounds and travel 10 feet per second. It can climb stairs. If it topples over, it can right itself. Features include night-vision cameras, arms that extend to 35 inches, and two-way communication. One even has been adapted with a special shelf, enabling it to safely deliver pizza to hostages.

Customers include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and numerous law enforcement departments. Plus, a construction company has been looking into using one of Cardarelli's robots to more safety and accurately make chalk lines for placing main support beams on high-rise buildings. Human error was 1/8 of an inch; HERO error was 1/16 in a test, Cardarelli says.

"And the unions approved of the idea."

Source: Mike Cardarelli, First-Response Robotics
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs

Appalachian Trail inspires iPhone power, leads to new jobs

Like many great stories, this one starts along the Appalachian Trail.

Making his way down the famed footpath, Tremont Electric, LLC owner Aaron LeMieux realized that his movement was generating loads of kinetic energy, evidenced by the annoying abrasions that appeared where his backpack met his hips. If only there was a way to harness that energy, he mused, and apply it to something more useful than blisters.

A few prototypes later, LeMieux had perfected nPower™, a technology that converts simple motion into electricity. The first commercial application of that technology is the PEG (personal energy generator), a lightweight gadget that can power handheld electronic devices. Slipped into a backpack – or purse or briefcase – the PEG charges iPhones, Blackberrys or GPS units via USB cable with every step its owner takes.

While other kinetic energy generators exist, none are as elegant, refined or practical as the PEG. Weighing just nine ounces, the slender cylinder-shaped unit charges mobile devices at the same rate as a wall outlet. Goodbye bulky back-up batteries; goodbye dead devices. 

The PEG was a hit at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and Tremont Electric was included in BusinessWeek's recent feature on "America's Most Promising Startups." Production is expected to begin in October of this year, but already there have been over 1,000 preorders online at $149 each.

Jessica Davis, Tremont's director of sustainability, says the Cleveland-based company hopes to add 16 employees in 2010 and twice that by 2011. And those figures don't take into account secondary and tertiary job growth at suppliers.

Source: Jessica Davis
Writer: Douglas Trattner

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