Engineering :Innovation & Job News

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Sakti3 to invest $1.1 million in Ann Arbor move, create 112 jobs

Electric cars are considered a big piece of the global warming solutions puzzle. And now that battery technology is starting to catch up with consumer demand, it's only a matter of time before internal combustion goes the way of the dinosaur.

But finding batteries tough enough to withstand the beating cars take everyday isn't easy either.

Enter Sakti3, a start-up company that specializes in, you guessed it, high-powered batteries tough enough for the everyday car. The firm plans to invest $1.1 million in Ann Arbor to commercialize a manufacturing process for the development of high-power batteries, primarily in electric vehicles.

The technology came from the company's CEO, Ann Marie Sastry, research position at the University of Michigan. The investment is expected to create 112 new jobs in the company.

To help make this happen, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation awarded Sakti3 a $2.3 million tax break over 10 years. This played a significant role in helping keep the aspiring business in Michigan instead of letting it slip out to California.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ricardo opens hybrid battery center in Van Buren Township, to hire 32

Hybrid, hybrid, hybrid. It's the new it technology that is the envy of the automotive world and is turning into a cash cow for southeast Michigan.

Ricardo, a tech firm with a special focus on developing battery systems for hybrid and electrical cars, plans to invest more than $2 million to create a Battery Systems Development Center in Van Buren Township where the company has its North American headquarters and already employs more than 200 people.

The investment includes refurbishing space at the company's building where it has been for 14 years. The new center is expected to create 32 jobs and another 16 spin-off jobs.

"There's no question that southeast Michigan is the nerve center of advanced research and development for the automotive industry," says Dean Harlow, president of Ricardo. "Ricardo considered our locations world wide before determining the U.S. was the most advantageous to invest in this technology. A detailed assessment was performed between our Chicago and Detroit facilities, both of which had different advantages and disadvantages. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Van Buren Township worked hard to make it attractive to bring these additional jobs to Michigan, and we really appreciate their support in making this decision."

The center will focus on developing battery packs for cars. No stretch for Ricardo, which specializes in eco-innovation. For example, the firm works to lower emissions while making vehicles more fuel efficient.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation gave Ricardo a $991,000 state tax credit that will last the next 10 years. That incentive, along with a $75,000 tax credit from Van Buren Township, helped persuade Ricardo to choose Metro Detroit over another site in Chicago where it has a technical center.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Ricardo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti's ShadePlex ready to launch, looks to add five

A glass of beer, a good friend and a hot summer's night. That’s the genesis of the idea behind the ShadePlex startup in Ypsilanti.

ShadePlex is a company that specializes in making tents with solar panels built into them. Brian Tell, the president and co-founder of the company, came up with the idea two years ago while drinking beer on his porch with his brother in-law from Iowa and talking about ways to lessen global warming.

"He went back to Iowa and I became obsessed," Tell says.

That obsession turned into ShadePlex. The idea is to sew solar-cell enabled fabrics into larger tents, such as those used by retailers to shade outdoor customers. That way the solar heat that would normally bounce off the blacktop of a parking lot is used to generate large amounts of electricity. In this case a 90 square foot panel can generate between 200 and 500 watts of electricity.

"So instead of a basic shade canopy they might use our product so they can still provide some shade and generate some electricity for their building," Tell says.

Tell and co-founder Jeff Peelman have been toiling to make the idea work for the last couple of years. But this year they expect to breakout and start hiring as many as five people by the start of next year, up to a dozen by 2011. Their business plan calls for $15 million in revenue by 2012, which Tell says is a conservative estimate.

"We’ve been boot strapping it up until now, but we’re looking to begin an angel seed round," Tell says. "We’ve been doing well, but now we’re looking for some help to get us to the next step.”"

This will be quite a few steps from the conversation over a beer on a hot night that started it all, but only the first few steps in what the ShadePlex guys hope will be a long journey.

Source: Brian Tell, president and co-founder of ShadePlex
Writer: Jon Zemke

Secure-24 on track to double staff by year's end

Judging by Secure-24's track record lately, one would think the word growth or some derivative of it would be the company's middle name.

The Southfield-based information security provider is adding roughly one person per week and expects to double its employee base to 140 by the end of the year ... as long at its 100 percent revenue growth continues (as it has for the last several years).

That growth might also explain why Secure-24 has been named as one of Michigan's 50 Companies to Watch by the Edward Lowe Foundation.

The firm manages the IT of financial, payroll and logistic services for companies like Foresee Results and GM Racing, among others.

"We are the head of the dragon when it comes to IT," says Matt Wenzler, a vice president with Secure-24. "We run all of the infrastructure and let them run their business."

The company was formed in 2000 by two men, Matthias Horch and Volker Straub, who relocated from Germany. The pair decided to locate to Metro Detroit over California.

Source: Matt Wenzler, vice president of Secure-24
Writer: Jon Zemke

IPG Photonics sets up laser facility in Novi, plans to hire 12

"You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!" -- Dr. Evil

Novi will miss out on the sharks (and the ill-tempered, mutated sea bass unfortunately) but the lasers beams are on their way now what IPG Photonics is setting up a facility in Metro Detroit this year.

The developer and manufacturer of high-performance fiber lasers is renovating a 17,000-square-foot building on Magellan Drive in Novi. It plans to set up four new application labs in the space. Those labs will house high-powered lasers and robots that will help develop parts for the automotive and medical device industries.

To help supplement this growth, IPG Photonics plans to hire about a dozen engineers over the next year. They will work in either the Novi location or the building in Wixom the firm already leases.

Source: Bill Shiner, vice president with IPG Photonics
Writer: Jon Zemke 

Industrial Control Repair triples in size, adds learning institute

What kid hasn't tried to build a robot with a cardboard box, miscellaneous wires and an old calculator?

Industrial Control Repair is trying to capitalize on that fascination by opening up a Learning Institute to help students start a career in robotics.

The school will give students a hands-on opportunity to learn about robotics in actual professional situations. Students will get a foot in the door of an industry that has become integrated with everything from manufacturing to medicine and hazardous waster removal.

"We believe in helping people gain the skills necessary to be successful in their career and prepare for future demands on the workforce," says Cindy Lang, the director of the Learning Institute.

It also helps that the Warren-based company, formed in 92, is enjoying quite a bit of success that makes this possible. The robotics company has grown from about $10 million in revenues in 2002 to $32 million last year. It hopes to bump up those revenues a few more million this year, too.

More jobs have come with that growth --to the tune of 145 people. ICP expects to add another dozen positions by the end of the year.

"The company has almost tripled in size," says Larry Obermesik, vice president of IT for Industrial Control Repair. "It’s been crazy."

Source: Larry Obermesik, vice president of IT for Industrial Control Repair
Writer: Jon Zemke

Robotics competition heats up in Detroit March 13-15

Beep! Clank! Whirr! 

Let's get ready to rumble!

The Detroit Regional branch of the annual FIRST Robotics Competition will heat up from March 13 to 15 at Wayne State University. Thirty-two teams are registered from high schools all over southeast Michigan -- from Berkley to Hamtramck to Detroit to Pontiac to Dearborn.

California-based Autodesk began sponsoring the competition 17 years ago, not just for fun and games, but to attract teens to careers in engineering. The school teams are linked in with area corporations -- like Ford, Chrysler, GM and DTE Energy -- which puts the students in direct interaction with professional engineers.

Why go through the trouble? A steady decline in math and science score among US students coupled with a growing number of engineers retiring each year could spell a disaster for this country's math and science industries.

And FIRST appears to be working. A Brandeis University study proved that FIRST students were three times more likely than their peers to major in engineering.

This link takes you to the Detroit Regional site, where you can check out the team websites (Recommended: L'anse Creuse and Rochester Adams.). Later this month, 63 teams will compete in Ypsilanti in the Great Lakes Regional.

Regional winners will advance to the FIRST Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, being held April 17 to 19. Last year, four local schools -- Detroit Country Day, Lake Orion, Saginaw and Berkley -- made the trip down south.

Source: Autodesk
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Puritan Automation grows business, to add 6 this year

More business, more partnerships, more staff. Those are the things Wixom-based Puritan Automation is looking forward to this year.

The specialized test and manufacturing equipment provider has secured a number of large projects in the automotive industry, such as automotive heating systems. The new business has meant the company can hire three people so far this year and looks to add another six by the end of the year.

On top of that Puritan expects to double its revenue this year, from $2 to $4 million, as it transitions into more custom work that relies on knowledge-based jobs.

"The only thing that is not leaving the state is research and development," says John Kurt, operations manager for Puritan. "What we're trying to do is focus more of our efforts in the research field."

Not bad for a company that started out as a machine screw company in the 1950s before transitioning to more robotics and testing in the 1980s. Earlier this decade the 15-person firm began focusing on more niche, custom work involving testing and robotics.

The company is developing a new global test system standard for automotive components and establishing itself as an associate alliance partner with National Instruments. Its also working to integrate FANUC Robotics (think the lonely robot from the GM Superbowl commercial) into the manufacturing and testing process.

Source: John Kurt, operations manager for Puritan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Azure Dynamics to build hybrid trucks and vans, will add up to 50

While some people are trying to build a better mousetrap, Azure Dynamics is trying to build a better hybrid truck.

The Oak Park-based firm that specializes in hybrid technology will supply the hybrid powertrains to Indiana-based Utilimaster. Those powertrains will be a major component in building the next generation of hybrid vans, commercial trucks and utility vehicles. Think delivery vans, shuttle buses and the Ford's E-Series vans.

This new business looks to be paying off well for Metro Detroit. Azure, which just moved its headquarters here last fall, plans to hire as many as 50 people within the next couple of years to add to the 15 new workers it brought to Oak Park last year.

"We just started hiring in Michigan. There is significant talent in Metro Detroit," says Steven Glaser, vice president of corporate affairs for Azure. "It's an ideal place for us because so many of our partners are situated here and there is such a deep talent pool here."

Azure strategically targeted commercial vans, delivery trucks and shuttle buses to create its own niche in the competitive hybrid market. It is also planning to expand internationally.

The company has rights to more than 20 patents and employs more than 100 people in four locations across North America. It received the Deloitte Technology Green 15 Award last year and the Sustainable Energy Pioneer Award in 2006.

Source: Steven Glaser, vice president of corporate affairs for Azure Dynamics
Writer: Jon Zemke

General Dynamics invests $10 million in Macomb, creates 500 new jobs

Jobs, jobs and more jobs. That's what's promised with a $10 million investment by General Dynamics Land Systems, which makes armored vehicles for the U.S. military.

The Sterling Heights-based company plans to expand its operations in both Sterling Heights and Shelby Township, creating 500 jobs and 649 spin-off jobs over the next 12 years.

Michigan beat out competing states like Virginia and Florida and even the Canadian province of Ontario for the project. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and local municipalities approved $44 million in tax breaks and incentives to make the deal happen.

"This project will result in the immediate creation of new jobs and laboratory facilities and the possibility exists for continued growth," says David K. Heebner, president of General Dynamics Land Systems. "After comparing Michigan's state tax credits both nationally and internationally, it made the most business sense for General Dynamics to continue our commitment in Michigan."

General Dynamics Land Systems formed in 1982 when Falls Church, Va.-based parent General Dynamics Corp. acquired Chrysler Corp.'s defense operations. General Dynamics Land Systems has 8,000 employees in 12 states. General Dynamics employs 83,500 worldwide and reported 2007 revenues of $27.2 billion. It is a leader in production of land and amphibious combat systems, mission-critical information systems and technologies, shipbuilding and marine systems and business aviation.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mercedes-Benz plans for $5m expansion

smartcarMercedes-Benz may have big plans for Ann Arbor. The automaker is considering adding new services to its Ann Arbor facility in addition to an expansion already underway. This would increase Mercedes' local staff from 13 to about 17 and includes testing the Smart Fourtwo, which went on sale earlier this month.


Mercedes wants to bring about four product engineers from its corporate base in Germany to help develop cars for the United States market. The Ann Arbor site would join a facility in Long Beach as the only two in North America with those capabilities, said Chuck Cetnar, a laboratory quality engineer.

Read the entire article here.

AKT Peerless merges environmental services with incentive assessment, doubles staff over past decade

Until the mid-90's, there wasn't much reason to redevelop contaminated property. That changed for two reasons: legislation was enacted that dealt with dangling liability issues and federal and state incentives were designed to entice developers to once-untouchable land and buildings.

Wisely, AKT Peerless began to examine ways to help developers... well... develop these types of properties and buildings.

With that in mind, the company decided to expand their focus which, at that time, was solely engaged in the assessment side of environmental services. Sensing the change a-coming, AKT started to hire experts in incentives from places like the MEDQ and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

AKT can now walk hand in hand with a client, whether it be a developer or a municipality, in locating and assessing properties, getting brownfield authorities off the ground and identifying and securing financial incentives towards property redevelopment.

Incentives that AKT works with include: brownfield tax increment financing and single business tax credits, the obsolete property rehabilitation act, fast track land bank authorities, MEDQ brownfield redevelopment grants and loans, Renaissance and Enterprise Zones, EPA brownfield assessment and cleanup grants and loans, New Market Tax Credits and historic tax credits.

"We look for where the financial gap on a project is coming from," says Corey Leon, the firm's director of incentives. "And we try to find a way of filling that gap."

Their approach has helped grow the firm from 20 people with $2 million in sales annually to one that employs nearly 50 and will reach $7.5 million in sales this year. It staffs offices in Detroit, Farmington, Lansing and Saginaw.

Tony Kashat, the firm's principal, says things have really changed at AKT in the last decade. "We're not just dealing with science," he says. He is aware that each project the company is involved with has the potential to change the landscape of a city or neighborhood. "We're helping create redevelopment, a tax base and jobs -- another anchor in an area that can then be built off of."

Sources: Tony Kashat, Corey Leon and Rebecca Savage, AKT Peerless
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Universal Parametrics moves into new facility, hiring 6

It’s a standard question in the metromode interview – are you hiring? Do you plan to hire anytime soon? (It’s not called the Innovation and Jobs News column for nothing.)  For Steve Frey of Universal Parametrics, Inc., the answer was simple: “We’re looking to fill six positions, immediately,” he says. “We are desperately seeking people.”

Ann Arbor-based Universal Parametrics, founded in 1999 to provide design and finite analysis services, has been on an upswing, growing exponentially over the years and recently moving into a new, 5,000-square-foot facility that Frey says gives the company room to work.

The new building, located on Highland Drive, includes a training center separate from the company offices, room for visiting companies to work and a shop where UP engineers can examine equipment.

Finding people to fill the space has been something of a challenge.

“Our biggest growth has been in sales staff,” he says. “When we started out in 1999, we did project work, where a company would hire us to work on a new design. Over the course of the last nine years, we expanded that, and we’re selling two different brands of software now."

Highly-qualified technical experts aren’t easy to come by, he says.

“Our customers look for very specific qualifications,” Frey says. The company is currently looking to fill six positions, five newly-created.

Source: Steve Frey, Universal Parametrics
Writer: Nancy Kaffer

Creative Tech grew by 45 in '07

As company growth goes, Creative Technology Services is on a stellar trajectory. Purchased from parent company MSX International just two years ago by the Creative Tech management team, the company is following a carefully-mapped growth plan obtaining new clients, launching a new company and adding 45 new positions in 2007 alone.

Canton-based Creative Tech is a contract assembler focused on the medical device marketplace primarily dealing with major players like the Johnson & Johnson companies, explains Vice-President of Sales and Customer Service Jim Smyth. For years, Creative Tech has done major assembly of the iBot, a smart wheelchair invented by Segway guru Dean Kamen that can climb stairs and master curbs.

Smyth says the company has recently obtained new contracts, such as life sciences corp MacuChek to assemble the MacuScope. The MacuScope is the first commercial instrument capable of accurately measuring and tracking macular protective pigment density (MPPD) in the center of the eye, according to the company’s Web site.

In the past, Smyth says, Creative Tech has only assembled such devices, but is expanding into another market sector.

“We’re also in the process of launching a new company, Next Mobility, which is basically a distribution company for mobility devices for the disabled,” Smyth says.

The company’s 45 new jobs, he says, have been added across the board – quality technicians, engineering staff, program managers, assembly techs, marketing support for Next Mobility, product developers, designers, and has added members to the customer service team and complaint-handling department, required for the company’s top-level Food and Drug Administration certification.

"We expect that we will continue to grow," Smyth says. "2008 is really a year for the execution of all the plans we’ve put in place - we’ve launched two new products in the last quarter, as well as a new company."

Source: Jim Smyth, Creative Technology Services
Writer: Nancy Kaffer

Mechatronics master's program draws private sector attention

A new mechatronics master's degree program at Lawrence Technical University has been drawing attention and assistance from the private sector - boding well for the state's technological future.


Mechatronics degree programs, common in Europe and Asia but still a rarity in the United States, meld mechanical, electrical and computer engineering disciplines. Vehicles rely more and more on sophisticated electronics and computer controls. Vantsevich was very familiar with this approach after a nearly 30-year academic career in Belarus, where he specialized in designing driveline systems and control devices for multi-wheel-drive vehicles. 

Read more about mechatronics here.
116 Engineering Articles | Page: | Show All