“We got some grant money for job creation in Ohio,” said Rich Petrovich, President, and CEO of North Coast Composites (NCC) in Cleveland. “And I’m pleased that the State (of Ohio) had the intelligence and foresight to fund our program.” Ohio Third Frontier
funds have helped this flagship of The Companies of North Coast add six technology-based jobs to its work force, which is quite a success story these days. “We were invited into the program by Mr. Brian Rice (Division Head Multi-Scale Composites and Polymers, University of Dayton Research Institute
– UDRI) because of the inlet guide vanes (IGVs) we were building for jet engines for GE Aviation
. At that point, we had already been tasked to provide the engineering and tooling work for IGVs, and we were a year into the effort when we applied for Third Frontier support.”
“We had never applied for such a grant,” Petrovich explained. “We were brought in because of our capabilities in manufacturing, but one of my main concerns in the beginning, was how could we work in such a consortium of companies, some of whom we regarded as our competition?”The good news was that the leadership within that UDRI-based consortium, led by Mr. Rice and Dr. Alex Morgan, UDRI Group Leader, Advanced Polymers, settled the potential problem by allowing NCC to not talk about certain business sensitive topics. Then, the possible competition evolved to collaboration.
“Being part of this team pushed us technologically in ways that we would not have done on our own,” said Petrovich. “It also resulted in several highly successful developments.” Now, it’s two years after NCC joined the project, and Petrovich reported that North Coast is in full production, thanks, in large measure to the six new direct hires.
“The outcome of joining the UDRI team and getting Third Frontier funding is that it has given us the ability to put other people in place and go after business that we never would have been able to approach before,” Petrovich explained. We were able to aggressively move forward, spend money, and do things that we could not have done before.” “It also allowed us to qualify as a NADCAP certified vendor for composites, which then allowed us to sell to GE Aviation Systems.”
With help from the Center for Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices (CMPND), North Coast added it share of content to the grant application and prepared for defending that application to the State. After the award, North Coast moved forward with Mr. Steve Mitchell of GE Aviation and the UDRI team (145 strong?) using nano-technology to develop a protective skin with enhanced erosion protection for aircraft parts. The execution of this development was particularly of interest because the technology approach that was devised by the consortium did not compromise the aircraft structure and thus did not require that the nano-enhanced material be re-certified for its safety or functionality.
“The grant was funded in August of 2008, and by November 14, 2009, we have gone through the entire development and manufacturing cycle, and were able to deliver 160 parts. It was a fast, focused, and highly successful effort because of the team and how we worked together,” Petrovich reported.
The North Coast staff includes some of the top personnel in the liquid molding industry with backgrounds in aerospace and commercial composite manufacturing. Historically, the company has been dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art for liquid molding and to develop the technology into a true science rather than a black art. Petrovich reported that for the first 25 of the company’s 34 years in business, they did only design and custom tooling. Now, North Coast also makes parts. They focus on using only the latest technology and equipment with automation in mind, whenever feasible, for true “productionization.” Within the Third Frontier team efforts, “We were able to put new people in place, train them, give them new, high-tech skills – all things that really can stretch the resources of a small company like us – before production begins,” said Petrovich. “Small companies normally can’t do such things without extra funding, such as that provided by the State.”
“Our success with this venture not only boosted our marketability in Ohio, but now we also added two overseas companies on our customer list. And, we have great working relationships with other team members, such as UDRI which supports all of our science , NanoSperse LLC
(Kettering, OH), which compounds our material, and Renegade Materials Corporation
(Springboro, OH), which turns the compounded material into films,” Petrovich explained.
“When I look back on this whole experience, what strikes me is how very interesting it has been,” said Petrovich. “It was also very high pressure and fast paced – what a great ride.” We did exactly what the grant was intended to do – we created high-tech jobs in Ohio.
North Coast Composites is a state-of-the-art fabricator of Resin Transfer Molded (RTM) and Vacuum-Assisted Resin Transfer Molded (VARTM) components. Formed as a partner company and co-located with North Coast Tool & Mold (NCTM) in Cleveland, Ohio, NCC is dedicated to providing the same commitment of excellence that is the cornerstone of NCTM since 1976. Together, these affiliated companies can now offer customers a complete, turn-key package for RTM/VARTM parts including part design assistance, tool design and fabrication, prototype part fabrication, manufacturing planning assistance, and production part fabrication in our 65,000 sq ft facility in Cleveland Ohio.
The University of Dayton Research Institute is the research arm of the University of Dayton, located in Dayton, Ohio. UDRI is a national leader in scientific and engineering research, serving government, industry, and not-for-profit customers. Its full-time professional staff of engineers and scientists conduct research and provide support in a wide variety of technical areas. URDI works with its customers on many levels, ranging from short-term projects completed on an as-needed basis, through contractual partnering or teaming relationships, to working side-by-side with our customers in multi-million dollar long-term contracts.
The Center for Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices
(CMPND) leads a research and commercialization partnership in polymer nanotechnology. This multi-institutional, interdisciplinary organization is centered at The Ohio State University in conjunction with research university partners, University of Akron, University of Dayton, University of Toledo, Kent State University, and Wright State University. CMPND puts Ohio at the forefront of nanotechnology research and commercialization opportunities. Other partners include three additional Ohio universities, and more than 60 large and small companies in Ohio. CMPND helps target markets that build on the research strengths of the participating universities and national labs, and develops manufacturing protocols and nanostructures for near-term industrial polymeric nanocomposites, emerging polymer photonic components and devices, and more futuristic biomedical devices and systems with nanoscale functions.
The Ohio Third Frontier was initiated in February 2002. This project is the state's largest-ever commitment to expanding Ohio's high-tech research capabilities and promoting innovation and company formation that will create high-paying jobs for generations to come. The 10-year, $1.6 billion initiative is designed to: Build world-class research capacity; support early stage capital formation and the development of new products; and finance advanced manufacturing technologies to help existing industries become more productive. Through the Ohio Third Frontier Project, additional Federal and private sector support can boost the total investment to more than $6 billion.