In his machine shop office in the Rushford Industrial Park, some say Dan Fox might be changing the world with his new nanotechology machines.
His goal, however, is much simpler. He wants to create jobs for this flood-damaged and economy-battered community, and make some money while doing it.
“The reason we started Rushford Hypersonic here was to create jobs that TRW (auto parts plant that closed) took away,” he says.
After launching in 2007 as a one-man operation, his company quickly grew to a team of three by spring of 2008, and now it has grown to a staff of 10.
And the growth is moving in the shape of a hockey stick, Fox says. It is going from the blade to straight up the handle.
By the holidays, he expects to have 15 people on the job and 25 to 35 technical engineering positions by mid-2010.
He has added to the space he uses at Connaughty Industries in June, but is now looking to buy or build a facility at least double his current 2,500 square feet of space to handle more growth in 2010.
“We are maxing out the facility right now,” he says, looking around the garage that resembles a small repair shop, if you don’t notice the electron microscopes and vacuum chambers.
At the core of this burst of growth is a very big idea built on particles so small that 3 million of them fit on the end of a hair.
Fox, with decades of experience in manufacturing, spotted an opportunity at the University of Minnesota soon after TRW pulled out of the area. After years of testing, a university research lab had created a new process to bond coatings of microscopic or nano sized particles to various materials.
“I just figured out what to do with the technology,” he says of licensing the two patents for the U of M process.
The possibilities seem to be almost endless following early tests that prove Hypersonic can apply coatings that seem wear-, heat- and almost friction-resistant to metal, ceramic and glass of any shape.
Independent tests at the end of August showed that hypersonic-coated drill bits could dry drill 1,000 more holes through a steel plate before failing compared to an uncoated bit.
That throws open the industrial possibilities to include projects ranging from almost oil-less car engines to artificial knees that might never wear out.