Growing firm lands work with SpaceX

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Growing firm lands work with SpaceX

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Craig Jennings, Spintech president, explains the compay’s “shape memory” polymer material. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Dayton-area firms Cornerstone Research Group and Spintech have long been tied by investors, history and cutting-edge technology.

These days they’re tied by something else: Steady growth.

Defense contractor Cornerstone Research Group has been based in Beavercreek for two decades but is now eyeing a move to Miamisburg.

And Elon Musk’s rocket manufacturer SpaceX has joined the growing roster of Spintech’s customers.

Cornerstone researchers developed their “shape memory polymer” some 17 years ago, and the technology has proven of interest of composite material manufacturers. Cornerstone created Spintech to harness the material and its tooling, spinning it off to independence in 2010.

Shape memory polymer can become quite flexible before taking on a stronger, more rigid form. The technology allows customers to repair the composite bodies of aircrafts and other objects. Plastics used in the process can be made pliable or rigid, as needed, and “remember” their original shapes, leading to the “shape memory” name.

The idea is to help composite manufacturers achieve what Patrick Hood — Cornerstone president and chief executive — calls the “holy grail:” “Faster, cheaper, better.”

Spintech is seeking investments in an “A” fundraising round, having raised $1.4 million thus far. Craig Jennings, Spintech president, is confident that another $1.1 million more will be raised, from investors locally and across the country. (Cornerstone remains a major investor in Spintech.)

“It’s allowing us to really ramp up with various customers,” Jennings said.

Customers like Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX. Some of Spintech’s customers are names many readers may not recognize, but a growing number are unmistakably “blue-chip,” Jennings said. SpaceX regularly makes international headlines for its rocket launches and its famous billionaire founder, Canadian-American business magnate Elon Musk.

Jennings said he has been told that Musk is aware of Spintech and its technology.

“I’ve talked with our engineer contact at SpaceX, and his comment was that Elon and … Gwynne Shotwell, who is the president, are fully aware of the (Spintech) process,” Jennings said.

Spintech sells not the shape memory material but the tooling process and the “solution,” Hood said. Now the material is finding its way into composite bicycle frames made in California. It’s also finding a place in business planes, helicopters and, yes, next-generation rocket parts.

“It’s really now showing the benefit,” Hood said.

“We’re driving down labor costs, we’re increasing through-put and we’re improving quality,” Jennings said.

Spintech has about 12 employees while Cornerstone has about 50. But Hood expects Cornerstone to “grow significantly” by the fourth quarter this year.

“We could literally hire 50 percent more (workers) by the end of the year to execute the work that we anticipate,” Hood said.

The city of Miamisburg has applied for $225,000 in Montgomery County development funds to help Cornerstone move to that city in a $5.5 million project, creating 68 jobs that would be new to Miamisburg.

“We need different room,” Hood said. While Cornerstone is still performing due diligence research on the move — Hood couldn’t say much — he did say there aren’t a lot of facilities that meet Cornerstone’s very specific needs. The county ED/GE (Economic Development/Government Equity) grant would help with modifications to the facility the company is considering.

“We’re getting to the point where we need to demonstrate the ability to manufacture full-sized parts, aircrafts, full-up systems,” Hood said. “The type of space we have now is great for just labs.”

But the company needs high-ceiling bays and more.

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