Published: Saturday, October 27, 2007
Nanotechnology: Small but mighty in manufacturing
Seventy people attended
a forum on using
By DON SHILLING
YOUNGSTOWN Alan Koch came to Youngstown looking for som ething really small that would help his company in a big way.
The senior development engineer at Ajax Tocco Magnethermic in Warren is looking to create materials that insulate well but conduct heat equally as well.
It's hard to develop a material that does both, so he came to the Nano Manufacturers Forum at the DeYor Performing Arts Center. After listening to the early presentations in the program Friday, he was hopeful that he could gain some insights on how nanotechnology would help his research.
Ajax Tocco Magnethermic, which employs 350 in Warren and 1,000 overall, provides power supply systems and heating equipment to industry.
Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on a microscopic level. The forum was designed to help manufacturers use nanotechnology to produce better products.
About 70 people from throughout Northeast Ohio attended the event, which was organized by Nano-Network of Cleveland and the Mahoning & Shenango Valley Advanced Manufacturing Initiative.
Fireline, a Youngstown manufacturer, was one of the companies that explained how it is using nanotechnology. It has created a subsidiary called Fireline TCON that is just introducing an expanded line of products that use nanotechnology.
Working with Youngstown State University, the company has developed a process that combines ceramic and metal to create a composite material that has unique properties. The composite resists being damaged by molten aluminum, said Mark Peters, general manager of Fireline TCON.
The composite will last much longer than current materials that are used for plates that line furnaces or containers that hold molten aluminum, he said.
The composite was developed by bonding ceramic and metallic substances on a microscopic level.
The products are one reason for steady growth at the Andrews Avenue company. Fireline has added eight employees in the past year and is expected to grow from a staff of 90 to 100 by the end of next year. Fireline's main business is creating ceramic liners of various shapes that manufacturers use to hold or transfer molten metal.
Alexis Abramson, director of the Nano Engineering Lab at Case Western Reserve University, explained the current and future uses of nanotechnology to the group.
She said improvements already have been made to sunscreens, paints, batteries, sports equipment and cosmetics through nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology allows tennis balls to last longer because the skin can be manufactured to keep gases inside better. Also, sunscreen makers can manipulate smaller size particles of zinc oxide, the active ingredient, so that the product is transparent when applied.
Abramson said a wide variety of other applications are being developed. The most futuristic is called molecular manufacturing, which is making products by assembling atoms. Products could be manufactured without the waste that's created by today's production techniques, said Abramson, who estimated molecular manufacturing might be in use by 2050.