By Tom Reynolds, Export Solutions

In this new blog series, Export Solutions focuses on a different client to highlight their company history, products, services and business philosophies.

A small East Granby firm is making good on its promises of becoming a North American leader in laser technologies, pushing itself to the cutting edge with more research and development.  Joining Technologies, a 19-year-old company with 55 employees, will open a new 10,000 sq. ft. facility in East Granby to achieve two new goals: perform bigger jobs for bigger fi rms, and create a research center for the development of new ways to use lasers in welding, cladding and additive processing.

“We are transforming from a job shop … to an innovator that really leads the industry,” said Dave Hudson, president of Joining Technologies.  The new Joining Technologies Research Center — called the JTRC — is a joint venture between the East Granby company and Fraunhofer ILT, a German firm specializing in laser machine parts.  Joining will provide the bulk of the funding for the project, having already sunk $1.5 million into the new facility, and Fraunhofer will supply parts and expertise.  A Connecticut laser machine manufacturer, Trumpf, sold Joining Technologies the production equipment vital to this new operation.

One of its newest innovations is a 10-axis, 6-kilowatt machine with a carbon dioxide laser that will be an integral part of the new Joining Technologies facility.  "We don’t stop innovating, and we always have several new products in the pipeline,” said Burke Doar, Trumpf North America vice president for sales and marketing.

With this and other new equipment, Joining Technologies can work on bigger pieces of equipment for the aerospace industry and add new clients in the power generation and oil and gas industries.  The new facility can handle projects weighing up to six tons.

“When we initially got into this, that wasn’t what we were doing,” said Scott Poeppel, Joining’s additive processes manager and head of the new facility. “But the market has driven us to doing these kinds of jobs.  We’ve had a lot of requests for it.”

Not many laser providers have both a service facility and an R&D center in the same location, and the new facility will enable Joining Technologies to carve out a niche in the market, Poeppel said.  Ideally, customers will come to the company looking for ways to add laser additive manufacturing to their processes. Joining Technologies can then research for the company and hopefully develop a laser process that can help the customer. Joining Technologies can then sell that client the new machine or offer to do the new laser additive process for the client.

For example, a manufacturer of aerospace engine parts might have a problem with the housing of its jet engine. Rather than bearing the expense of starting over from scratch, the company can come to Joining to develop a new laser additive method to make the jet engine housing better and like new.  “A lot of these companies are already coming to us,” Hudson said.  This push toward new technologies and patents started last year when an engineer at Joining Technologies developed a new piece of equipment for welding thin metal sheets together. This invention, called the Infinite Web, and the way engineer Scott Boynton developed it, started the company down the road to be an innovative leader in its industry.

The equipment in Joining Technologies new building should be ready by Feb. 1, so it can start the service side of the new facility by then. The joint venture with Fraunhofer will be finalized this month, and the R&D portion of the facility should be up and running by the end of the second quarter.  “We will be the go-to guys in the North American market,” Hudson said.

(This article originally appeared in the Hartford Business Journal on January 10, 2011.)

Tom Reynolds is the Vice President of Operations for Export Solutions, a consultancy firm which specializes in ITAR and EAR compliance.