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Advanced Manufacturers in the Hudson Valley Spotlight: Ceres Technologies

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Pundits claim we are in the midst of what is being dubbed The Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s a hot topic among academics, business leaders, and politicians.

Growth of Civilization: Museum of Natural History

How did we get here?

Watch this 6-minute YouTube video about the rate of civilization’s growth. If you don’t fall asleep in the first five minutes, you’ll finally get to some acceleration on the timeline.

At the beginning of civilization, as the video shows, technological advances like agriculturally based communities, control of fire, metalworking, the wheel, and other innovations appear gradually on – possibly – the world’s longest progress bar.

By the 18th and 19th centuries, however, the bar shows civilization catapulting forward in giant leaps as energy in the form of steam and then electricity is harnessed.

The Industrial Revolution originated in 18th century England and came to 19th century America,  formalizing along the way, changing the means of labor and production from small guilds to machine-driven, mass-production.

It was a transition that continued to be leveraged well into the early 20th century in American factories.

Arguably, successive mini-Industrial Revolutions followed after the first.

Car and jet travel brought greater mobility to large populations, and by the 1960s chip-powered computers made information processing lightning quick. The rise of the internet distributed that information ubiquitously and also quickly.

In our present day, we are continuing to witness an incredible acceleration in technological progress.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Explained

In an attempt to explain and define this progress,  the phrase “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” was coined by academician and scholar Klaus Schwab. He’s also the founder of the World Economic Forum.

Our current phase of progress (per his book by the same name) must be seen, he maintains, as a revolution that meets at the cross-section of the physical, digital and biological spheres of science and engineering. 

The World Economic Forum's Infographic Explaining the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The World Economic Forum’s infographic explains the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The what?

Schwab notes that progress is occurring at an incredible rate, and it is actually changing the physical world around us, wherein the things we engage with operate on a level not experienced before.

It’s a world more connected to a digital space involving software, hardware, and integrating with us, eventually bodily!

Biological innovation is here, says Schwab, and will continue to develop. We can see that happening at the molecular level: scientists and engineers are hacking the digital code of our very DNA.

Schwab also argues that in advanced manufacturing, designer materials and processes and delivery systems are being created at the nano level.

This is most fully realized in the manufacturing subspecialty known as nanotechnology.  The field is extending across multiple sectors, from energy to-food-to medicine, and to communications.

In 1985 Bob Abels groundbreaking animation “Sexy Robot” was ahead of its time in many ways, including anticipating nanotechnology, machine learning, and the Internet of things (IoT).

So, what exactly is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology uses science and engineering to create and support applications in all areas of human activity. In scientific terms, when we say something is nano, we mean it is very small, tinier than tiny.

How small is small?

The size of one nanometer is one billionth of a meter,  roughly 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. 

When we manufacture at this scale it is called nanotechnology. It is a fast-moving area of science.

Nano is everywhere in nature

Scanning electron microscopes are key to working in nanotechnology. This is a T-SEC-owned scanning electron microscope, used by advanced manufacturers in the Hudson Valley

Nanomaterials occur naturally and are found everywhere: in volcanic ash, ocean spray, fine sand, and dust.

Nanostructures also occur in plants and animals. For example, nanostructures in a moth’s eye are anti-reflective ensuring predators can’t see them.

In the case of moth-eye technology, Scientists recognized the genius and potential of the naturally occurring nanostructures and recreated them by creating a film that coats cellphone screens to cut down the glare. 

“Moth-eye technology is far from the first invention inspired by nature. Velcro was inspired by burs from the burdock plant that stuck to a dog’s fur after a hunt,” according to NPR, who reported on the innovation.

Charles Vest, brilliant mechanical engineer- and president of MIT for 14 years, from 1990 until December 2004, led The Academy, as well as Government, to an understanding of nanotechnology and its implications.

He boiled it down in a way even a non-engineering person can understand in a speech he gave in May 2001- at MIT:

We now know the dictionary of life.

“We have essentially completed sequencing the human genome. We now know the dictionary of life. We have a breathtaking new understanding of how humans have evolved and how we fit into the total plethora of living things. The insights are staggering.

“We suddenly have the extensions of our eyes and hands that allow us to do nano-scale science and technology. We can create new materials and devices that are structured one atom or molecule at a time. This may lead to materials with remarkable new properties, to hugely greater strength-to-weight ratios, to low-power/high-performance computers, and to new medical diagnostic and treatment strategies.”

Like Professor Schwab, only years earlier, Professor Vest maintained that nanotechnology would create a new Industrial Revolution for the 21st century.

Some real-world examples of nanotechnology

Nanofiltration is a process that removes impurities from water.

Environment

We need clean water and processes to treat that water. Thanks to nanofiltration technology -(Nanofiltration – Wikipedia )- we can safely drink disinfected, clean water.

Energy

Renewable energies such as solar energy can help reduce energy consumption.  One application of nanotechnology is solar panel technology – Solar cell – Wikipedia.,-Also see:  Quantum dot solar cell – Wikipedia

Medicine

Cancer and other diseases can employ biosensors to detect biomarkers of disease. Innovations include Nanotechnology-based drug delivery such as a Thin-film drug delivery – Wikipedia 

Communication and computer technologies

Smartphones deploy nanotechnology in what can be considered embedded-  “hives. The CPU, camera, touch screen and GPS all use nanotech applications. The size of an individual transistor in a modern smartphone CPU is 14 nm, about 5,000 times smaller than the radius of a human hair.

Fabricating the machines that create the nanotechnology innovations of today

Hudson Valley advanced manufacturers

There are dozens of Advanced Manufacturing Nano Technology companies right here in the Hudson Valley that T-SEC partners with and these companies are the Nanotech innovators of the day.

 Ceres Technologies of Saugerties; Fala Technologies of Kingston; and Sono-Tek of Milford are but a few names among the many important advanced manufacturers T-SEC is proud to partner with to retain the well-paying jobs they keep and grow in the region.

(While we will be blogging in future posts about these manufacturers, this post focuses on Ceres Technologies of Saugerties, New York).

Ceres Technologies, Saugerties, New York

Manufacturing for the Internet of things

Kevin Brady, President and CEO of Cerest Technologies in Saugerties, New York, one of the Hudson's Leading advance manufacturers. A T-SEC Partner, Ceres Technologies counts as clients Global Foundries and Corning Glass.

Kevin Brady President/CEO of Ceres Technologies, Saugerties, N.Y.

Kevin Brady is the owner of Ceres Technologies and North Park Metal Works in Rhinebeck. He is also the CEO of a company called Mega Fluid Systems, based out of Portland, Oregon.

Brady cut his teeth in the semiconductor field early in his career and notes his time spent at Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc., which was an American semiconductor manufacturer originating in San Jose, California, as formative.

The company began in 1957 as a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, and was a pioneer in the manufacturing of transistors and integrated circuits, according to Wikipedia.

After Fairchild closed down its New York facility, Brady did stints at semiconductor companies in Connecticut and California, but ultimately wound up going to work for Dupont in Poughkeepsie, where he worked in factory automation.

Eventually, he left to start his own firm with a couple of friends, an engineering company doing support work for semiconductors, mainly for IBM.

He did that for about 10 years, and then in 1997, he started a company called Precision Flow Technologies in his garage. 

That company grew from the five who started it in 1997 to 430 employees in 2010.

“We had designed and we were building high-volume, LED production machines, and we were selling them to LG and Samsung for LED TVs. It was a great time-” Brady said.

In subsequent years, Brady built up his business, watching its fortunes fall and rise with the state of manufacturing in the U.S. 

These days, the coin toss is good as demand is strong for the type of specialized fabrication Ceres does.

A worker at Ceres Technologies' Clean Room in Saugerties, N.Y. The clean room has an advanced filtering system so technicians can work at the nanoscale required in advanced manufacturing in the Hudson Valley.

A worker at Ceres Technologies’ Clean Room. The clean room has an advanced filtering system so technicians can work at the nanoscale required in advanced manufacturing.

Brady explains, “We are a high-technology engineering and manufacturing company specializing in the design and build of advanced semiconductor, energy, transportation, and fiber optic production equipment.”

Some end-user clients are Global Foundries in Saratoga and globally, along with, Corning Glass- as well as OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers) who sell production equipment to Intel and Micron Technologies.

“We are a supplier to Corning for equipment that goes into their factories where they produce the fiber optic cable,” Brady added. He went on to mention:

“We provide production equipment directly to Global Foundries, which they use in their chip factories in Saratoga and globally, really.”

Global Foundries is known worldwide for their power management and processor technologies that enable some of the top brands in mobile computing to shape the mobile landscape, by bringing ever more capable, robust mobile devices to market. 

T-SEC partners with- Ceres Technologies, providing two key pieces of equipment critical to nanotechnology fabrication: the CMM and the Helium Leak Detector.

Ceres not only uses the equipment but also makes it available to other Hudson Valley advanced manufacturers in a shared workspace-type fashion.

T-SEC's helium leak detector on site at Ceres Technologies. This is also available for use by other advanced manufacturers in the Hudson Valley and throughout New York State.

T-SEC’s helium leak detector on site at Ceres Technologies. This is also available for use by other New York State advanced manufacturers.

The CMM machine is a coordinate measurement machine, which is used to measure the parts Ceres manufactures.

The other is a piece of equipment called a helium leak Detector- a very precise piece of equipment used for testing leakages in containers. Helium gas is used for tracing small or big leakages (a method called tracer gas) out of a product connected to the detector. 

A lot of the equipment Ceres produces is involved in the distribution of processed gasses.

These are very high-in-purity gases;- therefore there can be no leaks.

“Everything built at Ceres related to the distribution of processed gases is tested on that machine,” Brady said.