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$300K awarded to boost innovation, savings for firms

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TechVentures in Bethlehem (File)
TechVentures in Bethlehem (File)

A number of Greater Lehigh Valley companies are benefiting from the latest round of funding from an organization vested in the success of both early stage firms and established manufacturers.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania at Lehigh University in Bethlehem said it will invest $292,260 in support of regional economic development.

The organization will award five established manufacturers in the Greater Lehigh Valley with one-to-one matching funds for work with a college or university partner on technology-based manufacturing innovation.

The companies are FMI of Hanover Township, Lehigh County; JSM of Weisenberg Township, Lehigh County; Spray-Tek Inc. of Bethlehem; Unicast Co. of Boyertown, Berks County; and Wacker Chemical Corp. of Upper Macungie Township.

Spray-Tek Inc. is getting $25,000 in matching funds from Ben Franklin. The firm, which rents a 500-square-foot lab at Ben Franklin’s TechVentures building at Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus, also has a facility in Bethlehem on City Line Road and another in Middlesex, N.J., said Jiten Dihora, vice president of technology for Spray-Tek.

Dihora said the firm spray-dries liquids to transform them into free-flowing powders, which are used in a variety of products.

“We help our customers transform liquids into free-flowing powders,” Dihora said. “They are used in foods, personal care, pharmaceuticals and a variety of applications.”

Spray-drying transforms liquid suspensions into a free-flowing, ultra-fine powder by drying with a hot gas in less than 20 seconds.

The firm will use the funding to develop a new process of spray-drying to enhance its services for consumer goods companies.

“What we are moving toward is developing new delivery systems,” Dihora said. “We are trying to develop systems that will protect the active [ingredient] through the supply chain and deliver the active when and where it’s needed.”

The active is an ingredient in the material that delivers some sort of benefit, such as taste, smell or a health benefit, he said.

His firm will put forth $25,000 and seek additional in-kind funds to bring the total investment in the project to $115,000.

Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technology Applications Center is the college partner working with the firm on the project.

“We invest in early stage technology firms and established manufacturers in rounds as qualified companies are identified,” said Laura Eppler, director of marketing for the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “Funding and supporting our clients is fundamental to our mission.”

The established manufacturers get a matching grant and the companies have to at least match it, and often exceed it, Eppler said. The funding then goes to the college or university partner to do the work at the manufacturer. The projects help these manufacturers stay competitive and retain jobs, she added.

According to Ben Franklin, FMI will get $25,000 to upgrade its Enterprise Resource Planning system to accommodate growth so it can operate more efficiently and access opportunities with larger customers. FMI provides contract manufacturing for a wide range of clients in the skin care, personal care, hair care and pet care markets.

Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center is the university partner working with the company on the project.

JSM will get $25,000 to increase productivity in the laser imaging department at the full-service marketing communications company. The work is aimed at enhancing manufacturing and technology processes designed to improve quality and customer return on investment in print and mail campaigns.

Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center is the university partner on the project.

Unicast Co. will get $17,260 to conduct an energy assessment of the entire operation at the custom manufacturer of gray iron castings and to provide environmental assistance. The energy reduction and other cost-saving measures are expected to help Unicast remain globally competitive.

Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technology Applications Center is the partner on the project.

Wacker Chemical will get $25,000 for the employment of advanced analytics tools to create a predictive maintenance system to improve manufacturing operations at the producer of polymeric binders and additives. These elements are used in a variety of products, including paint, adhesives and textiles. The new system is expected to provide the company with significant savings.

Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center is the partner on the project.

Several other firms outside the Greater Lehigh Valley also were awarded funds from Ben Franklin.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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