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NYSERDA Provides $1.2 Million to Three Capital Region Companies to Spur Commercialization of Energy-Saving Manufacturing Techniques

Automated Dynamics of Schenectady, ThermoAura of Troy and Ecovative Design of Green Island Receive Awards to Improve Energy Efficiency at Clean-Energy Manufacturing Facilities

February 14, 2013

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has provided $1.2 million in funding through NYSERDA’s Innovation in the Manufacturing of Clean Energy Technologies program, which is building the clean-energy economy in New York State by supporting projects that improve the energy efficiency of technology used in manufacturing.

The announcement was made today at Automated Dynamics of Schenectady, which was awarded $400,000 to continue to commercialize innovative machinery used to build strong, lightweight parts by fusing multiple layers of composite materials via a laser-heated process. The new machinery is projected to improve the energy efficiency of parts manufacturing by 63 percent.

Other recipients include ThermoAura Inc. of Troy, which was awarded $393,000 to help scale up production of its heat-to-electricity technology to a commercial level; and Ecovative Design of Green Island, which was awarded $350,000 to improve the energy efficiency and productivity of manufacturing its product, a packaging foam based on farm waste.

All three companies are contributing matching funds or in-kind services.

“The State understands that the manufacturing sector plays a critical role in the economy, and with the incentives provided today, it is assisting these cleantech companies to remain competitive by manufacturing products in a more energy efficient way,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO, NYSERDA. “Governor Cuomo has stressed the importance of innovation and technology in growing the State’s economy, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Capital Region. These three companies are examples of how investments in clean-energy technology and manufacturing can provide benefits to all New Yorkers.”

Automated Dynamics creates custom composites made from such materials as plastic, carbon or glass fibers. The parts had previously been fabricated using an electrically heated gas torch to fuse layers of the materials. The new proprietary technology uses a laser heating system. The new technique reduces energy consumption during manufacturing by more than 60 percent, and provides added energy benefits by reducing the weight of parts used by the aerospace, automotive and energy industries as well as the military.

The process is also significantly faster and allows the company to build materials in shapes that have not been feasible before. Depending on the needs of the customer, Automated Dynamics assembles and sells the machinery, or uses it to produce parts.

Automated Dynamics was formed in 1984 by three Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduates looking to use the then-emerging field of robotics to build composite parts. The company invented its own method of using a robot-wielded hot-gas torch to mold the materials into shape.

Today, the firm has 32 employees and is looking to move to the next stage of development of its manufacturing technique.

“Using our 30 years of experience and this new technology, we think this small company can offer a product that can compete with the largest of composite manufacturers,” said Robert Langone, President of Automated Dynamics. “Thanks to NYSERDA’s funding, we can now move forward with the next generation of composite production while saving energy at the same time.”

Using nanotechnology, ThermoAura of Troy has built a solid-state-based thermoelectric material that creates electricity from heat in a more efficient process than similar products on the market today. The funding will help the company advance manufacturing of its heat-to-electricity technology.

ThermoAura is a six-employee start-up formed in 2011 by President Rutvik Mehta with several Rensselaer professors. Today, the company is poised to partner with Ceralink Inc. of Troy and others to develop and implement a process to scale up production to a commercial level. The technology has applications in such devices as compact refrigerators, medical devices and power generation from low-temperature (less than 100 degrees Celsius) industrial or vehicle exhaust waste heat. The company expects to add up to 10 new jobs in the next three to five years.

“ThermoAura Inc. is grateful for NYSERDA’s funding support to help build an advanced manufacturing facility in upstate New York for producing our high-performance nanomaterials,” said Dr. Mehta. “ThermoAura’s unique nanotechnology will enable high-efficiency environmentally friendly solutions for solid-state cooling and electricity harvesting from waste heat, impacting diverse sectors such as transportation, renewable energy, power plants and nano-electronics.”

Ecovative Design of Green Island makes natural alternatives to packaging foam and similar materials by using farm waste bonded together through adhesives from mushrooms. The company, now five years old, currently has more than 70 full- and part-time employees and works out of a 50,000-square-foot office and manufacturing plant.

NYSERDA’s funding will allow the company to investigate a more energy-efficient way of manufacturing its biomaterials-based product. Currently, the company makes its product by pumping a slurry of materials into a plastic mold, which is then left to harden for three to five days. Under the new technique, the company would create a suspension material that would bond in seconds. Such a technology could increase productivity, reduce expenses and lessen the amount of energy needed to make its product.

The process, currently in development, needs to be optimized and scaled up to commercial readiness.

“NYSERDA has been fundamental in providing research and development support for our company, in developing both new biomaterials and in addressing energy conservation measures in manufacturing,” said Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and chief scientist. “This funding will help us replace our dependence on plastics while continuing to reduce the energy consumed in production and transportation.”

Assemblyman Phil Steck said, “NYSERDA’s involvement in this project is an example of how government can be a progressive aid to small business in this difficult economy. NYSERDA’s work helps provide tremendous resources for small businesses to make their products more efficiently and enable them to compete in a global marketplace.”

About NYSERDA
NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. NYSERDA professionals work to protect our environment and create clean-energy jobs. NYSERDA has been developing partnerships to advance innovative energy solutions in New York since 1975.

Last Updated: 12/17/2013

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