LARGE MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATION PUTS A “NEW SPIN” ON A SMALL LOCAL MANUFACTURER
ERIE, PA – More than 15 years ago, a Penn State Erie faculty member, Tom Briselden and his team at Spin-Works LLC, developed an innovative, silicon-carbide radiant tube insert called a SpyroCor. The twisted “Y” design produced non-turbulent, high convection flow creating a high rate of uniform heat transfer. At the time, there were more than 20,000 natural gas furnaces in the United States and Canada, and the cost of fuel was rising. Spin-Works offered this large market a fuel savings of ten to twenty percent while increasing the productivity of their furnaces and minimizing emissions.
Recuperators were the only real competitive technology in 2001, but they were expensive and inefficient. Customers soon discovered that the SpyroCor insert often paid for itself in less than six months. Industry leaders such as H&S Heat Treating and BodyCote Thermal Processing quickly took notice. Others did as well. The company was selected as the recipient of Department of Energy Inventions and Innovations Grant in the amount of $250,000 as well as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant for $100,000. Ben Franklin Technology Partners (www.cnp.benfranklin.org), an institutional seed investor funded by the Commonwealth, also saw the company’s potential and made its first of three investments.
“Investing in promising tech-entrepreneurs and startups with innovative technologies is our primary mission”, commented Stephen Brawley, President/CEO of Ben Franklin. “Our team quickly realized that Spin-Works was a game-changer in their industry, and we are proud that we played some small part in their success.”
As the company grew, adding employees and new products to their line, they also grew out of their original space. Knowledge Park, which is operated by Penn State Erie, helped the company move into a bigger facility. However, it was soon apparent that the operation needed to be in more conventional space to accommodate their 3D-printing processes and inventory requirements. In 2015, Spin-Works moved to its current location in North East, PA. But, the story doesn’t end there; in fact, a whole new chapter was beginning.
In December of 2017, a global leader in ceramic and refractory solutions, Saint-Gobain High-Performance Refractories, purchased the company to expand their capabilities in the ceramic industrial burner and heat recovery markets. The acquisition, according to the company spokesperson, helped make the processes of their customers – especially those in the steel and automotive industries – more sustainable. Saint-Gobain High-Performance Refractories (www.refractories.saint-gobain.com) has 14 manufacturing facilities throughout the world, including a 230-employee operation in Worcester, Massachusetts. The business is part of Saint-Gobain (www.saint-gobain.com), the world’s largest building materials company, which has more than 170,000 employees, operations in 67 countries, and had global sales of more than $40 billion in 2016.
Tom Briselden, remarked, “I never dreamed that the company we started more than 15 years ago with $400,000 of Ben Franklin funding and federal grant opportunities would end up as part of one of the largest and oldest multi-national companies in the world. I’m proud that what we developed right here in Erie, PA, attracted the attention of a global leader in our industry. Saint-Gobain’s investment in the facility and employees has put a whole new “Spin” on a very bright future.”