February 5, 2012

American Entrepreneurship

Filed under: Articles + Blogs — smeyer @ 6:38 pm

In my travels, I continue to find people hard at work doing something that has never been done before.  With the hope of making a profit while doing it.  Just such a situation came up recently when I met with the owner and founder of Transcon Steel.

Among the mainstays of an industrial economy is construction, housing and commercial in particular.  While these industries are incredibly competitive, there is always room for innovation.  Precisely because it is a mature, competitive industry, really ground breaking solutions are sometime hard to find.

Transcon Steel is a small startup company in Georgetown Texas that makes structural steel building systems.  The innovation comes from the fact that Transcon roll forms flat sheet metal into structural shapes that are highly optimized to reduce weight and increase strength.  The steel structural shapes are formed into large panels with compressed foam which results in structures that are super light weight and extremely high strength.

The new structural panels permit construction of buildings in a variety of applications.  So called “temporary housing” for oilfield crews in remote area can be built in hours instead of days.  Heating and cooling costs are a fraction of conventional structures.  All of which leads to increased opportunities to serve unique construction applications with better solutions.

Transcon’s big challenge will be to create the manufacturing resources needed to produce the structural panels in very large numbers.  The enabling technology of the manufacturing processes?  Mechatronics. The roll forming of sheet metal is a classic application requiring high performance drives to de-reel the strip steel rolls and servo actuators to follow the roll throughout the various forming process that take place to make the final product.

The compressed foam requires unique tooling to form large rectangular panels that can be filled with foam, compressed with hydraulic actuators and cured with heat and pressure to form the final super dense structures.  Amazingly, the cores are made from material that is similar to the conventional styrofoam cups we use for coffee, yet, when the basic material is processed correctly, it becomes strong enough to withstand blows from a sledgehammer.  When it is bonded to an already strong steel frame, you have a complete building system that has incredible structural strength and insulation value.

Transon is negotiating enough new business that it will need a new facility 4 times the size of it’s present location and will hire CAD designers and plant personnel to support it’s manufacturing needs.  If they are successful at marketing the technology in other countries, it will be more of the same.  Lots of it.

And that is how job creation is done.  Someone with an idea, willing to work hard, taking risks, finding people to come alongside and help, to deliver a solution.  Making lives better by employing people, and by delivering a product that provides shelter at a lower cost than the traditional products in the building market.

American Entrepreneurship.

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