Successful Collaborations

The University at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics (CMI) plays a significant role in spurring economic development through materials and advanced manufacturing innovation, giving companies a competitive advantage, creating high-technology jobs and attracting new industries to the region.

Energy Intelligence

Putting the Pedal to the Metal: The Story of Energy Intelligence

Energy Intelligence first came to Buffalo, NY as a winner in the inaugural 43North class of 2014. Founder Daniel Shani had the idea for the company while sitting in traffic one day. Shani’s experience with energy efficient equipment led him to his energy-saving idea – to harness the gas and energy waste created from starting and stopping in traffic and apply it to a cost and energy saving solution. The result: a low pressure, high velocity mechanism that generates electricity when a vehicle drives over it. The mechanism will lay on the ground, like a mat, and when tires compress the moving fluid inside of it, a motor starts to rotate. The rotating motor will in turn generate electricity to be used in the vicinity, whether it be to power lights or signage.

Energy Intelligence met with Chris Janson, business development executive of UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, after their move to Buffalo. Shani said that the introductions Janson made helped to move their business forward, and that it was a “huge help for a young company that is under resourced and under staffed.”  Janson made introductions to professor Ed Furlani, PhD, of UB’s chemical and biological engineering/electrical engineering department.

The company also worked on a UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT) project with principal investigator Harrison Kelly, PhD, research assistant professor in industrial systems engineering. Kelly was referred to this project by Gary Simon of UB’s Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE).  The CAT project took a closer look at parking garages, and studied how to make the garages safer by using the mats as a way to conduct electricity to illuminated signage.

In addition to the faculty expertise, Energy Intelligence has hired interns – two electrical engineering students and four students from the MBA program. These hires have stayed on with the company from a minimum of six months to over a year.

Energy Intelligence continues to work on their product and hopes to have a final commercial version completed soon. Pilot projects have already been launched in a Downtown Buffalo parking garage, and there have been plans to work closely with the Peace Bridge, one of three bridges in Buffalo that serves as the point of entry into Canada. Last year, more than five million vehicles traveled across the Peace Bridge which presents an enormous opportunity for Energy Intelligence to gather wasted energy from the vehicles on the bridge. 


Enabling the future of 3D Printing: The Story of PostProcess Technologies

PostProcess Technologies was born when founder Daniel J. Hutchinson began thinking differently about a problem no one in the growing additive manufacturing industry had addressed. Contrary to assumption, when an object is 3D printed, it is not ready for use upon completion. Hutchinson set out to solve a growing post print bottleneck issue – support material removal and surface finishing. While attending the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) conference, Hutchinson had the foresight to recognize that a combination of automated and intelligent software, hardware, and chemistry he was developing could be the missing element to accelerate the fourth industrial revolution. The U.S. Navy veteran, armed with tenacity and perseverance, set out on a mission and had booked a defense customer within 30 days.

Objects that are 3D printed often have complex geometries and require additional processing after leaving the printers, including support structure removal and surface finishing, to result in a customer-ready final product.  This can be a tiresome, labor-intensive process.  Hutchinson was determined to find a way to automate the post printing step and has built a company around a ground-breaking, comprehensive solution.  

Seeing is believing, and the team at PostProcess knows that adage to be true when demonstrating what their post printing solution can do. Their aim is to enable customers in additive manufacturing by providing a complete system for their unique process needs. Through this consultative approach, they help customers see the impact that thoughtful design of post processing software, hardware, and chemistry can make for their organization in unmatched product consistency, improved productivity, and ultimately increased throughput of 3D printed parts.

For a fast-growing company like PostProcess, finding specialized technical resources to fulfill this mission is crucial.  Through the right introductions from the University at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics (UB CMI), UB’s Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE), UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and UB’s Center for Engineering Design and Applied Simulation (CDAS), PostProcess was able to hire interns and employees from UB. Marc Farfaglia, Engineering Manager at PostProcess, described the internship program as “great young talent in our back yard” and noted that interns were working in areas such as electrical and biomedical engineering.

“The University at Buffalo has been working with PostProcess Technologies as it takes advantage of this unique economic development program that is helping to attract dozens of new, promising business to the Buffalo Niagara region,” said Christina Orsi, Associate Vice President for Economic Development at UB. “PostProcess Technologies has gained access to the diverse range of resources at UB including connecting with resident faculty expertise in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to understand their company’s product development needs, project management resources and getting assistance with student engagements and internships through the UB Career Services.”

PostProcess not only worked with the university to find interns and employees, but also became a UB designated START-UP NY company. Karen Utz, director of programs in UB’s Office of Economic Development, introduced Hutchinson to Chris Janson, CMI’s business development executive. From there, PostProcess applied to the START-UP NY program and was accepted. The START-UP NY program offers tax benefits to new and expanding companies in New York state with the goal of growing the state’s footprint in various industry sectors and aligning businesses with university expertise.

One way that PostProcess has utilized UB’s knowledge base is through a UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT) grant with Ciprian Ionita, PhD, research assistant professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering. Ionita serves as the principal investigator on the project, working with PostProcess and their machines to determine ways that dental and medical (including vascular) 3D printed models can be cleaned post printing. Ionita continues his research on the project at the Jacobs Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the treatment of vascular disease in Western New York.

PostProcess currently holds office in the Tri-Main Center near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) and UB south campus and is growing rapidly with 25 full time employees and multiple open positions.  The company is laser focused on serving its growing customer base within the automotive, medical, aerospace, defense, and consumer product industries. And that’s not all - PostProcess plans to expand into the European market in 2018, noted Director of Business Development Rick Zabel. 

Vader Systems

UB Faculty Expertise Spurs Technology Development: The Story of Vader Systems

Vader Systems, a startup company in Buffalo, NY, is developing unique additive manufacturing technology to enable three-dimensional (3D) printing of custom metal parts on demand using an innovative process called “Liquid Metal Jet Printing” (LMJP). LMJP involves the liquefaction of a solid metal feed and the generation of molten metal droplets using a pulsed electromagnetic field. This process, which mimics inkjet printing, is based on the principles of magnetohydrodynamics, i.e. the manipulation of conductive fluids using a magnetic field.  It enables the fabrication of highly complex 3D metal objects by printing droplets of molten metal in a layer-by-layer fashion. This innovative technology evolved from co-founder Zach Vader, who was initially looking to have a small gas turbine 3D printed in 2012. Vader soon realized that such metal printing technology was lacking and that processes that offered a viable solution were costly and time consuming. As a result, Vader created a solution for effective 3D metal printing, and now, Vader Systems aims to be the leading low cost, high speed 3D metal printing company for manufacturers.  

Vader Systems was introduced to the University at Buffalo through The Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE). At TCIE, Vader Systems was awarded a Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) grant which connects corporate partners with UB engineering expertise. Through the SPIR grant, Vader Systems teamed up with Dr. Edward Furlani, a professor with joint appointments in UB’s departments of Chemical and Biological and Electrical Engineering. Dr. Furlani is an expert in electromagnetic and fluid dynamic modeling and has extensive industrial experience in the development of commercial systems. His group is developing computational models to understand and optimize Vader Systems’ LMJP printing process and system. Representative modeling output provided by Ph.D. candidate Ioannis Karampelas is shown in Figure 1. The development of rigorous models of the LMJP process is very challenging due to the complexity and scale of the underlying phenomena. High-performance computing is needed to provide accurate and timely results. Dr. Furlani and Vader Systems are  able to accomplish this through a partnership with the High Performance Computing Consortium (HPC2) at UB’s Center for Computational Research (CCR).

Vader Systems has also partnered with the UB Center for Advanced Technology (CAT). The UB CAT awarded a $40,000 grant to Vader Systems to provide project cost-sharing for product development and product improvement projects. Chris Janson, business development executive for UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, facilitated Vader Systems’ UB CAT application process. Dr. Ciprian Ionita, research assistant professor in UB’s department of Biomedical Engineering, serves as Vader System’s principal investigator on the project. Dr. Ionita, together with co-investigators Dr. Furlani and Dr. Chi Zhou assistant professor in UB’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, will help Vader systems overcome many technical challenges in the development of prototype printing systems. Currently, Vader Systems is building a commercial demo model of their system for a core group of 20 developers to purchase in 2016. The company will continue its partnership with UB to get the demo made and ready for broader customer sales in April-May 2016.

 Modeling of the Vader Systems LMJP 3D metal printing process. .

Figure 1. Modeling of the Vader Systems  LMJP 3D metal printing process.  

Scott Vader, President Vader Systems

“You don’t have to be a Fortune 1000 company to engage in high quality research with CMI. Dr. Furlani is an expert in many fundamental aspects of our proprietary printing process and has unique industrial experience in the development of commercial of ink jet systems.  We’re very fortunate to have access to someone with that expertise." 

Sentient Science

UB Partners with Prognostic Software Company to Power DigitalClone: The Story of Sentient Science

Sentient Science, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y. is the leading provider of prognostic technology and services. Since 2001, Sentient has developed multi-physics models,that predict mechanical failures. This research led to a series of commercial tools and services, marketed under their DigitalClone brand, that help manufactures and operators of rotating equipment predict and extend the life and performance of their components. Sentient relocated its headquarters from Idaho to Buffalo in late 2012 after business groups and elected officials connected Sentient with University at Buffalo's world-class resources. To support rapid business growth and market demand, Sentient Science has partnered with The University at Buffalo’s Center of Computational Research (CCR), which provides access to CCR’s 8,000 processor, cloud oriented infrastructure currently serving some of the world’s largest companies.

The CCR has enabled Sentient to deploy the most advanced computational testing and asset management technologies available, to optimize the mechanical life and performance of mechanical devices. The CCR provides Sentient access to its supercomputing infrastructure to host the DigitalClone models and run simulations, which allowed them to scale commercial revenues quickly. This partnership has allowed Sentient to contract its DigitalClone services to over 30% of the North American wind turbine market with expansion into Europe.

In addition, Sentient Science works directly with UB’s Center For advanced biomedical and bioengineering technology (UB CAT), The Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics (CMI) and the center of excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS), on research and development of new prognostic capabilities. Most recently, Sentient partnered with UB and won a phase I proposal from the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) on Additive Manufacturing. Together, Sentient and the University will develop a life-cycle cost optimization tool based on Sentient’s DigitalClone predictive simulation technology to reduce upfront tooling costs for legacy fielded weapon systems. The U.S. Military will employ the DigitalClone technology to build advanced components with lower costs, reduced down time, and accurate validation tests. For example, the Navy will have the ability to print and test components on battleships rather than flying components over war zones to maintain combat systems.

Without the partnership between Sentient Science and UB, Sentient would not be able to provide the U.S Military or their customers with the fast, affordable solutions that they do today.


CMI Helps Scientists Turn Discoveries Into Solutions: The Story of Dimien, LLC

When Dimien, LLC, a leader in advanced materials technologies, wanted to commercialize an innovative window coating that could help keep homes and offices warm in the winter and cool in the summer, they turned to UB’s CMI and STOR to help them take their research to the next level. 

UB’s CMI helps new and existing businesses become more competitive through technological innovation. The Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) works with inventors to transfer their discoveries into enterprises that provide products and services that benefit the public good. Together they helped Dimien commercialize an infrared switchable coating to create the next generation of efficient windows: “smart” windows that offer significant improvements in energy efficiency while improving building comfort.

Dimien brings advanced materials to life in the form of innovations that matter to the broader global market. The start-up company’s current product, an applied film for windows, controls solar heat gain through a proprietary technology that senses temperature changes and adapts to either reflect or transmit heat.

During cooler weather, the film allows the sun’s natural heat to warm the interior of a building and, as a result, lowers heating costs. When temperatures rise, the film switches to reflect heat, keeping the interior cool and comfortable, reducing cooling costs. 

The film essentially creates “smart” windows, reducing energy consumption in buildings, making them more environmentally and economically efficient. 

Dimien has expanded their relationship with UB by accessing our shared instrumentation services to aid in their product development and is currently collaborating with UB Professor Dr. Eva Zurek through the CMI co-funding program to explore new solar cell related materials and technologies that are environmentally safe, low cost and exhibit high efficency.

Brian Schultz, Founder & Managing Member Dimien, LLC

"CMI provided test beds and analytical instrumentation, that allowed us to connect with the necessary partners and accelerate the product innovation cycle to bring our product to market faster."


CMI Helps Local Manufacturer Solve Challenges: The Story of S. Howes

Located in Silver Creek, New York, S. Howes Inc. was established in 1856 as a leading designer and manufacturer of processing equipment. One of the first pieces of equipment manufactured by S. Howes was grain cleaning equipment. In fact, they were once the world's largest manufacturer of such machinery.

Since that time, the company has built on its knowledge of mechanical engineering and manufacturing to diversify its product line by developing process equipment designs used in modern plants. Fred Mertz, a Buffalo native who returned to the region in 2006, now leads and co-owns the firm. Today S. Howes designs and manufacturers numerous types of processing equipment, including: thermal screw conveyors, mixers and blenders, separators, size reducers, grain cleaners and accessories for a wide variety of products and processing industries.

S. Howes strives to maintain its reputation as a leading supplier and provider of high-quality equipment and superior customer service. In addition to having an equipment testing laboratory in its facility since 2006, the firm has been working to identify better ways to ensure product performance and reliability. Existing design methods using simplified lumped-element estimates of thermal conduction are not adequate to ensure that a manufactured system will meet the customer's performance specifications. 

So S. Howes partnered with UB to develop and test a rigorous computational model to accurately predict conveyor performance, allowing the company to compete more effectively in the custom conveyor marketplace. 

Under the direction of UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) professor Edward Furlani, a computational model is being developed to simulate the performance of a typical thermal screw conveyor. The model is based on a computational fluid dynamics analysis that accounts for the movement of product mass through the conveyor and the heat transfer between the conveyor and the product. Using geometric representations of the conveyor components, the model produces a thermal-fluidic analysis that simulates device performance. With the guidance of Andrew Olewnik, SEAS director of experiential learning programs, UB engineering students are validating this analysis through field experiments. The resulting model will be a valuable tool that will allow S. Howes to better meet customer expectations.

Heads Up Display

Finding Success Through the Entrepreneurial Network in Western New York: The Story of Heads Up Display Inc.

Heads Up develops software and hardware for wearable devices that allow the user to make data-driven decisions in real-time. The first of its kind, Heads Up Display System is designed for the front lines of hazardous work environments to increase productivity and save lives.

Heads Up's "traffic light style" display attaches to any eyewear and is designed to utilize the minimum amount of distraction possible, while still allowing workers to make decisions quickly while focusing on the task at hand. Heads Up then stores and aggregates records of sensor readings, alerts, and the users acknowledgement of their compliance with existing safety OSHA protocols, connecting the user, environment and the management team. The development of Heads Up was to address a global safety and financial pitfall - according to the National Safety Council, the US economy is negatively impacted 200 billion dollars annually as a result of workplace injuries.

Cousins, Brendon and Clark Dever, founded the company at Start Up Weekend in March of 2013. The company earned third place at the event and made pivitol connections to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Working wtih UB's Department of Physics and establishing partnerships with other UB entities including UB's NYS Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics (CMI) and UB's Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT), the company was accepted into Z80 Labs incubator in January 2014. Heads Up Display also took part in UB's High-Tech Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) program, a collaborative effort between the UB School of Management and the UB's NYS Center of Excellence in Bioiformatics & Life Sciences (CBLS) offering leaders of early-stage and evolving life sciences and technology companies the opportunity to gain insights on product and team development and learn the unique challenges of the high-tech industry from established entrepreneurs and others who are important to long term success.

Heads Up was then accepted into START-UP NY, a statewide program that allows new or expanding businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years. The company plans to have a fully developed product in the market by Summer 2015. 

In the fall of 2015, Heads Up was one of seven U.S. companies to receive the United Kingdom's GREAT Tech Award. The winners were selected from a prestigious panel of judges and will win a one week business development trip to the UK. 

Brendon Dever, Heads Up Display Co-Founder

"Collaborating with the University has been an integral part of our success at Heads Up. From grant funding, education, tax incentives and access to brilliant minds. Heads Up exists because of the opportunities provided through the University support for high tech entrepreneurship in Buffalo."