September 17, 2018

Stanley Black & Decker's downtown tech center a beacon into U.S. manufacturing's future

HBJ Photos | Steve Laschever
HBJ Photos | Steve Laschever
Trevor Smale, of Canada-based Structur3D Printing, with a 3D prototype printed from silicone, rather than plastic or metal. Silicone-based commercial and household parts and components and medical implants could someday be routine, Structur3D founder Charles Mire says.
(Top) David Miro Llopis, left, and Jooyeon Song, both with Mani.Me. (Bottom) Structur3D CEO Charles Mire.
(Left) Mark Maybury, Stanley Black and Decker’s chief technology officer, and Tim Perra, vice president of communications, in Stanley’s Manufactory 4.0 facility within the new Stanley Technology Center, which opens this fall in One Constitution Plaza.
Photo | Contributed
Participants in the Stanley+Techstars Accelerator in downtown Hartford.

Aspiring Tech Startups

These 10 startups are participating in the inaugural Stanley+Techstars Accelerator in downtown Hartford.

Astroprint (California) – Developing cloud platform for 3D printing.

Calt Dynamics (Ireland) – Developing decentralizing tech including 3D printers.

Castor Technologies (Israel) – Developing the first intelligent 3D printing software for manufacturing.

MetalMaker 3D (Canada) – Developing an affordable and scalable solution for metal additive manufacturing.

Inventaprint (New York) – Hardware product development company.

Kwambio (New York) – 3D printing company focused on ceramics.

Mani.Me (California) – Developer of 3D-printed manicured finger nails.

Micron3DP (Israel) – Developing high-speed 3D metal printers.

NanoQuan (Canada) – Focused on unlocking nano-material potential to make plastics electrically conductive.

Structur3D Printing (Canada) – Focused on enabling soft materials (beyond plastic filaments) 3D printing.

Inside a downtown Hartford skyscraper, legendary New Britain hand- and power-tool maker Stanley Black & Decker has set up a collaborative technology laboratory whose aim is to bottle innovation lightning of all kinds.

When it formally debuts as early as late October, the pilot Stanley Technology Center in One Constitution Plaza will house several hundred engineers, scientists, tinkerers and aspiring tech-entrepreneurs, each with a goal of devising the next new commercial-industrial product or service, or improving production-line capabilities and efficiencies.

Stanley Black & Decker has invested an undisclosed sum to lease and equip 23,000 square feet of second-floor office and research and development space that once housed Connecticut Bank & Trust and its successor, former Fleet Bank.

The Stanley Technology Center is actually two innovation labs under one roof. On one side of the floor is the Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator, a partnership with TechStars, a Colorado-based organization that provides seed money and mentoring to aspiring tech startups.

There, 10 chosen tech startups are pursuing proprietary research and development into products ranging from 3D-printed fashion fingernails and desktop 3D printing of custom shoe inserts, to medical and automotive parts using non-plastic, non-metal materials, such as silicone.

On the opposite side of the floor, Stanley is installing its "Manufactory 4.0,'' a working test lab in which its engineers, metallurgists, data analysts and other technicians will conceive and test concepts for new products as well as more efficient and streamlined processes for its production workers and machinery.

With both, company officials say, the global toolmaker wants to identify before its competitors, or anyone else, potential technology "disruptions'' to its business model, as well as new technology and market opportunities.

With Stanley tech researchers working to refine its products and production processes alongside pioneering third-party research and development, the New Britain manufacturer is exploring a vision far beyond what happens on the factory floor today.

Among the questions and issues the Stanley Technology Center will explore, according to Mark Maybury, the company's chief technology officer, are: How is manufacturing going to be done? By whom will it be done? And why will it be done?

"The stake is economic," he said. "The stake is social, so we have jobs for our youth."

Innovative roots

Though new, the Manufactory recalls Stanley's rich, 175-year history when brothers Frederick and William started out producing housing trim and door locksets, making New Britain their world headquarters and burnishing its "Hardware City'' reputation. Stanley, too, was known for innovation, like when it bought and installed Connecticut's first steam engine to power its production.

Today, nothing like the Manufactory 4.0 and Stanley+Techstars accelerator exists under one roof in America, Maybury said.

"You can think of [Hartford] as a factory,'' he said. "A factory for talent. A factory for innovation. A factory for economic development … even quality of life.''

As important, its Hartford presence raises Connecticut's manufacturing-technology profile against innovation competitors based in Boston and New York, Maybury said.

As home to the Stanley Technology Center, Hartford will serve as a Stanley "lighthouse," producing a "beacon'' into how Stanley does manufacturing in the future, he said.

To that end, Hartford was a relatively logical choice to house the tech center, Stanley officials said. Increasingly, urban centers like Hartford are magnets for students, skilled workers and professionals — all potential labor sources for Stanley and the Techstars accelerator startups.

Also, the center is located near a shared, collaborative "makerspace" where manufacturing-technology innovators can devise and test drive new equipment and processes.

An incubator

While Stanley continues to outfit its Manufactory 4.0 space, the Stanley+Techstars accelerator space is up and running. Ten specially chosen startup participants are busy at computer screens reviewing or "beta testing" mockups of products and systems that could someday find their way to consumers.

One of those is startup Mani.Me, launched by MBA students from California's Stanford University. Co-founder Jooyeon Song says Mani.Me is beta testing a potentially disruptive technology that could someday impact thousands of the nation's nail salons.

Mani.Me hopes to one day market millions of custom-made fingernails directly to do-it-yourself fashionistas. Mani.Me's concept offers consumers an online catalog of paste-on nails that are custom made to fit wearers' individual fingers. Customers upload images of their digits to Mani.Me, which manufactures each nail to precisely fit each finger, Song says.

Stationed near Mani.Me is Structur3D Printing, a tech startup launched five years ago by Canadian chemical engineer Charles Mire and his team from Toronto. Structur3D's beta model centers on 3D printing items, ranging from shoe-sole inserts and medical implants to aerospace components, using rubbery elastomers, like silicone, rather than more traditional plastics and metals.

Mire, 45, Structur3D's CEO, says he chose Hartford because "Techstars has a fantastic reputation for helping growing small companies via networking. Its partnership with Stanley was icing on the cake."

With Stanley's technologists as his mentors, Mire says he "can learn a lot," including "how to set up your company for the long haul." Moreover, Stanley is a potential customer for its 3D-printing technology.

Claudia Reuter, a Techstars managing director, says her organization annually enrolls a select group of tech startups in its 13-week development program. Techstars stakes participants with $6,000 to $18,000 to fund beta testing of new technologies and applications.

Hartford, said Reuter, a West Hartford resident who launched and later sold a web-based education consultancy, offers "a great opportunity to create startup ecosystems. Ultimately, you can create a startup ecosystem in any city that connects to other ecosystems," say Boston and New York City.

Come graduation Oct. 7, Techstars' first Hartford startup class will have the opportunity to pitch themselves and their technology or products to Wall Street investors, Reuter said.

In addition, with Stanley having a first peek at them, some Techstars participants could well wind up as vendors, supplying products and services to the manufacturing giant, officials said.

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