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Entrepreneurs find success brewing in the ‘ATIC’


September 10, 2007

Before releasing the Hand Mentor nationwide, Kinetic Muscles Inc. did what all successful companies do before a major product launch: test-market the product.

During testing, the company found that the reliability of some of the mechanical components needed to be improved. The Hand Mentor is designed as a hand therapy device for use in therapy clinics to improve outcomes in stroke rehabilitation, so reliability of the entire device is crucial.

“Before launching the product nationwide, we went through an overhaul of the device and needed to make some pre-production mechanical parts to verify our design changes,” says Ed Koeneman, founder and chief operating officer of the neurological rehabilitation company based in Tempe.

Trying to find a commercial shop willing to take on a small project like that proved a bit challenging. Plus, the cost involved was more than this start-up company could afford.

At about the same time Koeneman was looking for a shop, ASU rolled out the Advanced Technology Innovation Collaboratory (ATIC), which takes entrepreneurs’ innovations from paper to prototype.

Based at the Polytechnic campus, ATIC is a recent venture to help innovative entrepreneurs in the greater Phoenix area use ASU’s assets.
ATIC ideally complements ASU Technopolis’ entrepreneurial education, coaching and networking services to entrepreneurs in the Valley.

Working through ATIC, Kinetic Muscles Inc. was introduced to the mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology unit, which proved to be a perfect fit for the dozen or so mechanical parts the company needed to produce.

“ATIC really filled a gap between the drawing board and full production for us,” Koeneman says. “Faculty and students at ASU were able to deliver top-quality parts at a decent price – and in the time frame that we needed.”

The company was able to verify that the changes made improved the reliability, and the product was renamed the Hand Mentor Pro before launching nationwide in June.

“We have only just recently filled the backlog from the initial rush of orders following the launch date,” Koeneman says.

Kinetic Muscles Inc. is not alone in finding success with ATIC. Small and large projects are under way, such as designing and creating a three-dimensional building visualization tool, year-round holiday decoration mounting equipment, better flag fasteners, conducting research and analysis on the failure of nickel-cadmium cells in batteries, producing an image-guided surgical tool kit and providing marketing assessment for a dentistry practice, to name a few.

Another way that ATIC helps companies be successful is through a free colloquium series that is open to entrepreneurs and small- to medium-sized enterprises, as well as to the general public.

On Sept. 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., ASU will play host to Jonathan Harris, president of CMC Interconnect Technology, in Student Union Cooley Ballroom B on the Polytechnic campus. A light lunch will be provided free of charge to attendees.

Harris will discuss the evolution of electronic packaging technology, from initial laboratory investigation to full-scale production in a start-up company. The technology of focus is an aluminum nitride ceramic material used for high-powered electronic devices in a variety of applications.

For information about the colloquium series or other ATIC services, contact Jane at (480) 727-1647 or atic@asu.edu.