TMCNet:  Remote control

[February 27, 2012]

Remote control

Feb 27, 2012 (The Decatur Daily - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Mesa Technology wanted to expand its business beyond unmanned ground robots, but it had a money-customer issue. The Madison-based industrial robotics company needed funding to generate customers and customers to generate funding.

A solution would come in the form of the Advanced Robotics Research and Development Center, Phase 2 of the Alabama Technology Park, located across U.S. 31 from Calhoun Community College.

Rent is free for Mesa because it is an Alabama company. The company is the second client in the center, which opened last fall.

Mesa vice president Tim Cutshaw said the company would have had to spend as much as $4 million building a facility in order to move into industrial automation.

Expansion is "hard to justify when you've only got a $150,000 purchase committed to project," Cutshaw said.

Mesa has an initial $150,000 contract in industrial automation with a medical company. Mesa will be creating robots that mix medicine with fluid. Cutshaw said the customer has asked that its name remain confidential.

Kent Eudy, director of machine automation, said Mesa also expects to move initially into assembly and vision inspection as part of the industrial automation expansion.

Eudy said the United States' best bet for offsetting other countries' inexpensive labor is automation.

"Robots may eliminate some jobs, but it will create more high-paying tech jobs," Eudy said. "At this point, I don't think our country has much choice if we're going to stop the outflow of jobs." Ed Castile, executive director of the Alabama Industrial Development and Training Institute, which oversees the robotics park, said Mesa is the kind of company the park's developers wanted for Phase 2. They knew military robotics were a likelihood given the presence of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, but they also want the park to benefit the state's industries.

"We're going to make sure that industry has access to this place," Castile said.

Mesa averages $3 million in annual revenue. The 25-employee company also plans to use the park for unmanned ground robots development and demonstration.

Cutshaw said the company anticipates adding three or four people this year because of its work at the robotics park. The park's half-mile test track will allow the Mesa to test and show off its unmanned robots to potential customers.

Mesa doesn't have a track at its home office. It has had to test its robots on the back roads of Madison and Limestone counties, which Cutshaw admitted isn't always safe.

Mesa is close to completing contract with Picaptinny Arsenal in New Jersey to develop an improvised explosive device detector for Mesa's unmanned ground robot, Acer.

Mesa Technology Alabama Robotics Technology Park client Established 2004 in Madison Develops unmanned ground systems and industrial robotics.

25 employees Averages about $3 million in annual revenues.

___ (c)2012 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) Visit The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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