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Second Sight: Maker of the First Bionic Eye

  • November 6, 2013

Each year, about 250 people are diagnosed with a rare, degenerative condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which robs them of their light perception. There is no known cure, but in 2013, a privately held company called Second Sight Medical Products in Sylmar, California, received FDA approval of the Argus II retinal prosthesis system, which is considered the world’s first bionic eye.

The medical device, which is about the size of a small pill, contains 80 electrodes. The device is implanted in the back of the eye in a procedure that takes about two hours. By stimulating the tissue in the retina, it allows patients to see in black, white, and shades of gray. This partial restoration of vision permits patients to regain a degree of independence and quality of life.

The team at Second Sight has been working to fund the necessary research, develop, test, and perfect the product, and get it approved, for 15 years. The project received $100 million in private funding, followed by another $100,000 from federal agencies. The device was first approved by regulators in Europe in 2011.

How significant of a breakthrough is this new medical device? The Cleveland Clinic named the product the top medical innovation for 2014. The editors of a trade publication, Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry News, named Second Sight Medical Products the Manufacturer of the Year for 2013. The publication’s readers affirmed that selection in their own survey.

By relying on neurostimulators, the product uses a technology that is being tested around the world for other conditions. As for this device, the firm’s private investors contemplate either an IPO or a sale to a larger company within the next year. For the patients who are regaining some level of sight, their gratitude helps make this another Great Manufacturing Story.

Burke Industrial Coatings: Durable Liquid Stainless Steel

  • September 8, 2012

If you ever have a chance to see the Bonneville Lock and Dam on the Columbia River east of Portland, Oregon, you’ll see an industrial coatings success story.  All of the metal on and around the Dam was painted in 1973 with water-based acrylic stainless steel paint manufactured by Burke Industrial Coatings. Today, four decades later, the protective finish still looks great.

Burke is a small manufacturer founded in 1948 in Washington State specializing in engineered coating systems. It produces liquid stainless steel and antimicrobial coatings, and sells them to customers in the U.S. and, increasingly, around the world. .

Their water based coatings have stainless steel flake embedded to stand up to demanding environments. Since liquid stainless steel is essentially inert, it provides resistance to nasty weather, coastal environments, fumes, spillage and abrasion. Harley-Davidson motorcycles and some of the automakers are among their customers.

Burke’s antimicrobial coatings (a newer product line) are now being used in industries such as food and beverage production, HVAC , and medical equipment – settings where bacteria can be a major problem.

From the Bonneville Dam (below) and Harley-Davidson bikes to industrial and medical applications around the globe, Burke Industrial Coatings is a Great Manufacturing Story.

Cummins: World’s Most Powerful Diesel Engine

  • November 6, 2011

Cummins Inc. has been manufacturing engines in Seymour, Indiana, since 1976. This past week, the company announced that it will begin production of the world’s most powerful, high-speed diesel engine starting in 2013. More than 150 engineers are developing the new WSK95 engine in Seymour.

This next-generation engine will be suited for high-hour, high-load applications in passenger and freight locomotives, marine vessels and haul trucks in the mining industry. Benefits, according to Cummins, will include higher levels of equipment uptime, a longer life-to-overhaul cycle, and more cost-effectiveness than larger medium-speed engines.  Adding further to this Great Manufacturing Story, the engine will comply with EPA’s final Tier 4 emissions standards, which take effect in 2015.

The United States is a global leader in the design and production of high-power engines.  The WSK95 will help strengthen that status for years to come.  

Boeing: World-Class Military Aircraft

  • September 10, 2011

Some of the world’s most sophisticated military aircraft come from the City of Brotherly Love. Boeing employs 6,000 people at its military aircraft design and manufacturing center in Philadelphia. The facility is undergoing a $130 million investment that will make it a global model for lean manufacturing.

The facility makes both the H-47 Chinook and V-22 Osprey. First designed 54 years ago, the Chinook helicopter has been called the workhorse of the United States army. The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, first deployed by the U.S. Marines in 2000, combines the vertical-rise maneuverability of a helicopter with the speed performance of a turboprop. In its first 11 years of service, the Osprey has been used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Boeing’s major investment in lean manufacturing in Philadelphia, coupled with continuous improvement in product design and the nation’s first privately-owned wind tunnel, make this a Great Manufacturing Story with a very bright future.