Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Micro Tech Manufacturing Inc. was in the same industry as, and competing with, semiconductor companies at the forefront of the modern computing revolution.
So, it is with more than just a little regret in his voice that Ted Jasiewicz, the company's president and CEO, retells the tale of Micro Tech's exit from that industry.
Micro Tech, which inhabits a labyrinthine office and manufacturing facility at 100 Grand St. in Worcester's Main South neighborhood, focuses now on capacitors and batteries.
It doesn't manufacture either, and it didn't manufacture semiconductors. But it does design and build machines used in manufacturing those things.
And being on what may be the cutting edge of battery manufacturing at a time when battery technology is improving rapidly and powering everything from laptop computers to automobiles efficiently and relatively affordably makes getting out of the semiconductor business a little easier to take.
Micro Tech was a division of Sprague Electric, a company that once had a considerable presence in Massachusetts and New England. Sprague went through the mergers and acquisitions and buy-outs that come with the operation of a national company, and in 1985, Jasiewicz, who had worked for Micro Tech since 1968, had the chance to buy the division.
"The bad news is that we didn't have any business," Jasiewicz said.
"When he bought it," T.J. Jasiewicz, Ted's son, said, "we weren't allowed to sell to any other companies except Sprague."
"So, our business base was zero," said Ted. Micro Tech then began looking into the battery industry. It had designed and built equipment used in battery manufacturing and had relationships with Duracell and Mallory.
"We could step in to battery manufacturing fairly easily," Jasiewicz remembered.
The interior of batteries are made up of two electrodes and a separator. The separator is a fairly tight roll of material, usually aluminum that is stamped in order to give it the greatest possible surface area with which to store energy.
Micro Tech's machines roll those separators in a perfectly uniform way, and the company's technology is attracting attention from fledgling companies using nano-particles and even subnano particles in Lithium Ion batteries. The company is working on a project with a Dutch company called Ogron BV, which has applied for patents and would have Micro Tech establish a new lab and/or manufacturing operations here in Worcester.
"The question is getting the materials made properly and consistently," Jasiewicz said. Batteries with even the smallest flaw can be inefficient or even hazardous.
Ogron's technology would allow batteries to be recharged in mere minutes.
Micro Tech is also working with researchers at Clemson University who think batteries can be used to store energy produced by solar power and wind power systems.
Jasiewicz said battery manufacturing depends on two key factors, the quality and consistency of the materials used and the efficiency with which those batteries can cool down.
Unfortunately, he said, too few American companies are focusing on materials technology and are not bothered by the fact that such work is done almost exclusively in China.
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Watch as Ted Jasiewicz, president and CEO of Micro Tech, explains how battery technology is changing: