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April 1, 2019 Manufacturing awards

Carpe Diem Technologies is using a $2.3M state grant to develop a Massachusetts ecosystem for flexible electronics

Carpe Diem Technologies' staff

John Berg, CEO of the Franklin manufacturer Carpe Diem Technologies, Inc., believes in seizing opportunities. Just look at the name of his company.

Because Berg is so open to change, the company's main output has shifted over the years. At times it has focused on making optics for LED lights – it built the beacon on top of New York's One World Trade Center, for example.

But these days, Carpe Diem's specialties are focused on much smaller physical structures. Now, Carpe Diem works primarily in the realm of nanometers – that's one billionth of a meter – and microns. For those outside of the industry, it can be a bit difficult to conceptualize.

“We're basically printing in really fine features and stamping [them] onto a surface,” Berg said.

That capability, he said, can actually change the physical properties of the material being printed on. A classic example is using a printing pattern to make a surface water repellant.

Carpe Diem's main product output is capital equipment allowing for printing electronics and optics. But when Berg learned there was room to advance this technology – he's particularly excited about the idea of flexible electronics – he realized he would need to collaborate with other companies in order to help push his industry forward.

The specializations were there, but people weren't working closely enough together.

Bringing together the local ecosystem

At first, he began looking for potential partners as far away as Japan. But he soon realized the types of companies he wanted to work with were located right within Massachusetts.

So, Berg began meeting with other local industry heads and ultimately applied for a Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) grant to help get his vision of a specialized manufacturing ecosystem off the ground. Carpe received the $2.3-million grant in July.

He looped in Rothtec Engraving Corp., FLEXCon, Mack Technologies Inc., and Xenon Corp., all Massachusetts-based companies, as subrecipients for the grant. The formal collaboration is still in its early stages, Berg said, but he's excited about where it might lead.

“The ecosystem, almost by definition, is what's there,” Berg said. “What's changed is that it just applying [for the grant] forced us to be deliberate.”

Money-making relationships

Jordan Smith, a market development specialist for FLEXCon, said the Spencer company hadn't really worked closely with Carpe Diem before M2I2 grant. But one of the reasons FLEXCon got on board was Carpe Diem's positive reputation in the industry.

“There's a lot of companies in the area that are doing a lot of their own development for microstructure films and flexible films, but there was no collaborative effort to attack different markets and different emerging markets,” Smith said. “So we realized that there was kind of an unmet need, where we needed to work together to collaborate.”

In Berg's view, what prevents collaboration across any industry is the fear of getting too close with potential competition. But, he said, that can be overcome.

“You've got to build a relationship with your partners,” Berg said.

“That's an important piece. You've got to work together to gain each other's trust and then I think you need to come up with arrangements that are win wins,” he said. “Everyone needs to know how they're going to make money.”

Read about the other WBJ 2019 Manufacturing Excellence Award winners

Manufacturing Excellence Award, Large Company - AIS

Manufacturing Excellence Award, Small Company - Organomation

Green Manufacturing Award - Acorn Deck House Co.

Rising Star Award - New England Optical Systems, Inc.

Product Design & Innovation Award - CPI Radant Technologies Division, Inc.

Collaboration in Manufacturing Award - Carpe Diem Technologies, Inc.

Workplace Development & Productivity Award - SLIDEWAYS, Inc.

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