By Eric Peterson | Nov 10, 2014
Advanced Material technology
A former NASCAR crew chief, President Ryan Coniam is pushing advanced materials into defense and other markets.
Visser Precision Cast is focused on bringing amorphous metal casting -- or AMC -- into the lexicon of engineers worldwide.
Developed at the California Institute of Technology in the 1990s, AMC initially generated a lot of excitement, but that proved to be a false start. "One thing led to another and the technology did not advance," says Coniam.
Visser has a license from Liquidmetal Technologies in Rancho Santa Margarita and is pushing AMC into a number of markets, primarily defense.
Despite its name, AMC does not involve metal. "To be clear, it's a glass," says Coniam. "It's super hard, with near net shape, and it's super, super strong -- it's 1.5 the strength-to-weight of titanium." In the rare case of failure, he adds, it fails like glass. "It just shatters, but it can actually bend a ton before it fails."
Thanks to AMC's spring-like properties, it's been a hit with defense contractors. About 90 percent of Visser's current business is in defense, with the remainder in energy and medical, says Coniam.
But Coniam sees many more applications that have yet to be tapped. "Amorphous metal casting is really good for making small, difficult components that need a manufacturing advantage," he notes.
Visser is starting with "any part that has to act like a spring," Coniam adds. "It's a pretty phenomenal mirror as well."
The company also offers additive manufacturing and high-end precision. "We're a solutions provider," says Coniam, noting that AMC "is not an end-all, be-all" for every application. "We just look at ourselves as a good option for the difficult manufacturing needs of today."
Visser's current business model required an early pivot. "We figured we'd be the guys to develop a part and pass that tool to someone else," says Coniam. "The more we got into it, the more we realized the IP needed to be advanced."
The company has grown at a 40 to 50 percent clip every year it's been in business, and has plenty of room to grow in its 55,000-square-foot factory in northeast Denver.
And Coniam sees plenty of growth potential in Visser's future. "I'd like to be about 40 percent bigger [by the end of 2014]," he says. "In five years, I'd like to be a 100-employee company. My marching orders are to create jobs in Denver."
Denver is the ideal city to lure the right people, he adds. "It's easy to attract talent to move here. It's a round world of manufacturing these days, so we can't look in one place anymore."
Challenges: Educating potential customers about AMC. "We've got new processes and new materials," says Coniam, adding that any manufacturer looking to save weight should look into AMC. "I would just like engineers to consider it."
Opportunities: "Every market has huge challenges, be it defense, be it automotive, be it leisure and sporting goods," says Coniam. "Every market has challenges that pop up and need to be solved."
Needs: "We're always looking for talent," offers Coniam. "We're primarily a trade-driven company. We make molds, me make parts -- trades, trades, trades." Noting that more than half of U.S. GDP is in financial services, he adds, "That's not a trade. We don't make anything anymore." Visser's cutting-edge technology makes it attractive to younger employees, but the company doesn't stop there. "We try to create an awesome environment," says Coniam. "We look nationally and internationally."