Efficient Engineering
The Vermont Tech and Taps Tour (Part 1)

The Vermont Tech and Taps Tour (Part 1)

Machine Design gets a firsthand look at Vermont’s growing manufacturing, technology, and brewery industries.

On a recent visit to Vermont, I had the privilege of touring some of the companies that really capture the culture of the state. Small, scrappy, blue-collar companies that, like most of the world, are in need of talented people. What follows are some of my experiences on my trip into the heart of Vermont, and it underscored the fact that the state has much more to offer than snowboarding and maple syrup.

Before I even got to the hotel, the taxi driver told me that if I needed a scapegoat, I could blame the flying monkeys.

(Credit: Chuck Stone Media)

For 30 years, winged monkeys that represent the ones from Oz have graced the Burlington skyline. Their numbers have grown, and stand as a reminder that this definitely isn’t Kansas. Vermont has its own culture of balance. Every company I saw had a level of transparency, employee engagement, and work-life balance I haven’t seen in any other companies I’ve visited.

Revision

With seven locations and 400 employees, Revision started as an eyewear producer in 2001. The firm has expanded into other verticals; for instance, it bought a helmet company. For now, it supplies both domestic and foreign soldiers with eye protection. This is one of the reasons I don’t have any pictures from inside the facility. However, when walking down one of the hallways, I spotted a pair of glasses that look like it was hit with barrage of pellets. This was proof that Revision’s glasses could withstand a 12-gauge shotgun blast from 16 feet away.

This is above the normal test, which is a single pellet being launched from an air gun over 600 ft./sec. I was able to see a test, and at 659 ft./sec., there was just a dimple in the polymer. Revision tests about 2% of its products this way.

Proper molds control the thickness of the lenses, and are key to making sure optics perform well. After wearing glasses without perfect optics for long periods of time, some users have complained of headaches. Despite being able to see through the glasses fine, it might be the slightly bending light that could result in discomfort.

Molding, cutting, and marking the lenses is automated. I couldn’t go into the clean room, but I could see a 4-Axis Denso SCARA robot—I’ll assume the HS-G Series—was moving glasses in and out of a Plexiglas box. Kelly Krayewsky, director of marketing communication at Revision, pointed out that it was a laser marking system. The arm would pick up the cut lenses, hold them up to a laser, and then at the speed of light, make three marks. I was impressed that there was no fixture; the SCARA arm needs to have accurate repeatability to make sure the markings are consistently in the same spot for each lens.   

“While the glasses are safe, it doesn’t matter if they don’t wear them,” said Gregory Maguire, senior director of legal government affairs. “Weight, safety, and optics are obviously important, but people don’t want to look ridiculous. If the glasses don’t look cool, or intimidating, the soldiers won’t wear them. So yes, a part of making the glasses safe is to make them look cool or badass to ensure the soldiers actually keep them on.”   

Shown is the Stingerhawk eyewear deluxe kit from Revision. Coatings used on the glasses are important to keep the lenses from scratching or fogging. The Stingerhawk was tested under EN 166 standards. In particular, Revision’s OcuMax Plus has been proven to last longer than competing anti-fog solutions by a factor of 10X-20X, is chemical-resistant, and prevents scratches, streaks, and smears.

This idea carries on in Revision’s new helmets. The company is eagerly waiting to hear if its latest Caiman helmet will be adopted by the military.

Vermont helps local companies such as Revision with the Vermont Procurement Technical Assistance Center (VT PTAC). The VT PTAC is part of a nationwide network that shares one common goal: To provide businesses with an understanding of government-contracting requirements and the know-how to obtain and successfully perform federal, state, and local contracts. VT PTAC consistently assists Vermont businesses in finding and winning over $100 million annually in government contracts.

With easy access to politicians, government benefits, and the natural beauty that is Vermont, innovative technology companies are saying “there’s no place like home” in Burlington, Vermont. Stayed tuned for Part 2, which details my visit with BioTek—a precision equipment manufacturer for microplating, and bio-analytics.

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