Students commercialize laser steel cutter

Muncie, Indiana – The anxiety of being trapped in a vehicle after a horrific accident can be made worse by the deafening noise of equipment and sections of steel being pulled apart. Those days may soon be over, however, thanks to a laser cutting system originally created by the military for use in the field.

Entrepreneurship majors John Benjamin of Fortville and Adam Odgaard of Indianapolis are working to bring their beam of life device (BOLD) laser system to market by 2012. The project is among many in Military 2 Market (M2M), a partnership between Ball State and the US Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Crane Division, located in southern Indiana.

With a name that explains the product's impact, BOLD promises to revolutionize extrication equipment and procedures by replacing cutting blades and piston-rod hydraulic tools — currently used by the vast majority of emergency rescue teams around the world — with laser cutters.

"The first time we saw the system being used at Crane, we both thought this is something that could easily change the way accident victims are cut out of vehicles," Benjamin says. "It cuts through a few inches of steel in just seconds. Emergency personnel want to get the victim to the hospital in the golden hour, or the first 60 minutes after an accident, in order to improve a person's ability to survive."

M2M, the partnership that is making BOLD and other innovations possible, is a result of the military's desire to commercialize patents developed by engineers at Crane as well as at various installations around the world. During the process, students receive coaching from Navy technology transfer officers, laboratory scientists, and entrepreneurship faculty, says Michael Goldsby, entrepreneurship program director.

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