Laser application center ready to roll

East Hartford, CT - The Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT) hit the ground running about a year ago under the direction of Dr. Karl Prewo. In a few short months CCAT, with the backing and support of Congressman John B. Larson, had a mission, near and far term objectives, and a working plan. With substantial federal (DOD) and state funding and the support of regional universities and major local businesses such as United Technologies (UT), TRUMPF, and others CCAT became a functioning entity faster than normal.

When we visited early this spring we were pleased to see reality rather than press releases. Sitting in the CCAT conference room we had a preview of just what has been accomplished to date and we can say with alacrity that it is very impressive. CCAT is committed to strengthening technology-led economic competitiveness via collaboration with industry, government, and academia.

There are three main initiatives; an Advanced Technology Center (with a laser lab as its feature), a Connecticut Innovation Center (mainly SBIR activities), and a Center for Innovation and Enterprise Education (focusing on science activism, communications, and technology).

Click here to enlarge image

We of course are mostly interested in the Innovation Center, which will do the following: help new technology-based businesses start successfully, serve as a beachhead for international or out-of-state companies, and provide a setting for entrepreneurial education. Currently occupying about 10,000 sq. ft. in part of the United Technologies Research Center, CCAT should have its Laser Applications Center fully up and running by the end of summer. A director is about to be announced and the beginnings of an experienced staff should be on board by the time this is being read.

Laser equipment in this laboratory will include an Extrude Hone laser processing center, (see ILS November 2004 page 4), a TRUMPF -201-P laser driller, and a Q-switched TRUMPF solid-state laser, a Convergent Prima P-50 drilling workstation, and a couple of Coherent Deos low-power waveguide CO2 lasers coupled to a Haas workstation. Other laser technology will be added soon.

What is even more exciting is that this Applications Lab, seen in the photo, sits across a parking lot from the future Rentschler Technology Park and a space where a new 80,000-sq.-ft. CCAT facility will be built in a couple of years.

But it’s not all about buildings and equipment. Yes CCAT is focused initially on laser drilling for aerospace application. Why else would they be getting strong support from UT’s Pratt & Whitney turbine engine business? And CCAT has a leadership role in the U.S. Air Force’s National Aerospace Leadership Initiative, also headquartered here. Dr. Prewo speaks about things like university partnerships, affordable entrepreneurial ventures, global cooperative industrial activities, and support for Connecticut and eventually regional business. He thinks about internships from local universities, collaborations with community colleges for technical training, and intellectual and personnel exchanges with off-shore R&D organizations. When asked about job creation he bristles slightly preferring to talk about careers not jobs. And he is right, if submarine building leaves Connecticut a raft of skilled ship builders will require career changes to continue as tax-paying citizens. And CCAT has these people firmly in mind.

If it all sounds too ambitious, keep in mind what has been accomplished so far. To learn more about CCAT access the Website www.ccat.us.

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