While ProtoCAM had a very diverse customer base and was successful, the company saw that much of its business was based on a service model delivering just-in-time single prototypes based on one-time projects. They recognized that their rapid prototyping technologies could also be used in rapid manufacturing of finished products. Doing so could help them expand their capabilities and generate a steadier revenue stream. “To do this, we needed to know where opportunities might exist for products produced through our unique capabilities,” notes ProtoCAM President Ray Biery. “We wanted to explore markets, find opportunities for product manufacturing, identify key players and gauge their interest.”
ProtoCAM had been working on a strategic planning initiative with DVIRC’s sister center, the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) located on the Lehigh University Campus. MRC is the Lehigh Valley-based Federal MEP center. Biery decided to rely on MRC’s resources for assistance in exploring possibilities. MRC recognized the unique situation ProtoCAM faced in having a specialized technology, but not knowing where opportunities for it existed. MRC Business Advisor Jim Marler suggested relying on RTI International’s Innovation Advisors group and their expertise with technology transfer.
RTI is one of the world’s leading independent, nonprofit research and development organizations. Its Innovation Advisors group specializes in technology transfer opportunities, helping businesses and organizations make connections for exploring, enabling and deploying innovation. RTI has entered into a contractual agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to provide their Technology Scouting and Technology Driven Market Intelligence (TDMI) services to support small and mid-sized manufacturers exclusively through MEP centers nationally. This resource is available through centers such as DVIRC and MRC.