Luke introduced today’s speaker, Kevin Iott, of Meridian Mechatronics/Plane-Wave Instruments of Deerfield who shared with us some very exciting information about possible expansion of his business here in Adrian. Luke has known Kevin for about two months, he said, since they were both in a commercial together and will share the same property when Kevin’s business locates on the former Adrian Training School site.
Kevin said that his interest in astronomy began at a very early age and that he decided to make the equipment he needed because it was too expensive to buy himself! From there his interest evolved to owning his own company in Deerfield with offices now in California. The company manufactures telescopes from 12 inches in diameter to 40 inches and are used by “high-end” amateurs, he said, as well as professionals in the field of government, aerospace, and the military.
Kevin said that the company has been in existence for 11 years now. It is the partnership between Meridian Mechatronics that Kevin started in Deerfield and Plane-Wave founded by people in California. The company is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Plane-Wave and Kevin is now a partner in this company. The company is planning to consolidate their California offices (Plane-Wave Instruments) with the manufacturing operation (Mechatronics) here in Adrian. They are currently in talks with city officials to acquire the 55-acre training school property north of town where the Adrian Center for the Arts has been located.
Kevin presented a number of slides showing the products they manufacture. One of the examples was a one meter telescope (the mirror is 40 inches in diameter). Mirrors are made, he said, of a solid piece of fused quartz which, in this case is valued at $40,000 for just the blank piece of material before it even get fabricated and machined! There are only four other companies in the US that can machine material this large and at two and a half times the cost of the material to machine it. So, Kevin and his staff took about one year to develop their own process at much less cost. His company can now make this size mirrors in about four weeks in their plant in Deerfield! The company also makes the mounts and motors for the telescopes.
The company has 27 employees currently and consist of software engineers, electrical engineers, and mechanical engineers which is what Kevin said he was. The company is growing very rapidly, he said. His products are in every continent except Antarctica, he said! Kevin said he actually has installed his telescopes in India, Poland and Germany just to name a few. One of his telescopes, Kevin said, was unveiled in a spaceship at the Virgin Galactic hangar in New Mexico where he met Sir Richard Branson!
Kevin concluded by saying that he was encouraged that his company would be close in proximity to the Tech Center in Adrian and that might mean advancing the careers of prospective students who might want to get into this field. He was also excited about the prospects for Adrian and Jackson Colleges and SHU who might have an opportunity to host scientific conferences in the future that would attract experts in the field to Adrian to speak and make formal presentations.