Making Smart Material
On July 1, anyone walking past a store on London’s fashionable King’s Road heard sounds blaring, not from speakers, but from windows. How? A pair of hockey-puck-sized devices using a “smart metal” known as Terfenol-D. In a magnetic field, the material can change shape up to 20,000 times a second. More typically, it’s used in next-generation sonar and other industrial applications.
From Bill’s original entry:
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Bill Flowers is the CEO of Iowa-based ETREMA Products, Inc. ETREMA is the world’s leading developer of ‘smart metals’–materials that change shape under a magnetic field and are therefore able to convert electrical power into mechanical power. ETREMA uses smart metals to produce a variety of next-generation products designed for the defense, agriculture, audio, industrial machining and oil drilling industries. Some of the applications ETREMA has assisted customers with are the development of sonar transducers on torpedoes, seismic devices for enhanced oil recovery, sophisticated valves, injectors for the automobile industry, and ultrasonic wastewater treatment systems. ETREMA’s customer base includes Fortune 500 companies, large government contractors and entrepreneurial entities.
What was your moment of truth?
A small, high-tech company operating in rural Iowa has some obstacles to overcome, needless to say. Describing one obstacle would shortchange the progress made by ETREMA, so I’d like to talk about the bigger picture. ETREMA has faced a variety of challenges, from raising capital to industrial espionage to finding applications for its smart metals. First, raising money in during an economic downturn wasn’t easy. But Bill raised millions of dollars from leading Iowa companies. Second, ETREMA has managed to safeguard its secrets from the Chinese, who are bent upon acquring smart metal technologies. Third, ETREMA has managed to focus the applications of its state-of-the-art technologies to key markets–defense, audio, auto, oil and agriculture.
What were the results?
Bill has successfully managed to position ETREMA as the world’s leading manufacturer of smart metals. He’s arranged a multi-million deal with the U.S. Navy for ETREMA to develope next-generation sonar, he’s positioned ETREMA as a supplier of smart metal products to leading Fortune 500 companies, and he’s raised millions of dollars for Etrema so that it can stay years ahead of its competitors. ETREMA is now known throughout the world as the best in the business when it comes to smart metals. Not a small feat for a company of 35 employees in Ames, Iowa.
What’s your parting tip?
Bill might say something like: Focus on what you do best. Don’t try to be too many things for too many people.