Booming business for defense contractor Billerica SI2 Technologies – Lowell Sun
BILLERICA – In an unpretentious office park off Route 3A, wars are fought and won.
SI2 Technologies, a small local company and defense contractor, is headquartered here and produces communications equipment for the US military and large contractors. SI2 recently completed a major site expansion and earlier this month took home a $ 1 million prize for a Shark Tank style pitch contest.
Founded in 2003, SI2 develops and manufactures antennas, networks and signal management products, often using 3D printing technology in its designs.
However, these are not typical antennas like the rabbit ears on an old-fashioned TV. Most of the products would not be recognizable as antennas to a layman, with many shaped like flat plates or arranged in arrays that look more like a flexible mesh.
CEO Joseph Kunze explained that the company likes to focus on creating unique designs that incorporate flexibility, power and lightness without breaking the bank.
âWe don’t do convenience antennas. We are addressing challenges that have a major component in engineering, âhe said. âIt’s always a new challenge.
One of the means the company uses to achieve this in its laboratories is by using unique production machines, such as a truck-sized 3D printer that can train the metal antennas and communication systems directly on other equipment, including curved and uneven surfaces.
When a product, such as the frame of a drone, is placed on the bed of this printer, the machine first scans it with a laser to map a digital representation of the surface, and then prints electronic materials directly onto this. area.
âWe don’t put a square peg in a round hole anymore,â Kunze said. âVery few things are flat or square. There is wasted space there and we love to use it.
Other machines in SI2’s labs include traditional 3D printers and a machine that prints on flat, flexible surfaces, much like a traditional inkjet printer.
In early October, SI2 participated in the Weapons Pitch Day competition organized by the Directorate of Armaments, which is part of the US Air Force. The event allowed SI2 and over 200 other companies to pitch their ideas and, as a finalist, SI2 won a million dollar contract to develop a multifunctional radio frequency search system.
âMost of the time, with government contracts, you only know the people who win,â Kunze said. âThat way you can see your competition. “
The big win is also not the first good news for the company in 2021. Earlier in the year, it completed a major expansion of its laboratory and offices, bringing the company to 23,000 square feet. .
The expansion was carried out in two phases, starting with the construction of the existing office space and then extending to another space in the office park. The new addition is actually a smaller space that the company originally occupied when it started out, right across the parking lot from its main space.
In the new laboratory space, there is test equipment that allows the company to carry out its own quality control. Kunze explained that in the company’s early years, they spent time and money every year transporting prototypes across the country for testing.
Some of these tests include subjecting prototypes to extreme temperatures or radio frequencies, much like you might experience in real world combat zones.
âIf you don’t know its properties, how are you going to design it? Kunze said.
Kunze said the expansion wasn’t the end of SI2’s growth: part of his new space is a large conference room that he says will eventually be overtaken by lab space, and they didn’t. no intention of slowing down.
âWe’re really trying to grow the business and launch more products,â he said. âWe love the research and development industry, but we want to grow the business with more product and sales opportunities. “
Meanwhile, the growth of the company allows it to continue to promote its culture of mutual challenge. This goal is signified by the SI2 Challenge Coin program, inspired by coins distributed among US military branches for special achievements.
SI2 mimics this by giving each employee their own coins and using them as incentives and rewards for employees that exemplify core company values ââto boost camaraderie and morale.
These goals also prompt the company to hire a large number of interns and junior engineers, helping to develop the careers of the scientists they hope to see.
âIt allows employees to understand that these are the things our customers value,â Kunze said.