From coffee-scented plastic to artificial limbs, summit showcases ND tech
FARGO-Mmm. Is there anything more appealing than the aroma of hot coffee?
What about making artificial limbs more affordable for children?
The two went hand in hand Wednesday at the 2015 State of Technology Conference held in Fargo.
At the start of the event, a 3-D printer placed onstage quietly worked away at producing an artificial appendage.
Because the printer used a bioplastic derived from material created as a byproduct of the coffee-roasting process, the java lava, so to speak, imbued the meeting hall with a scent suggesting cappuccino.
All of which linked together the presentations of a number of speakers, including Cooper Bierscheid, an undergraduate in manufacturing engineering who is in his final semester at North Dakota State University.
Bierscheid talked about the senior project he was a part of that sought to find a way to make a 3-year-old child's artificial arm more affordable for his family.
Ultimately, he said, they developed a way to create a prosthesis using 3-D printing that reduces the $30,000 to $100,000 cost of an artificial limb to less than $2,000.
"One of the moral standards of an engineer is to better society," Bierscheid said, adding that he and several business partners recently formed a company-Protosthetics-with the aim of taking their product to market in the near future.
Bierscheid had a connection to one of the the other presenters Wednesday, Jake Clark, who Bierscheid worked for as an intern.
Clark is a founder of two Fargo-based companies, Fargo 3D Printing and 3DomUSA.
The former sells and services 3-D printers, and the latter manufactures a variety of eco-friendly plastic filaments used in the 3-D printing process.
The coffee-scented filament used by the onstage printer Wednesday was a 3DomUSA creation made with raw material provided by another Fargo startup-c2renew-whose founders, Corey Kratcha and Chad Ulven, also spoke at the conference.
Among the things c2renew does is create biocomposite compounds, essentially plastics, using agricultural residue like husks and hulls, along with recycled or virgin plastics from petroleum or renewable resources.
In effect, raw materials developed by c2renew can be used by 3DomUSA to create plastic filaments that Protosthetics can use to make artificial limbs for children at reduced cost.
Ulven said in a market the size of Fargo, mutually beneficial arrangements among startups make more sense than cutthroat competition.
"If we want to be global ... we have to work together. We're too small not to," he said.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who along with the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, focused attention on Fargo-based Appareo Systems and the fact the company, which develops and manufactures software and devices for the aviation and agriculture industries, is poised to submit new air traffic control technology to the Federal Aviation Administration for review and approval.
Essentially, Hoeven said, Appareo's technology would allow all aircraft in controlled airspace to communicate their location and altitude to each other, thereby improving the safety and efficiency of all aviation systems, including unmanned aerial systems, also known as drones.
"Appareo's next generation air traffic control technology has significant impacts for commercial aviation and general aviation in North Dakota and across the country," Hoeven said.