Start-up firm specializes in rugged systems - East Valley Tribune: News

Start-up firm specializes in rugged systems

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Posted: Monday, December 19, 2005 9:48 am | Updated: 9:08 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A trio of youthful former Raytheon engineers have formed a Chandler-based company that hopes to bring rocket science down to Earth.

Black Diamond Advanced Technology, 5505 W. Chandler Blvd., suite 22, specializes in the design of rugged electro-mechanical systems that can withstand severe shocks and vibrations. Their business targets defense and commercial markets.

Organized in July, the company has signed its first two contracts — to develop a rugged shopping cart computer for an undisclosed grocery company and a biometric fingerprint reader for personal computers, which eliminated the need for passwords to identify the user.

Also the firm has in process proposals to the U.S. Department of Defense for an upgrade to a guidance system used as part of the national missile defense system, as well as for a rugged wearable computer that could be used by soldiers in the field.

"Though our expertise lies in designing sophisticated systems for the government, we are very excited about . . . broadening our service to commercial markets that now too are becoming increasingly dependent on advanced rugged computing technology that can survive tough, industrial environments," said Justin Dyster, vice president and the company’s chief operating officer.

A good example of how space-age technology can be used for everyday purposes is the shopping cart computer, designed to allow customers to purchase items directly from their carts, avoiding lines at the checkout counter. The self-checkout system includes a sidepiece mounted on the computer that contains a credit card swiper and a wireless and batteryless barcode scanner.

The device, which is made of scratchresistant, shock-absorbing materials, is equipped with a power source that lasts for the life of the product, Dyster said.

The firm has developed a prototype that is undergoing testing at a mock-up store, he said.

"Anything in the commercial market that is used by a lot of people has to be strong — resistant to drops and vibration," he said.

Dyster, 31, and his partners, Shane Lewis, 37, head of technology development, and Michael Stimpson, 31, in charge of mechanical engineering, all had previous experience at Raytheon Corp. in Tucson. Lewis also worked for General Dynamics in Gilbert before joining Black Diamond.

Among the projects they have worked on during the past decade were the Mars polar lander mission, missile guidance systems and manned space flight operations for NASA. They also gained experience working on "gun-hardened" electronic systems that could withstand the shock of being inside an artillery projectile fired from a cannon.

Another partner in the firm is JTL Mobile Computers, a Chandler-based distributor of a Swedish designed rugged computer system, which wants to expand its offerings to customers.

Black Diamond has only five employees but expects to double in size by March.

More information is available at www.bdatech.com.

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