Funding will enable innovators to connect and collaborate on projects with URI College of Engineering

PORTSMOUTH, R.I.— 401 Tech Bridge recently named three companies—Canapitsit Customs LLC, Nautilus Defense, and TxV Aerospace Composites—as winners of its Materials Innovation Challenge. Through the program, 401 Tech Bridge will provide funding to support the companies’ collaborations with faculty at the University of Rhode Island (URI) College of Engineering on modeling, research, testing, and validation projects. All winning proposals of this year’s challenge will aim to make significant contributions to the defense and aerospace markets, 401 Tech Bridge said in a release.

401 Tech Bridge will provide $105,000 ($35,000 per project) to the URI College of Engineering to support the companies’ collaborations with URI’s Dynamic Photomechanics Laboratory and its Multiscale and Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials Research Laboratory.  The Dynamic Photomechanics Laboratory is led by Mechanical, Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Arun Shukla and Assistant Professor Helio Matos. The Multiscale and Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials Research Laboratory is led by Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Sumanta Das.

“401 Tech Bridge is excited to further the innovative work of Canapitsit Customs LLC, Nautilus Defense, and TxV Aerospace Composites by connecting them to URI, which is known nationally for its advanced materials research,” said Mary Johnson, manager, 401 Tech Bridge, in the release. “The Materials Innovation Challenge helps these companies enhance their internal R&D capabilities with support from the University, creating new solutions and business opportunities.”

The 401 Tech Bridge Materials Innovation Challenge was formed to address the fact that while large companies have internal R&D labs, the small organizations that make up the bulk of the region’s advanced materials businesses do not. 401 Tech Bridge collaborated with these small businesses to identify the expertise and tools they need to develop their ideas into new solutions, working with the URI Business Engagement Center to connect them with the faculty and facilities that could help, the release said.

“This is an excellent opportunity for us here at URI to get involved with applied research projects and help the local industry,” said Arun Shukla, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical, Industrial, and Systems Engineering at URI, in the release. “With collaboration between our Dynamic Photomechanics and Multiscale and Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials Research laboratories, synergistic application of experiments and computational modeling in these projects will accelerate the design and development of transformative high-performance composite materials for multifunctional applications.”

Canapitsit Customs is a Bristol, Rhode Island-based, woman-owned small business that specializes in composites design and manufacturing for the marine, defense, and aerospace industries. Support from the Materials Innovation Challenge will enable Canapitsit Customs to work with URI’s Dynamic Photomechanics Laboratory, as well as the Multiscale and  Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials Research Laboratory, to develop, simulate, and validate the company’s design and manufacturing processes for a deep-sea pressure vessel. The vessel is said to have significant potential in the defense, renewable energy, and offshore oil and gas sectors.

“The support from the Materials Innovation Challenge will enable us to continue the development of a deep-sea composite pressure vessel, providing extended mission capabilities and increased payload capacity for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs),” said Darya Blout, founder and owner of Canapitsit Customs, in the release. “Utilizing the expertise of both URI’s Dynamic Photomechanics Laboratory and the Multiscale and Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials Research Laboratory, we hope to develop an economic vessel that will allow for the integration of advanced materials to be feasible for an increased number of UUV developers and manufacturers.”

Nautilus Defense is a Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based small business that is focused on the development and production of textile-integrated systems for monitoring high-value assets and their environments. Materials Innovation Challenge funding will enable Nautilus to work with URI’s Dynamic Photomechanics Laboratory and the Multiscale and Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials Research Laboratory to perform electromechanical testing of novel textile-integrated systems. This will help strengthen the company’s offerings to the defense and commercial markets, the release said.

“Nautilus is honored to be selected as a winner of the Materials Innovation Challenge,” said Jim Owens, principal, Nautilus Defense. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with URI’s esteemed researchers in support of the continued validation of our technologies.”

TxV Aerospace Composites is a manufacturer of composite parts and assemblies for the aerospace industry that are said to save cost, reduce weight, and allow for faster production of aircraft components. These benefits are made possible by a novel material and process that is reported to enable the manufacture of parts in minutes, versus the hours it could take with traditional materials and manufacturing.

With its Materials Innovation Challenge funding, TxV will work with URI’s Multiscale and Multiphysics Mechanics of Materials Research Laboratory to characterize the strength and behavior of material bond line and correlate that data to the performance of hybrid composite structures.

“Our novel hybrid over-molding process combines the strength of continuous fiber composites and the functionality and flexibility of injection molding to create aerospace parts efficiently,” said Peter Levesque, engineering manager for TxV Aerospace Composites, in the release. “The interface bond of these two materials is critical for final part performance, and this research will enable us to quantify the mechanical performance and will help to further drive market adoption of the technology.”

Through programs like the Materials Innovation Challenge, 401 Tech Bridge aims to help open pathways for companies that are developing leading-edge advanced materials, technologies, and products. By connecting companies with governmental organizations, major corporations, and the region’s academic knowledge base, 401 Tech Bridge creates opportunities for companies to enter new markets and commercialize their technology, the release said.

The 401 Tech Bridge Materials Innovation Challenge is supported by the NIST MEP, the University of Rhode Island Business Engagement Center, the University of Rhode Island College of Engineering and the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation.

 The 401 Tech Bridge (https://401techbridge.org) was formed to create a center of excellence that connects innovative companies to business opportunities and facilitates collaboration across industry, government, and academia. By facilitating these connections and collaboration throughout its network, 401 Tech Bridge works to help companies accelerate the journey from concept to prototype to commercialization.

The organization is said to serve as a “super-connector” for Rhode Island companies that are developing leading-edge advanced materials and technologies; governmental organizations and major corporations with funded projects that call for advanced materials and technologies; and the region’s academic institutions who have related knowledge base and research capabilities.

The 401 Tech Bridge (https://401techbridge.org/) is a business unit of The University of Rhode Island Research Foundation and serves as a partner intermediary organization for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, supporting the Naval X Northeast Tech Bridge. It receives support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, The Rhode Island Foundation, and the Van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

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