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Trendsetters: Manufacturing

Richard Sweat

Richard Sweat

.decimal, Founder, CEO / Sanford

Rare in a factory: A recording studio to record testimonials.

The workplace: Robotic- and computer-driven factories make good workplaces. “Kids need to know manufacturing is no longer working in the foundry where you come home with a soot-covered face and grease up to your elbows,”says Sweat, who’s also president of the Manufacturers Association of Central Florida.

Honor: Manufacturers Association of Florida Manufacturer of the Year in the 1-150 employee category.

Richard Sweat’s company, .decimal, makes customized metal filters used in treating cancer patients. Cancer centers e-mail specs based on a patient’s tumor shape and size. In as little as a day, his 60-employee company turns a block of brass or aluminum into a custom-made filter that fits into a machine for Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, a high-precision tumor treatment. The varying thicknesses of the filter regulate radiation intensity — thin parts let through more radiation, thick parts protect tissue.

After years of providing jigs, custom foam blocks and fixtures to prop cancer patients in the right positions for tumor targeting, Sweat in 1998 came up with the idea of internet-based manufacturing of custom, patient-specific filters. Revenue last year hit $10.5 million, up from $1.7 million in 2004. He’s in 230 of the 2,150 cancer treatment centers nationwide. He wants to export and to find opportunities in proton beam therapy.

“We’re kind of like this little rebel in Sanford that’s trying to stay afloat and prove our value,” he says.

Sweat, 46, positions his $350 filters as a pay-as-you-go alternative to multimillion-dollar machines. But he has to fight the perception that expensive means better patient outcomes. Centers that invest in more expensive machines feel the need to use them to get a return on their investment. “When you buy a $6-million hammer, every patient that walks through the door looks like a nail. I think that’s the problem with our healthcare system.”

Transforming Idea

Mike Siemer

Mydea Technologies President Orlando
[Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
Bring the napkin sketch of your big idea to Mike Siemer’s Orlando shop, and he’ll turn it into a design. Bring a design, and he’ll rapidly create a prototype. Bring a prototype, and he will quickly have production running.

Mydea Technologies is part machine shop, part product development house, part model shop. His aim: Become a “3-D Kinko’s.”

Siemer, 36, who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at UCF in aerospace and mechanical engineering, respectively, “hung up the mouse ears” as a Disney Imagineer in 2003 to found Mydea. This year, he expects $750,000 in revenue.

Mydea does product development, rapid prototyping, 3-D printing, direct digital manufacturing and mass customization. It makes real estate project models, prototypes for inventors and low-volume production runs for businesses. A couple of months ago, a customer walked in with an idea for a part for a BMW audio/video system and in an hour had a prototype. Mydea then produced 2,000 copies for him.

Someday, Siemer expects a consumer will be able to walk in with a broken stove knob or a child’s drawing and leave with a working version. “There’s a lot more to come.”