Economic Development

Kelly Sees Velocity Magnetics as ‘Game Changer’ for Military

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly got the full Velocity Magnetics experience during a tour Monday afternoon, complete with a quick ride on the company’s testing track.

Kelly, R-16 Pa., and his chief of staff, Matt Stroia, toured the manufacturer of magnetic frictionless motion-control braking and launching systems at the invitation of its president and CEO, Domenic Marzano. After a brief meeting and tour of the shop floor where Marzano explained how the magnetic systems worked, Kelly and Stroia strapped into the test chairs before being propelled 18 mph at 1.2G.

“It was really exciting,” Kelly said, adding that it’s an “incredible” experience when touring the district and meeting people who are doing things that “most of us would never know about.

“We drive by these places, but we don’t know what they do inside,” Kelly said. “This is incredible innovation taking place right here in New Castle. … It is a game changer.”

Velocity Magnetics works primarily with customers in the amusement park industry. During their meeting, Kelly and Marzano discussed the potential of the technology to be implemented aboard aircraft carriers. In the same way it launches rides at Universal Studios and Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, the system could launch fighter jets more efficiently than current systems, Marzano said.

Some of the modern electromagnetic aircraft launch systems, or EMALS, currently aboard Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers “seem to not be performing up to par or within standards and not functioning properly,” he said. Those systems use linear induction motors rather than the linear synchronous motors used by the systems built by Velocity Magnetics, he said.

Domenic Marzano demonstrates the magnetic braking system to U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly and his chief of staff, Matt Stroia.

As a result, President Donald Trump has been discussing the possibility of going back to more conventional steam power for the launch systems on carriers, Marzano said. Since 2017, Trump has blasted EMALS and encouraged the Navy to go back to using steam-powered launchers for carriers.

“We just want to let them know that there’s another option out here,” Marzano said. “Everything’s built in-house, 100% here at Velocity Magnetics.”

The technology is about five years old and much “more efficient and reliable than what they’re dealing with” currently, he said. “Our technology is magnet-to-magnet lock up,” using rare-earth magnets that hook up positively with the coils housed in composite motors in the system, he said. That compares to the linear induction motors, which have a nonferrous plate going through it, causing “more slippage, more heat generated,” he said.

“Also, when we advance the lineator, which is fashioned to the vehicle or the skate that would be launching the aircraft off the aircraft carrier, when you propel that forward … we only fire and operate the coils that magnets are in front of,” he said. “So that the rest of the motors aren’t wasting energy, the motors behind the skate aren’t wasting energy.”

Whereas linear induction motors are 20% to 30% efficient, “these are more like 60% to 70% more efficient, depending on the width of the air gap,” he added.

Mike Shaner, machinist, discusses the machining process with Stroia and Domenic Marzano Sr., a vice president at Velocity Magnetics

Marzano is hopeful the meeting with Kelly will result in connections with the decision-makers in the Department of Defense “or maybe even Trump himself” or a representative to see the technology for themselves.

“I believe we have a much better mouse trap here. What they’re utilizing now instead of the steam is 1960s technology with today’s electronics technology,” he said. “But our linear motors and our electronics, it’s today and even out tomorrow.”

Kelly said he can leverage a “close relationship with the White House” and his friendship with President Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to help move the proposed military use of the technology higher on the priority list. The congressman praised “homegrown talent” for developing a technology that could potentially strengthen the military and military products, he said.

“We’ve got something going on I think is a game changer for the country, I think it’s a game changer for our defense department and it’s a game changer for our hard-working American taxpayers,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, they’re the ones that pay for everything.”

In 2012, Marzano started designing the motors and writing the patents for the energy-management systems. The following year, he started developing the drive for the motors and designing the architecture. He developed the initial braking technology in his garage in 1998 after retiring from his job as a trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police.

In May, The Business Journal featured Velocity Magnetics in its Rally Around Small Business coverage. Marzano said the company has enjoyed annual business between 30% and 50%.

Along with launchers aboard aircraft carriers, Marzano could see his technology being employed in industrial settings, moving robotic platforms back and forth “because this motor can be used as a servo as well,” he said. The company is developing technology “to be extremely accurate” to move robotics around assembly plants. The technology doesn’t have to be tethered, he said, “which is a big deal for assembly plants.”

Pictured: U.S Rep. Mike Kelly (center) and his chief of staff, Matt Stroia, are strapped in by Domenic Marzano before their ride on the testing track at Velocity Magnetics.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.