Nordson Corp.’s Lorain County roots run deep.
The global industrial company, based in Westlake, was founded in Amherst by Eric and Evan Nord, sons of local industrialist Walter G. Nord. While the Nord family no longer runs the company, the manufacturer retains close ties to the community, and nowhere is that more evident than in its relationship with SMART Microsystems, located in the Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems on Lorain County Community College’s Elyria campus.
Roots of the partnership
The relationship between Nordson and SMART began in 2010 when the center bought state-of-the-art equipment from Nordson’s Advanced Technology Systems group, giving it a competitive advantage with capabilities in automated dispensing, plasma treatment and X-ray inspection.
“We do microelectronic packaging, and Nordson manufactures a wide variety of equipment that supports that,” says Matt Apanius, president and managing director of SMART Microsystems. “When we first got SMART off the ground, we purchased four initial pieces of equipment from them.”
From that initial interaction, Nordson and SMART developed an ongoing dialogue, discussing the capabilities of both organizations and how they could develop synergies that would drive both the company and the college forward.
“They had a couple of conferences on site, and we attended,” says Dave Selestak, business development manager for Nordson MARCH, part of the Advanced Technology Systems group. “That, in particular, allowed us to see the additional capabilities SMART had gained as far as microelectronic diagnostic capabilities and the like.”
The fact that Nordson, SMART and LCCC are all located in the same region also provided shared motivation for partnering.
“SMART and LCCC are organizations committed to helping individuals and businesses in the region,” says Apanius. “You want to help the people in your own backyard, because when they’re successful, it benefits everyone who lives here.”
Uncovering new opportunities
Over the last six years, Nordson and SMART have worked together on a number of projects. SMART’s ongoing acquisition of advanced equipment and new capabilities has made it an increasingly valuable resource to Nordson.
“For about a year and a half, Nordson needed sophisticated camera capabilities for looking at microelectronic devices,” Selestak says. “We worked on some designs of experiments (DOEs) that we wanted to turn into a white paper to distribute to conferences and trade shows.”
Nordson worked with SMART and LCCC Business Growth Services to fund a DOE, a systematic approach to finding the relationship between factors affecting a process and the output of that process. That support helped pay for an LCCC student intern to develop a white paper evaluating how plasma might benefit the manufacture of microelectronics, especially circuit boards.
The white paper – which showed that plasma helps clean circuit boards without inflicting any damage – was presented to a global audience at the 2015 Surface Mount Technology Association International conference in Chicago.
“That student now works at SMART,” Apanius says. “It’s a great example of how everyone can work together for a lasting benefit to everyone involved.”
Nordson continues to market the results of the study and has performed other DOEs with customers to find new uses for its plasma technology. The company is using the analytic capabilities and inspection equipment of SMART Microsystems to conduct the studies, which are a critical part of the commercialization process.
In addition to these projects, Nordson has sponsored a series of biomedical sensor technology conferences at LCCC, helping to boost the industry’s profile across the region.
“We bought equipment from them, they’ve helped us with event sponsorships, and now we’re helping them find new applications for their products,” Apanius says. “We’re both open to new ways in which we can work together, and that’s a big factor in our combined success.”
Helping Nordson grow
As Nordson continues to leverage SMART to help develop new product lines, Selestak considers the relationship a critical factor in Nordson’s continued success and growth.
“SMART and LCCC are very valuable sources for developmental capabilities,” Selestak says. “When you are in the process of developing a device, LCCC not only has the facilities to support the tangible needs of development but also the industry expertise that is going to help shorten the time to market. It’s not only about developing the device, it’s about turning it into something that’s commercially viable, and doing it as soon as you can.”
Meanwhile, the partners always looking for new ways that their relationship and mutual goals can benefit each other, as well as the region.
“The more applications Nordson develops, the more they sell, so that’s an instance where the partnership has a direct correlation to their bottom line,” Apanius says. “Every time we’ve worked together, it’s been a win-win for SMART, the college and Nordson. We’re creating a high level of mutual value for all involved, and that’s always what you want to aim for.”