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Lasers bring home the big bucks

You might have seen lasers in cartoons that bore through walls.

Or possibly you’re aware of their medical uses — from burning off unwanted moles to applications in cancer surgery.

Now a company in Bremerton is using lasers as part of an $8 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“People should care about the contract because it will bring jobs to the area,” Hilary Gilmore, contracting officer for ExtrudeHone, said.

The company expects to grow from 12 workers to 200 by 2007.

“Plus, to have this type of cutting edge technology in Bremerton is incredible,” Gilmore added.

To fulfill the contract, the company will manufacture a very small engine part that the U.S. Army can use in its diesel vehicles. ExtrudeHone will use thin-as-a-blood-vessel lasers to make a part slated to improve fuel efficiency and be easier on the environment.

The company will work in conjunction with Bremerton’s Olympic Laser and San Diego-based General Atomics to complete the project.

For the past four years ExtrudeHone has been making a mark for itself in spare parts manufacturing.

Normally, when a very unique part is needed on a Navy ship or automobile it can take weeks or even months to forge and reproduce it out of metal.

Instead of trying to track down the original mold or using hammers to forge the part, ExtrudeHone makes a 3-D computer picture of the object and then uses a machine that presses tiny, sand-like particles of metal into a sculpture of that part. The machine glues steel and bronze together piece by piece to make a very rigid layer that can handle over 70,000 pounds per square inch of pressure.

The technique allows companies to request a specific part to be made in emergency situations like wartime, when each second is like gold.

“It is the ability to make any part anywhere, any design, any place it is needed,” Larry Rhodes, president of ExtrudeHone, said.

Rhodes joined U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, at the Bremerton plant on Wednesday to celebrate the new contract with the Army.

“We need spare parts whether you are on a Navy ship or if you are Boeing,” Dicks said. He worked in the federal government to help secure the deal for the local company.

He has already helped wrangle $15.6 million for the company in the last four years before the new laser contract.

Although ExtrudeHone’s contract is with the military, Dicks said the company can also expand with its technology to serve many different customers.

Mark Hartman works at ExtrudeHone and lives in Bremerton also.

He said the company has already contacted german automobile maker BMW about producing engine parts, and they could end up making things in the future, from toy parts to furniture.

He describes how a sculptor could make a clay object and then ExtrudeHone could make a computer design of the image, and sculpt a replica.

At a meeting to announce the $8 million contract, Mayor Cary Bozeman expressed his support for the company, and offered the city’s as well.

“We’re an emerging new community and what we’re going to provide for you is quality of life,” Bozeman said. “If you need anything from us, we’re there.”

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