New CEO Takes Flux Drive’s Magnetic Energy-Saver Out For a Spin

2/28/12Follow @xconomy

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pushed fully inside the magnet can, the force is at its strongest, and the blower runs at full speed. To slow the blower down, pull the rotor back out of the magnet can, and the force decreases smoothly.

This saves energy because it allows the motor to continue running at top speed, where it’s most efficient. And even though it’s operating at a high speed, it can draw less power, because it’s not being asked to push against dampers in an air system or slow down its rotation.

So why hasn’t this been done before? Corbin says it’s largely due to recent advances in permanent magnets. As those magnets have gotten more durable and powerful, it’s opened up new ways of employing them in industrial uses—and Flux Drive thinks it’s got a big head start using them here.

Flux Drive says companies can get the installation cost repaid in lower electricity bills within a couple of years, if not sooner—and some local utilities actually give big subsidies to install such energy-saving equipment.

Flux Drive is funded by local early stage investors, including the Alliance of Angels and Northwest Energy Angels. Keenan says the company is looking for additional financing now, which could match the $1.5 million reported last summer. There are 34 of the units already installed, including operations at the aquariums in Seattle and Vancouver, BC, along with the Boeing location and the trial with the Navy, which is part of a multi-stage contract that Flux Drive hopes could lead to multimillion-dollar sales on military ships.

“We’re in the sweet spot that President Obama talks about a lot,” Keenan says. “We’re green. We’re a manufacturing company. We’re creating jobs, and we’re sustainable. We’re doing something that will benefit not only the end user, but will ultimately benefit us, from an energy consumption standpoint, for a long time.”

For now, Flux Drive manufactures its products in Sumner, either in its own facility or with a partner that can work on units for larger-horsepower motors. That won’t always last—if Flux Drive finds success, it’ll eventually have to find partners to help produce the drives at higher numbers.

That’s where a strong aerospace sector actually could be a pain for a small upstart. With that industry on an upswing, a lot of the manufacturing resources in the region can get gobbled up pretty quick, Keenan says.

“The challenges we have are growth—how we’re going to grow manufacturing capability when you have such roaring companies right now like Boeing. When you look at the all of the sub-industries that are here, built, designed, and in support of aerospace … it’s difficult for a startup like us to get into aligned with the right manufacturers or the right machine shops,” Keenan says.

But first things first. As Flux Drive seeks to grow its order book, it can look ahead to the manufacturing crunch as one of those problem that many entrepreneurs would like to have.

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