That's because Techmer's work with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory led to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visiting the firm's manufacturing plant in Clinton, Tenn., on Jan. 9.
Techmer had worked with ORNL on several projects — including 3-D printing and the development of carbon fiber-filled compounds — for the last few years, Techmer President Ryan Howley said in a Jan. 14 phone interview. So when the White House was looking for a manufacturer to visit while announcing a new Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation Institute at the nearby University of Tennessee, ORNL nominated Techmer.
“Techmer has been a strong partner in ORNL's effort to improve the size, speed and materials used in advanced manufacturing,” ORNL communications director David Keim said. “They're a great example of how industry and the National Laboratory System collaborate.”
ORNL is the Department of Energy's largest science and energy lab. The site employs 4,400 and has been issued almost 600 patents since 2004.
Howley added that the White House “wanted to highlight its manufacturing innovation hub, and (ORNL) thought we were a perfect example. It was great timing, because we had just completed the 3-D printing of the car.”
“The car” was a Shelby Cobra sports car that was 3-D printed at the ORNL site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., using carbon-fiber materials made at the Techmer plant in Clinton. The car was on display at the plant during the Obama-Biden visit and later was featured at the Detroit Auto Show from Jan. 12-15.
“We had just painted [the car] earlier that week, and the paint was still drying the day before the visit,” Howley said. “They said they truly wanted to see something new, well, that was about as new as you can get.”
The White House had contacted Techmer on Dec. 23, asking if the firm was interested in hosting the event. The visit was confirmed about 10 days later, and White House security staff arrived in Clinton on Jan. 3. They did a full security check on the Clinton site twice, and a hazardous materials team also inspected the plant.
“The four days before the visit were four of the craziest days of my life,” Howley said. “For a normal presidential visit, an amazing amount of people come through. But when you've got the president and the vice president, they each have their own staff, so it's double the amount of people.”