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There may have been no sonic boom to signal the latest developments at one of Newtown’s most advanced global high tech manufacturing enterprises. But Sonics & Materials, Inc, tucked away by the railroad trestle off Church Hill Road, is the perfect example of the kind of 21st Century manufacturing operations the Newtown Chamber of Commerce hopes to attract to help the community grow and diversify its commercial tax base.
Following a highly successful manufacturing breakfast in the spring, Newtown Chamber of Commerce Business Development Director Helen Brickfield was eager to learn more about the company and was intrigued to learn about recent expansions of Sonics product and services lines, and the acquisition of new talent to facilitate the company’s continued growth. During a visit to Sonics’ headquarters, Ms Brickfield and The Newtown Bee had an opportunity to chat with company founder Robert Soloff, who invented the sound wave-based technologies that have distinguished his company as a unique innovator.
Since 1969, Sonics has been a world leader in the field of ultrasonic technology, manufacturing the industry’s most advanced ultrasonic liquid processors, plastics assembly equipment, metal welding and film sealing systems. The company, which is ISO 9001 certified, designs and builds a complete line of ultrasonic processors as well as handheld, bench-top, and semi-automated welding systems for plastics and metal bonding.
Sonics offers in-house application assistance, materials testing laboratory service, a global sales and distribution network, and onsite field service.
Research institutions, scientific labs, universities, chemists, engineers, and scientists across the globe use the company’s processors for a multitude of applications. Automotive, industrial, medical, packaging, toy, appliance, consumer, and synthetic textile manufacturers use Sonics’ standard or customized equipment to weld the full spectrum of commodity and engineering materials.
The company is further diversifying by manufacturing, supplying, and servicing technologies it has developed for the biotech industry, offering a product line of DNA sequencing equipment.
“This technology represents the first step in gene sequencing,” explained Mr Soloff, who was joined by his daughter and company Vice President Lauren Soloff, and his grandson, Benjamin Soloff Malowitz, who recently became the third generation of his family to become involved at Sonics. “Our long game is to become a leader in developing technologies for DNA sequencing, and the targeted kinds of medical treatments that require this type of technology,” he added.
Besides Mr Soloff Malowitz, Sonics welcomed a new packaging technology manager, Bill Aurand, in May of 2016. Since his arrival, Sonics has debuted a new ultrasonic pouch sealer packaging machine, as well as a couple of new patent pending sealing technologies, all used for consumer food and beverage packaging.
Having hands-on experience with a wide and varied range of ultrasonic film sealing applications, Mr Aurand has developed unique expertise in how the many benefits of ultrasonic sealing can be applied to the packaging of consumables, such as food and beverage bags and pouches, liquid and powdered chemical product packaging, retort pouches, and liquid soap and detergent packaging.
He hit the ground running, working with Sonics’ applications engineers to expand and customize the ultrasonic packaging technologies currently offered through Sonics’ line of sealing equipment, which includes tube/pouch sealing actuators, handheld welding systems and ultrasonic kits and components.
More recently, Sonics also hired Danbury native Christopher Sanzeni as its director of engineering, overseeing operations of the company’s mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and applications/special tooling groups. Ms Soloff said that Mr Sanzeni will be enhancing the company’s technical, manufacturing, and business perspectives focused on product development and innovative technologies.
With more than 20 years of engineering, management, and R&D experience, Mr Sanzeni started his career in optical engineering and nanosciences. He has worked extensively in continuous improvement/lean manufacturing, setting up manufacturing facilities both in the United States and overseas.
Most recently he was the chief engineer and chief operating officer of a start-up company that was awarded grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation. Mr Sanzeni will be working across all Sonics’ product lines, including ultrasonic plastics and metal welding systems, ultrasonic liquid processors, ultrasonic packaging and tube sealing systems, and ultrasonic tire cutting and textile systems.
At the same time, the company is looking to local technical high schools, as well as international recruiting, to enhance its next gen workforce. Ms Brickfield pointed out that during the chamber’s manufacturing breakfast, she learned that at any given time, there are as many as 6,000 well-paying high tech manufacturing jobs open in Connecticut.
Mr Soloff said that Sonics is working with Abbott Technical High School and Naugatuck Valley Community College’s advanced manufacturing training programs to help attract and retain a motivated workforce. Once someone is hired at Sonics, the company is willing to offer 100 percent educational reimbursement for those interested in honing and enhancing skills pertinent to the company’s growing products and services lines.
“One of our employees recently completed his master’s degree in engineering, and we immediately put him on a number of big projects with lots of responsibilities,” Mr Soloff said. “We recently sent him off to Italy to assist in one of our installations. We pride ourselves on putting in the time to find the right people, and then either do the training in-house, or cover whatever educational costs they have to get that training.”
He said Sonics’ door is also open to relatively unskilled workers, who may start as packing or manufacturing machine operators, but who may then rapidly advance to specialized functions like Mr Sanzeni, who became engaged in his field in 2003 while a Fairfield University student. He started by developing a concept that translated into new technology for night vision sensors, and went on to develop a solar cell concept that is being applied through NASA.
At Sonics, he hopes to further his development of nanotechnologies to manufacture processors.
“I like to think I bring new energy for innovation to this already incredible team,” he said. “When I first arrived, I was so impressed with the level of knowledge. I believe I’ve found a number of professionally challenging opportunities here.”