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Safety and speed are hallmarks of Granite State Manufacturing's products

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 14. 2013 12:49AM

Glenn Lawton, president of Granite State Manufacturing, gives a demonstration of the ZeroG4, a device used to hold and work with heavy tools with little effort. At left is company CEO John Allard. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- Granite State Manufacturing, which has made robots to remove roadside bombs in Afghanistan, now is marketing a drone-like helicopter armed with cameras.

And for the first time in its 75-year history, the West Side manufacturer will make a product it owns after recently acquiring Equipois, based in Los Angeles. The terms weren't disclosed.

However, immediate plans call for Granite State Manufacturing to hire five or six workers - and perhaps add another half-dozen within a year as production shifts east from the West Coast.

"We're going to make all the parts here in our machine shop and welding shop, and we're going to do a lot of value engineering to get the costs down," said company President Glenn Lawton last week.

Equipois makes equipment that allows a worker to place a heavy tool or a human arm into a movable, mechanical arm to relieve weight and increase productivity.

The zeroG4, which can lift tools as heavy as 36 pounds, retails for $8,600. A second product, called X-Ar, holds a person's arm in place, to do tasks - such as electronic assembly work. It retails for $3,450. The products will remain under the Equipois name.

"Our objective is to take this new product and help them make their jobs easier, faster," Lawton said.

He said a few case studies showed companies can recoup their investment in zeroG4 in 18 months. Savings come from workers taking fewer breaks, suffering fewer injuries and performing their tasks more accurately, he said.

Boeing and Ford are two companies using the technology, according to GSM. An ergonomics expert at Boeing said she couldn't comment until she got permission. A Ford ergonomics expert couldn't be reached.

GSM hopes to leverage existing business relationships with companies at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and elsewhere to increase Equipois' sales, which has hit $3 million a year.

About 70 percent of GSM's overall sales come from supplying military equipment, either directy or as a subcontractor.

Annual GSM sales surpass $20 million.

Sequestraction, forced budget cuts by the federal government trimming the rate of military spending, have affected the company's sales by 15 percent.

"Our customers are not saying forget it," Lawton said. "They're saying, put it on hold."

GSM also plans to work with tool manufacturers to build larger and better versions.

"They've designed these tools to be carried by a person," Lawton said. "I bet there's a grinder that's 75 pounds. If only somebody could pick it up, they could do a lot more grinding."

The company also is developing a remote-controlled helicopter with 7-foot long blades and armed with video and infrared cameras.

The helicopters carry a $30,000 list price.

The company hopes to win a contract with the U.S. State Department and is marketing them to police departments.

In recent years, the company has made thousands of robots for military missions to detect and dismantle roadside and other bombs overseas.

Recent orders were earmarked for the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lawton said.

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