Written by Kevin Volz.
Very few startups can claim their technology is literally “out of this world,” but that is the case for ZIN Technologies in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. The engineering firm supports the full lifecycle of development for aerospace hardware – from preliminary design to final manufacturing. For the past 25 years, the company’s main client has been NASA and their hardware has been used on the space shuttle, Shuttle-Mir Program, the International Space Station (ISS) and satellites.
ZIN Technologies is responsible for the concept, manufacturing, testing and final execution of hardware and software that will meet specific NASA goals. The majority of their work is for experiments conducted aboard the ISS. For instance, they have worked with Procter & Gamble to examine items like laundry detergents to work towards increasing their shelf life here on Earth.
“The fun thing about our jobs is taking these ideas through every step, from concept to testing,” said Michael Johanson, vice president and program manager for government support services and business development at ZIN Technologies. “Our hardware is being operated on the ISS all the time, which allows us to see our creations in action.”
Since 1969, there’s been a shift in the space industry from governmental to commercial growth. New, privately owned companies like SpaceX are providing space-based services and launches. ZIN Technologies is one of the first companies to fly payloads on these types of commercial, non-NASA space delivery vehicles.
ZIN Technologies’ focus areas are low-orbit (which is where the ISS is) and deep space missions (which can go all the way to the edge of the solar system). During a recent project, they created a navigational tool for the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission. The mission required a group of satellites to fly through space in an exact formation, and it was ZIN Technologies that helped accomplish the task.
In addition to the company’s work in space, many ZIN Technologies hardware products also have practical use in telemedicine, advanced manufacturing and metal 3D printing. The business is able to commercialize these products through the creation of spin-off companies, made possible with funding from Ohio Third Frontier and its regional partners in Cleveland, including the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center (GCIC). One spin-off example is FlexLife Health Inc., a home health monitoring service that originated from experiments to monitor the health of astronauts in space.
ZIN Technologies currently has 250 employees. The company plans to expand into other aerospace markets and will continue to call Ohio home.
“Being located in Ohio is very important,” said Johanson. “Aerospace is one of the top 5 industries in the state of Ohio, thanks to places like the NASA Glenn Research Center and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with an annual economic impact of more than $8 billion. Between Cincinnati and Cleveland, we have a very unique aerospace capability.”