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LIFT buys Plainview site for innovation center

The Long Island Forum for Technology has purchased a 25,000-square-foot building in Plainview as the site for the organization's future Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technology Innovation Center (AMMTIC).

The center, which is slated to open in the fall of 2013, will provide resources to local manufacturers for learning about composites, strong but lightweight materials used in advanced construction, and how to incorporate the materials into their products. AMMTIC will offer educational courses about composites and provide equipment that manufacturers can use to develop composite prototypes.

"This is going to allow manufacturers on Long Island and in New York State to develop an understanding of the use of this material without having the up-front expensive cost of investing in capital equipment," said LIFT executive director Bill Wahlig. LIFT closed on the building purchase Thursday.

Composites are materials engineered from two or more distinctly different components; the resulting composite is typically stronger and more lightweight than the components it was made from. Common composite materials are carbon fiber and fiberglass.

In the past, composites were mainly used in planes and military equipment. But the material is becoming more prevalent in infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels, as well as in cars and trains, Wahlig said.

Local manufacturers will be able to use the new center to develop new prototype products using composites to pitch to their customers. Once there is enough demand for the composite product, manufacturers can buy their own equipment or hire a third party to make the new product.

The ability to make a prototype appeals to Air Industries Group, which manufactures airplane parts in Bay Shore. The company holds a patent for a hybrid metallic and composite landing gear, but it has been unable to develop a test model, said chief executive Pete Rettaliata.

Composite manufacturers on Long Island also hope to benefit. Al Bozza, president of Russell Plastics Technology company in Lindenhurst, said his company could hire another "couple hundred" employees if demand for its manufacturing services grows.

The high cost of composites is the main hurdle to their broader use. As the products become more mainstream, prices should become more competitive, said AMMTIC project director Phil Coniglio. For example, carmaker BMW plans to introduce a hybrid gas-electric car in 2013 with body panels made out of composites.

LIFT is using a $15-million grant from the state to buy and renovate the building and to purchase equipment. The grant funding was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

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