published Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

VW inhales deeply after installing nanofiber air filters

Machine operator Jackie Albey, right, works at her station making air filter material at eSpin Technologies. Plant manager Michael Stockwell, left, and Dr Neema Doshi, cofounder of the company, stand nearby.
Machine operator Jackie Albey, right, works at her station making air filter material at eSpin Technologies. Plant manager Michael Stockwell, left, and Dr Neema Doshi, cofounder of the company, stand nearby.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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One of the world's biggest automakers has picked a Chattanooga company to supply the more than 1,000 air filters used in its new local plant due, at least in part, to the tiniest of fibers.

Volkswagen chose Chattanooga-based nanofiber company eSpin Technologies to provide the air-conditioning filters which help keep the air clean in the giant factory.

"They're designed especially for Volkswagen," said Neema Doshi, a co-founder of the business that uses in its filters the microscopic fibers that are smaller than a human hair.

The nanofiber manufacturer, which employs 25 people, is one of the local businesses experiencing spin-off benefits from the Chattanooga auto assembly plant.

According to VW, more than $686 million in local and Tennessee contracts have been awarded to date. That includes $307 million in annual contracts with local and state parts suppliers, company officials say.

In addition to the more than 2,000 people the plant is employing, another 9,500 supplier-related jobs will be created to support it, though that employment number may take longer to reach because of the earlier recession, according to officials.

  • photo
    Michael Stockwell, center, plant manager at eSpin Technologies, talks about nano-fibers in their filter product. Judy Driggans, left, business analysist, and cofounder Dr. Neema Doshi,
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

OTHER COMPANIES GAIN

Don Benedict, an account executive for Adams Lithographing Co., said the Chattanooga venture won a contract to print the car manuals for the Passat made at the VW plant.

Over the life of the three-year contract, he expects Adams to hire 15 more people, he said. The company now employs 40, Benedict said.

"We print the manuals, then we inventory them here and deliver them every few hours," he said. The company packages and sequences the manuals based on which version of the Passat is under production, Benedict said.

One advantage is that Adams, at Shallowford Road and Highway 153, is close to the Enterprise South industrial park plant a few miles away, he said.

"We're really happy with the opportunity to work with VW," Benedict said.

Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent Co., said his business has serviced VW for just about every ceremony at the local plant.

Also, the company provides temporary work space to the factory, he said.

"[Last week,] we finished 25,000 square feet of additional work space," Holland said. "We supply a tent that can be used for long term and short term."

  • photo
    ESpin Technologies air filters with nanofibers have “Made in Chattanooga” printed on them.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

1,500 FILTERS ORDERED

Mike Stockwell, eSpin's plant operator, said Volkswagen initially ordered 100 filters and installed them on big "air handlers" on the plant's roof.

In June the automaker awarded a contract to eSpin, and the company supplies over 1,000 filters for the big units and another 500 for offices, officials said.

Michelle Beaton, who oversees technical sales for eSpin, said VW especially likes the results of the filters in its paint shop where clean air is critical.

"They don't want anything to get through," she said.

Doshi said the nanofibers pick up particles which other filters cannot.

"It traps any and all fine particles," she said. "It's a revolution from 60-year-old filter technology."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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rolando said...

Excellent in-depth report, Mr Pare. Your experience and expertise shows. Thank you.

VW is indeed paying us back in spin-off benefits for the incentives we gave them; taxes, jobs, new business, etc.

August 16, 2011 at 4:54 a.m.
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