Aaron Birt, CEO of Solvus Global, walked up to the outdoor stage on a warm October afternoon. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Mr. Birt, whose company was celebrating a ribbon cutting for its newly renovated, 32,000 square-foot manufacturing space in Leominster. Dozens of attendees from all over Central Massachusetts, including Congressman Jim McGovern, gathered in the facility’s parking lot to congratulate Solvus on its expansion.
Mr. Birt is a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) graduate, entrepreneur, and member of the 2021 class of Worcester Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty and the 2018 class of Forbes 30 Under 30. He first started his journey of business ownership with EventTree, a mobile app designed to help students in Worcester find events near them. As part of EventTree, Mr. Birt was a member of StartUp Worcester’s very first cohort in 2015 while a master’s student at WPI.
StartUp Worcester is an incubation program run by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce which offers startups free memberships to the Chamber, the WorcLab coworking space, and the Venture Forum.
Mr. Birt left EventTree to pursue his PhD in materials science. In his doctoral thesis, he helped to pioneer a new approach to additive manufacturing using machine learning control for advanced manufacturing.
He then founded Solvus in 2017 with his business partner and fellow WPI graduate Sean Kelly. Solvus moved into an office space on Rockdale Street and then lab space at Prescott Street in Worcester. With revenues and staff quickly growing, Solvus began the search for a large manufacturing facility, which led them to Leominster. Solvus still retains its Worcester office at 104 Prescott St. in Worcester in addition to the new facility at 272 Nashua St. in Leominster.
Solvus specializes in additive manufacturing using in-house AI software to develop computer-controlled cold spray manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is similar to 3D printing in that it adds to a product rather than subtracts, as cutting or sawing would, for example. Cold spray additive manufacturing reduces the waste that is produced by traditional manufacturing by essentially spraying metal particles onto a surface using a cold stream of gas.
Solvus’ additive manufacturing process has innovative implications for the aerospace, biomedical, automotive, oil and gas, and defense sectors.
Those in attendance at the ribbon cutting included the Mayor of Leominster, Congressman Jim McGovern, State Senator John Cronin of Leominster, WPI administrators, Worcester Chamber representatives, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce representatives, and Mr. Birt’s mentors.
Congressman McGovern said manufacturing has been an important part of Central Massachusetts for generations, and new companies with new innovative processes are still choosing the region as their home. “The expansion of this facility, especially by such a young company, demonstrates a belief in Central Massachusetts,” he said. “This is just another indication of how things are taking off for our region.” Congressman McGovern also indicated that he is working closely with Solvus to find appropriations funding in Congress to help additive manufacturing in the defense industry.
Sen. Cronin also touted the region’s “remarkable history of manufacturing.” While older methods of manufacturing brought economic vitality to Central Massachusetts, it is new and innovative processes and companies which will be the future, according to Sen. Cronin.
Christine Nolan of Massachusetts Tech Collaborative also spoke at the event and announced a $1.6 million grant from the state to help Solvus develop new additive manufacturing processes. Ms. Nolan indicated that the grant would help students at WPI, Wachusett Community College, and Worcester Technical High School work with Solvus on certain projects.
Mr. Birt noted that WPI graduates continued to be the backbone of Solvus, saying, “We promise we’ll keep hiring WPI grads, so keep sending them our way!”
Reflecting on the ribbon cutting, which featured prominent figures from all across Central Massachusetts that demonstrated the company’s roots in Worcester and future in Leominster, Mr. Birt said that the new facility was a perfect fit.
“This location really represents the intersection of people, partners, and problems to solve,” said Birt of the new Leominster facility. “Solvus is made up of partners and people from all over — from Worcester, Leominster, and around the globe — and we couldn’t do it anywhere better than this. It’s the perfect nexus of opportunity.”
David Sullivan is the Economic Development & Business Recruitment Associate at the Worcester Chamber. He can be reached by email here.
This story was originally published in the November 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.