In a modestly sized office at the intersection of Route 48 and Cox Lane in Cutchogue, seven men are helping to advance the way in which deep-sea robots and space aircraft do their jobs.
They’re the employees that make up Ultra Motion, a small automation company that, in laymen’s terms, builds parts — called actuators — integral to the success of larger machines in a wide range of technical industries.
And their work is getting noticed.
In December the company, which is owned by 37-year-old Mattituck native Sean Rodger, received a New York State Workforce Development Grant that provided Ultra Motion with the funds to begin training with specialized software programs.
“We were thrilled,” Mr. Rodger said of the grant, which Ultra Motion applied for in October. “It’s going to help us become a more capable company.”
Additionally, said head engineer Rob Koch, the grant will enable the company to grow.
“We’re a small company so any bit of resource like that helps us,” he said. “We’re at the point where we can grow very rapidly.”
Founded in 1994 by Mr. Rodger’s father, Erwin, a former engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, Ultra Motion has contracts with various companies and government agencies, including NASA, Mr. Rodger said.
“Our specialty is designing actuation systems to operate in extreme environments that have demanding performance requirements,” he said.
What does that mean, exactly?
Well, for example, Mr. Rodger said, one project he and his team are working on is an actuator for an underwater robotics company that, when completed, will allow a robot’s arm to be manipulated.
“The actuator will act as the muscle of the robot’s arm,” he said.
Two years ago, he, Ultra Motion was commissioned by NASA to contribute work toward the “Thirty Meter Telescope,”an ambitious project based in Pasadena, Calif. whose backers hope will result in the building of “the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth,” reads an entry on the project’s website.
Ultra Motion is designing a custom version of its standard actuator that will help the telescope cancel out atmospheric distortion, Mr. Rodger said.
Mr. Rodger, who lives in Greenport with his wife and two young children, was fascinated by robots from a young age. He began working with electronics as a teenager, building signaling devices and small robotic gadgets.
“I always thought they were cool,” he said of robots. “I always wanted to make a machine that was smart enough to move around on its own.”
After attending the University of Rochester and working as a software engineer and programmer, Mr. Rodger purchased Ultra Motion from his father in 2004 and began leasing the company’s current office space in Cutchogue.
Currently, Mr. Rodger said, the business is developing a “bunch of new products,” including a top-secret prototype of an actuator he believes will be “very innovative.”
“There’s a lot of new stuff in this product the aerospace industry hasn’t seen before,” he said. “We think it’s going to be big. It really meets all the needs that our customers have wanted over the years.”
And when they aren’t working on products that will likely transform the way aerospace companies perform?
“We built a bunch of remote-controlled vehicles that we cruise around in the parking lot out back,” Mr. Rodger said with a smile.