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TIA: Tennessee Inventors Association in Knoxville Tenn and Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN  

March 2011 Innovation in Manufacturing: A Success Story

Meeting Date: 
March 19, 2011

Local innovator Jeff Bohanan was the featured speaker for the March 19 meeting of the TIA. In 1997 Jeff founded Protomet Corporation, an Oak Ridge design and manufacturing company. Jeff spoke about how he started Protomet and how he helps other companies develop innovative products that his company then manufactures.

Jeff worked in Oak Ridge Y12 facility for 12 years before founding Protomet located in Oak Ridge. Protomet started in the Tech 2020 building as an incubator company and grew to be one of Tennessee's fastest growing 50 companies in 2005. Protomet is located at the Bethel Valley Industrial Park.

Protomet does high tech, high precision machining work. The company has 18 CNC machines to handle all kinds of challenges and their team will help redesign and perform cost down analysis for the part that needs to be produced. Jeff said: “Not all high tech work makes money. Know your core competence and know how to get things built economically is the key to success.”

Most inventors do not understand the process of making new products. The first sample usually is made out of wood or other easily worked material. Then comes a working prototype, often made using laser cut technologies. Finally, the production product is often made using a stamping die.

"What is innovation vs. Invention?" Jeff asked. As Jan Fagerberg wrote in his 2004 article: “An important distinction is normally made between invention and innovation. Invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process while innovation is the first attempt to carry it out into practice.”

Jeff gave the example of Apple Computer’s CEO Steve Jobs and the products Apple introduces, such as the iPod, iPad, and the MacBook Pro. These are innovative products because they build on existing technology.

Jeff said his mentor told him years ago that everyone should reposition a technology instead of developing new ones. Developing new technology will cost a lot more then utilizing existing technology and applies in new ways.

Jeff presented the following slides at the meeting. Click on the first one to start a popup slideshow.

The above slideshow can be downloaded from the iSolidWorks site, which is the primary communication portal for the Knoxville – Oak Ridge Innovation Valley SolidWorks User Group (KORIV-SWUG).

Jeff Bohanan's company websites are Protomet Corporation and PTMEdge Products. He can be contacted at 865-425-0600


The Patent Reform Bill was passed in the Senate. The Bill is expected to go through the House by the end of the month. It appears that the first to file rule will soon become the law.