Vibrant Corp. Wins $3.35M Investment

July 20, 2023
Vibrant Corp. won a $3.35 million investment from Advantage Capital to increase production of its proprietary, non-destructive testing machines used in the aviation, automotive and power-generation industries.

Jul. 19—Albuquerque-based Vibrant Corp. won a $3.35 million investment from Advantage Capital to increase production of its proprietary, non-destructive testing machines used in the aviation, automotive and power-generation industries, the company announced Tuesday morning. Vibrant, which launched in 2006, uses technology originally developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to detect defects in parts by vibrating them. It then applies advanced software algorithms to compare the sound generated with that of a nondefective part. Most other industry testing processes assess only surface irregularities. But Vibrant's system provides precision readings of internal defects without damaging them to determine whether a part is good or bad. Its technology — called Process Compensated Resonance Testing, or PCRT — has been adopted by many automotive and aircraft part manufacturers, and by maintenance and repair companies, allowing them to get more use out of parts and save money. Delta Airlines in Atlanta, for example, uses Vibrant's system to test engine turbine blades and other components. And last year, the company broke into a new, lucrative industry sector by applying a specially-adapted PCTR system for use in testing aircraft wheels, contributing to rapid growth in customer demand for its PCTR machines and services. Vibrant founder and CEO Lem Hunter said the new investment from Advantage Capital will now help Vibrant expand its factory production to meet demand. "It will allow us to ramp up our staff and bring in more equipment to manage the large, rapidly-growing contracts we're getting in the aerospace industry, and in the automotive and power-generation sectors as well," Hunter told the Journal. "We're growing fast. We hired a half dozen new employees just in the last few months." The company currently employs 35 people, including about nine staff members at a subsidiary operation in Germany, and the rest at a 10,000-square-foot facility in the north I-25 industrial corridor near Alameda and Jefferson. It's current growth reflects a sharp turnaround from the pandemic, which significantly cut sales after the transportation industry shut down in 2020, Hunter said. Vibrant's revenue declined from $3.8 million in 2019 to $2.4 million in 2020, forcing it to rely heavily on state and federal pandemic-related support to stay afloat. "The pandemic was really tough on us," Hunter said. "But with significant help from the state Economic Development Department and other support programs, we eked out a way forward and recovered." Now, the company — which has earned recognition every year since 2012 on the Journal's annual Flying 40 list of fast-growing technology firms — is back on a solid growth trajectory. It reached an all-time revenue high of $5 million in 2022, Hunter said. The new aircraft wheel-testing system contributed to much of that growth. The company developed the newly-adapted PCTR machine over six years in partnership with Collins Aerospace, Delta Air Lines and the U.S. Air Force, which supported the development process through Small Business Innovation Research grants. That culminated in a finished testing product in 2021, leading to a new contract last year with Collins, which has now deployed six of the Vibrant machines at facilities in the U.S. and Europe. Three more are currently under production at Vibrant's Albuquerque factory. Commercial aircraft wheels are tested in two parts, reflecting a split design where two "half" wheels come together to constitute a whole wheel on aircraft. To date, Collins has used the new Vibrant system to test more than 25,000 half wheels. "We turned the original prototype used during the testing period into a full-blown robotics system that can now test a half wheel in just 2.5 minutes," Vibrant Chief Financial Officer Bill Hoermle told the Journal. Apart from aircraft wheels, Vibrant reports robust demand as well in other target markets. Its facility in Germany, for example, is providing regular testing services for the auto industry there, and for military hardware shipped to Ukraine for the war effort, Hunter said. The new financing from Advantage Capital is supported by the Federal New Market Tax Credit Program, which provides incentives to invest in low-income communities often underserved by conventional funding sources. "Vibrant is exactly the type of growth-ready business we are looking to invest in," Advantage Vice President Gabe Rosen said in a statement. "It's innovative, a leader in its industry and we are excited to see how this financing will help the company continue its expansion."


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