STUART — Its small offices in the Sawgrass Business Center on Indian Street belie the big things that Level 3 Inspection is doing to find very small variances in parts for high-tech products.
"We measure things," said Level 3 CEO Bill Greene, who is also the vice president for business development. "And we do it more accurately and more comprehensively than any other technology or method."
Among Level 3's clients are manufacturers of medical devices and turbine engines, including Pratt & Whitney's F135 engine for the new F-35 Lightning II, the single-engine tactical fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin under a $300 billion contract from the Pentagon.
Like the parts for the F135 engine, what Level 3 inspects generally have very small tolerances for error and Level 3 can measure those variances to the millionths of an inch.
To illustrate that, Greene said his equipment could measure a bowling ball to such accuracy "that you could readily observe a particle of dust on its surface."
"We saw an opportunity to improve the state of the art in computer-aided inspection," Greene said. "So we set off to do so, and we've done very well with it."
Greene said revenues have been growing by 20 percent to 30 percent each year of the three years Level 3 has been in business.
Level 3, which moved into its current location in January 2010, has four patents pending for inspection technology. The company spent about $30,000 to build out the office with concrete flooring, special lighting and wall coating and an air-conditioning booster.
Level 3 was formed in 2008 by Greene and partner Scott McAfee, whose career in gas turbine engine design and production started at Pratt and Whitney.
Greene, whose holds a bachelor's degree is in metallurgy, has a background in leading-edge technology implementation, including advanced factory automation for the aerospace industry. He also has experience with early-stage technology companies as vice president of Business Development with Cenetec, a South Florida equity-partnership technology accelerator.
Pratt & Whitney's engine — the most powerful jet engine ever built, Greene said — may now have clear sailing for use in the F-35 joint strike fighter since U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, successfully led the fight in Congress to terminate the contract for an alternative engine being developed by General Electric and Rolls-Royce.
Pratt & Whitney began developing the F135 engine in 2001. Level 3 has been performing computer-aided inspections on many of the engine's parts for about eight years.
When the aerospace industry hit a slump a few years ago, Level 3 began getting more work from the medical-device industry, which was not slumping.
Medical products that Level 3 inspects include parts for artificial hips and knees.
The inspections also help Level 3's clients improve the precision of their manufacturing processes, Greene said.
He said that can help a manufacturer reduce its time to market for a new product by as much as 50 percent, which can be crucial for companies trying to get a competitive edge.
"Orthopedic manufacturers say it saves them as much as $20 million a month in expenses and lost profit from missing the market in the launch of a new product," Greene said. "On a jet engine, it would be even more."