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Cool Stuff Made in Delaware

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Delaware might be small, but our companies make an incredible range of interesting (and useful) products. 

We’ve got national brands and mom-and-pop shops manufacturing everything from space suits to protective equipment for doctors, to ice cream, beer and hand sanitizer.

Best of all, Delaware’s makers are looking for new talent. They need smart people who come in with fresh ideas and solid technical skills — and a lot of jobs at these companies don’t call for a college degree.

Here is just a small list of some of the cool stuff you could soon be making. 

Gear to protect health care workers from infection

» ILC Dover

Did you know that the first astronauts who walked on the moon wore space suits made by ILC Dover in Frederica? 

But the company makes other cool stuff too. For example, the Sentinel XL HP powered air-purifying respirators, or PAPRs, protect doctors and other health care personnel from infection while they work to save lives during the current coronavirus crisis. 

“Our biggest market is frontline medical care,” says ILC VP of Marketing Paul Cannon, “and that demand increased by about a thousand times when the coronavirus struck.” Importantly, the PAPRs have provided medical workers with clear face shields and respiratory protection, yet are light and flexible.

“Our design team immediately started working on a new hood design,” Cannon says, “and we set up an additional production facility and hired 70 to 80 new people. NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] gave us record approval, so we had a complete turnaround in record time — five to six weeks.”

In addition to gear for medical workers and astronauts, ILC Dover also manufactures safe suits for pharmaceuticals workers and escape respirators for overseas government employees who may need to get out of dangerous situations. 

Shoes that keep runners’ feet dry

» W.L. Gore & Associates

Since 1976, runners have been wearing weather-resistant jackets constructed from W.L. Gore’s “Gore-Tex” fibers and membranes. The company has been gradually adding other gear under the Gore-Tex brand — hats, shorts, gloves, shorts, even shoes.

The most recent addition: Gore-Tex Invisible Fit for running shoes, which features reduced weight, decreased water pick-up and faster drying times. Based on W.L. Gore’s consumer surveys, 65 percent of runners hit the roads and the running trails even in wet, rainy or snowy conditions, and 75 percent run in colder weather.

Gore’s goal with Invisible Fit has been to ensure the membrane that is central to the shoe’s performance has the same fit and feel of a conventional running shoe, while adding moisture protection. The key is to make sure the membrane exactly matches the footwear’s upper material and directly bonds to it to eliminate wrinkles and folds as well as reduce pressure points.

For runners slogging through soggy turf, that’s a big step in the right direction.

Hand sanitizer

» Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and others

Dogfish Head normally makes in-demand craft spirits and beers, but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the company added hand sanitizer to its lineup. “This is a time of crisis, and necessity is the mother of invention,” says Dogfish Head Founder Sam Calagione. 

That goes for the recent pivot as well as for the company’s operations in general. “Our creative process involves Sam, our distilling people and our bartenders at our Chesapeake & Maine restaurant in Rehoboth Beach,” says Dogfish Head Distiller James Montero. “We also get feedback from customers at the bar about potential new spirits.”

Like Dogfish Head, Painted Stave Distilling in Smyrna and Beach Time Distilling in Lewes have been making hand sanitizers in addition to their usual lineup.

Teflon to help make smartphones

» Chemours

You’re probably most familiar with Teflon as a coating for non-stick pans.

But these days, Teflon has another application too. The same properties that made the material so valuable in a pan also help it withstand the tough environments required for manufacturing electronics products — especially smaller devices like smartphones.

Teflon, owned by Wilmington-based Chemours, was invented in 1938 and has constantly been re-inventing itself since.

The material can resist aggressive etching used in the manufacturing process and provides the purity required in the production of microchips for 5G and artificial intelligence applications.

Teflon resins are also critical in larger electronics applications, such as cable insulation and jacketing, which improve electrical performance while adding an unmatched level of fire safety. 

Ice cream made from ‘ugly’ fruit

» The Frozen Farmer
Katey Evans created the Frozen Farmer ice-cream brand with her husband, Kevin, as a way to use fruit from their Bridgeville farm that was not photogenic enough to sell.

Even though her ice cream was being stocked at Giant Food supermarkets, Evans wanted capital to expand. So she became a contestant on the investment show Shark Tank and got a commitment for $125,000.

That was in March. “Oh goodness, so much has happened since Shark Tank,” she says. “We’ve acquired close to 200 more grocery stores than we were already in. We’ve launched online sales nationwide and have shipped to more than 30 states so far.”

Evans has also found time to add five new summer flavors to sell at the farm creamery, including lemon blueberry, strawberry pretzel salad and banana pudding. 

By Roger Morris

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