Berl Stein Selected as 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rochester ACS
October 9, 2020 – ACS MEDIA RELEASE: Mr. Berl Stein Selected as 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society
Mr. Berl Stein, founder and President of NiCoForm, has been selected as the 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society. The award is in recognition of Mr. Stein’s development of innovative new chemistry for the highly precise fabrication of metal parts with superior mechanical and chemical properties using electroforming, and founding NiCoForm in 1999 to commercialize this breakthrough additive manufacturing technology. He will be recognized at the Section’s Annual Awards Dinner to be held on a 2021 date to be announced. This award, and his impressive technical and business achievements, highlight the continuing central role of chemistry in the economic development of the Rochester area.
Berl Stein was born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine (former USSR) and received a B.S and M.S. (1973) in Chemical Engineering from the Moscow Institute of Fine Chemical Technology. He began his industrial career in metal plating technology in Chernivtsi, USSR, at an electronics manufacturer, ElectronMach (1977), then at a metal fabricator, LegMach. In 1988 he moved to the U.S. and began his work in the field of electroforming, first at Servometer Corp., Cedar Grove, NJ (1988-1994) and then in Rochester, NY at Reflexite Corp. (1995-1999).
With an entrepreneur’s vision to improve traditional technology and build a world-class electroforming company, he founded NiCoForm in the spring of 1999. A single hand-me-down tank was filled up and checked for leaks in a small office on the 5th floor on Cascade Drive, overlooking the Kodak building. Luckily, there weren’t any leaks and today NiCoForm provides precision metal parts to a broad spectrum of demanding markets, currently with 22 employees and in a much larger manufacturing space, but still in the original Cascade Drive building. He attributes his company’s success to continually improving its chemical and processing technologies to meet the ever evolving needs of his diverse customers, especially in critical medical device, aerospace, optical, and other high-tech applications.
Originally offering selective metal plating services for mold repair, Berl and his first employee started fixing molds for a handful of customers. There was a lot of learning in the early years as they battled alloy properties and adhesion issues. But with his “Can’t Fail - Keep Going” attitude and some patience from his customers, mold repair became NiCoForm’s first building block. Berl’s friend and first employee looked out the window, pointed at Kodak and said, “Someday, NiCoForm’s name will be on that building”. Slowly more and more customers began rolling in and there was no turning back.
Armed with a small conventional lathe, a single plating tank and a drive to gain customers, Berl and his two person team stuffed envelopes soliciting customers to try NiCoForm’s molds for catheters. Eventually, catheter tipping dies became the company’s bread and butter, forming them day-in and day-out. Shortly after, NiCoForm added focus on making bellows while Berl continued to develop and optimize the sophisticated chemistry for its proprietary nickel-cobalt electroforming technology. The results are now the core of NiCoForm’s growing business marketed under the trade name NiColoy®. After several expansions, addition of the computer numerical control (CNC) machining group, inspection, chemical laboratory, and offices, NiCoForm continues to develop advanced electroforming techniques, providing precision metal parts to customers throughout North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Its proprietary technology has been licensed by an Israeli company. NiCoForm continues to advance the state of the art in high-performance electroformed seamless bellows, catheter tip-forming dies, optical and microfluidic mold inserts, and the cost-effective fabrication of precision metal parts for use in lasers, aerospace, medical, and many other applications. NiCoForm focuses on continually improving its chemical and fabrication technologies for applications where its high strength proprietary alloy can provide the greatest benefit to its customers and their products. With a “world-class alloy” and a diverse customer portfolio, NiCoForm is now the world leader in Nickel-Cobalt Electroforming and an important part of Rochester’s high tech chemistry-based industrial infrastructure.
More on NiCoForm’s Technology
NiCoForm’s core technology, electroforming, is an electroplating-based process used to produce exact metal replicas of various shapes and textures by depositing a thick metal layer onto a mandrel, or original to be replicated. It provides an additive process to fabricate high quality precision metal parts, such as bellows and catheter tip-forming dies, that would be difficult to manufacture by conventional metal fabrication processes. The mandrel is subsequently separated, by chemical or physical methods, from the target part that is called an electroform. The main advantage of electroforming lies in its precisely chemically controlled additive nature, assuring replication fidelity, precise dimensions and unique alloy properties, unmatched by any other technology.
Over the years, electroforming has progressed to using copper and then nickel as the primary material, but neither metals can match the properties of high-grade steels, as both are insufficiently hard, wear and heat resistant. Therefore, electroformed articles in applications requiring high mechanical properties have found only limited use. Additionally, most conventional electroforms require costly post machining, because their solution side is not smooth. NiCoForm has successfully addressed these two limitations of electroforming by developing innovative new solution compositions and additive processing technology to provide a new family of high strength, high temperature stability, corrosion resistance and pore-free electroformable Nickel-Cobalt alloys, NiColoy®. These alloys can be custom-tailored for a broad spectrum of demanding applications, including seamless electroformed bellows, catheter tip-forming dies, miniature fiber-optic components, optical and microfluidic mold inserts, and infrared radiation shields.
NiCoForm’s Rochester facility is built around the non-polluting recuperative rinsing concept, also developed by Berl. This technique sends no plating chemicals down the drain, saving valuable materials while protecting the environment.
The Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society is the professional organization of some 750 chemists, biochemists, and material scientists in the 6 county Rochester area. For further information see: www.rochesteracs.org