OXFORD — A company that was started in a garage eight years ago – and has built up a customer base for its high-precision machines that includes NASA – has two reasons to celebrate this spring.

Arcast Inc. has won the Maine Small Business Exporter of the Year Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and has embarked on a half-million-dollar project to create finely powdered metal for 3-D printing.

Arcast won a $187,500 challenge grant from the Maine Technology Institute in February to put toward its new project. The company started off self-financed, Vice President Sasha Long said during a tour of its new Park Road production facilities Friday.

“We believed in it, (but) we couldn’t get anybody else to believe in it until we created it,” Long said. ” ‘If we build it, they will come,’ and they did.”

The company makes arc-melting systems and high-performance equipment that melts and casts metal, even spinning it into fine ribbons.

“The products that we produce, both the equipment and the materials, go into everything from cellphones to rocket nozzles,” Long said. “It supports everything from medical implants to turbine components, and anywhere where advanced materials, advanced metallics, are being used.”

Arcast, with 12 employees, makes half of its revenue from overseas sales.

“We’ve shipped everywhere from Australia, South Korea, Egypt, all over Europe, Canada, a broad range of countries,” he said. “We now have a very strong equipment business all over the world. We have a very strong range of products, very well-received. Now we’re taking those products that we’ve made for other people and we’re keeping some for ourselves and we’re launching a materials business, which is where MTI is coming in and helping support us on that.”

While 3-D printing with plastics has been around a while, metal printing is a newer market.

“We’ve developed special technology to allow us to create these metal powders out of materials that most people can’t, and with costs which are lower than most, and actual powder performance and quality which is greater than most are able to do, and that’s all because we’ve developed it internally,” Long said. “We’ll be producing the highest-performance powder in the industry, just here in Oxford, Maine.”

The MTI grant, which comes from a $45 million bond Maine voters approved last year, will cut the time the company needs to grow, he said.

Long expects Arcast to hire three more people in the next year and add 15 in the next five years.

The company may partner with larger industry players and expand production elsewhere, “but the core will stay in Maine,” Long said.

“It’s our hometown, there’s lots of land, relatively inexpensive real estate, and it’s a nice place to live,” he said.

Amy Bassett, the SBA district director, said Key Bank’s Jack Lufkin nominated Arcast for the award. The company used one of the SBA’s export loan programs through Key Bank.

The awards recognize the work being done in Maine, she said, and highlight to other small businesses SBA programs also available to them.

During the tour Friday, Bassett said she was struck by the cool technology and the creative thinking behind its development, and by the relationship between Long and company President Rayland O’Neal.

“They’re two locals, from Oxford,” she said. “They grew up and met each other in third grade, and to think that they’re still here and really dedicated to being here is really part of the story, too.”

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