BANGOR — An unassuming building on the back stretch of Target Industrial Circle in Bangor is home to a manufacturer whose products send far-reaching information across the globe.
Nautel Inc., one of the world’s largest transmitter manufacturers, builds a range of AM and FM transmitters used by broadcasters, Stanford’s linear particle accelerator, the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and more, including international agencies such as the Turkish equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Charlie Drillen, manager of the Bangor plant.
Now, the company could be poised to reach farther, thanks to a $500,000 investment from its Canadian headquarters.
Nautel recently purchased a new metal punch machine, which punches holes into sheets of metal used to produce the transmitters, as well as a new 90-ton, eight-axis press brake, which bends the metal.
“It’s a major investment for Nautel, but it shows our commitment to the manufacturing facility in Bangor,” Kevin Rodgers, Nautel chairman and owner, said Friday. “We’ve got a great group of people [in Bangor] that build a quality product that they’re certainly very proud of.”
Drillen said the punch press would increase the productivity of the business’s fabrication shop by as much as 50 percent. It will also reduce the amount of wasted scrap metal and adds safety features, including a “light screen” that shuts down the machine if a worker gets too close while it’s in operation.
The previous machinery was 30 years old and showing its age, according to Drillen. Rodgers said the old two-axis press and brake were neither economical for the company nor the safest equipment for the workers.
Nautel in Bangor employs 38 full-time workers, with another eight sales and customer service representatives stationed across the country, Drillen said.
Nautel has its roots in Canada, but started its Maine plant in 1975, six years after the company was founded, in order to spread to the U.S. market.
“Since 1975, we’ve grown in market share, obviously, along with the product lines that we offer,” Drillen said.
The Nova Scotia location produces a range of AM and FM transmitters. The Bangor manufacturing facility largely produces the more low-power models that are built to meet the specifications of the buyer. For example, the transmitters that Nautel provides to NOAA have built-in backup systems, so if one half fails, the other half of the transmitter can continue to broadcast weather information.
Starting with sheets of metal, circuit boards, wires and electronics, workers at Nautel’s Bangor facility assemble the transmitters from the ground up based on designs from engineers based in Nova Scotia.
“They basically create all the designs for what we produce here, and those designs are transmitted down here and we take the manufacture of those parts and turn those into consumable goods,” Drillen said.
Nautel even has its own woodworking shop, where employees build containers used to ship their transmitters around the world.
Waiting for shipment in the packing room Friday was one box bound for a Mexican radio broadcaster.
The Bangor plant will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony to christen its new equipment and celebrate the company’s investment at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the plant at 201 Target Industrial Circle in Bangor. City Council Chairman Nelson Durgin is scheduled to cut the ribbon alongside Nautel management and owners.