Inside Track: Biomedical executive Doug Kohrs is staying in Minnesota

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 23, 2013 - 5:01 PM
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RedEye On Demand and Stratasys have been selected by Winnipeg-based KOR EcoLogic to build the first 3D-printed, production-ready car called URBEE 2

Doug Kohrs, a biomedical engineer who arrived in Minnesota from Texas 22 years ago, is calling it a career in active management. He’s served as a founder and top executive at Spine-Tech and as CEO of American Medical Systems and Tornier, the Netherlands-based orthopedic implant company that he took over in 2006. Kohrs ran Tornier between Amsterdam and a North American headquarters in Bloomington that grew from just him to 150 employees.

Sean Carney, the chairman of Tornier, credited Kohrs with building the company, once a family-run operation, by taking it public in 2011, navigating a big 2012 acquisition and “expanding our international footprint, core capabilities and the innovation pipeline.”

Kohrs, 55, has handed over the baton to his successor at Tornier, but he remains active. He just joined the board of Proto Labs, Minnesota’s best-performing initial public offering of recent years. And he sits on several other private-company boards.

“I plan to help other companies and help the local community and really give back in appreciation of all the support I was given since I arrived in Minnesota,’’ Kohrs said last week. “My wife and I aren’t from Minnesota, but we’re staying in Minnesota.”

Without getting into detail, Kohrs, said he and several associates plan to incorporate and fund what will be called the Foundation for Essential Needs, including a website that make grants to non­profits such as Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP), one of his charities over the years.

“We will support organizations like VEAP that help low-income families with emergency needs and try to help stabilize their economic situation,” Kohrs said. “We’ll fund organizations and ideas for helping the working poor. I’m going to do this in addition to what my wife and I have always done.”

Kohrs, a Republican, also led the medical research-and-business effort on behalf of Minnesota Life Science Alley against the GOP-led legislative attempt in 2011 to ban “reproductive cloning” with a bill that could have halted therapeutic stem-cell research and potential cures for a host of diseases. Kohrs called the attempt anti-health and anti-business.

American Medical Systems and Spine-Tech, once fledgling concerns, were built into larger, very successful public companies that sold to global companies at nice premiums.

“It was always a team effort,” Kohrs said.

stratasys unit redeye to use 3d printing to build car

RedEye On Demand, a Stratasys business, has been selected by Winnipeg-based KOR EcoLogic to build the first 3D-printed, production-ready car, the Urban Electric vehicle, dubbed URBEE 2.

If nothing else, the project backers say the URBEE 2 illustrates how far technologies such as rapid prototyping and 3D printing are changing manufacturing.

RedEye, which also produced the prototype of URBEE 1, is “printing” the car through “fused deposition modeling.” The parts are being produced at RedEye’s Eden Prairie facility.

KOR EcoLogic, founded by veteran engineer Jim Kor, is a big reason why RedEye’s sales grew 25 percent last year. RedEye works with customers who don’t want to purchase their own printer.

The URBEE 2, still in development, follows the first version that Stratasys says proved that 3D printing could produce large, strong parts that meet high-tolerance specifications of a car body. URBEE 2 will incorporate features such as a functioning heater, windshield wipers and mirrors, the partners say. Kor’s team is designing computer-aided-design files that are transmitted to Red Eye for thermoplastic layering from the bottom up, yielding parts “that are durable, precise and repeatable.”

The two-passenger, 1,200-pound vehicle will be built from 40 3D-printed parts compared to hundreds in the average car. The vehicle is being designed so that it will be able to cross the country at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour on batteries and 10 gallons of ethanol.

Kor, which has yet to announce a production timetable, said URBEE 2’s innovation lies in common materials and components that reduce fuel by minimizing weight, drag and resistance.

vanilla strategy for madagascar

 

General Mills Inc. sources all of its vanilla for globe-spanning Haagen-Dazs ice cream from Madagascar, the African island nation that produces 80 percent of that critical flavoring. With that in mind, the Golden Valley-based company this week said it will invest $125,000 over two years in Madagascar to help vanilla farmers improve yields and bolster crops in order to increase their incomes.

Vanilla comes from an orchid that yields a green pod. Most vanilla farmers simply sell the green pods for further processing, said Jerry Lynch, General Mills’ chief sustainability officer. General Mills’ program is aimed partly at getting farmers to also cure the pods, which turns them brown and aromatic, as a way to add value.

General Mills relies on Sava, a small region in northern Madagascar, for its vanilla. Farmers there are primarily small growers dependent on the labor-intensive crop.

The vanilla effort is part of General Mills’ broader sustainable sourcing program. The company will team with its vanilla supplier, Virginia Dare, and the humanitarian organization CARE. General Mills also funds research at the University of California, Davis, to map the vanilla genome and lay the foundation for breeding improvements.

MIKE HUGHLETT

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