‘Space Fence’ is Crenlo’s next frontier

Farm Forum

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — Customized equipment made by a Rochester manufacturer is on its way to be part of the U.S. Air Force’s new $1.6 billion “Space Fence” radar array.

Crenlo, best known for making industrial and agricultural vehicle cabs for clients such as Caterpillar and John Deere, recently landed a subcontract with Lockheed Martin for 16 high-end, specialized electronics cabinets made by its Emcor enclosure division.

The cabinet racks are slated to be used in the U.S. Air Force’s project to build a better system to track meteors, satellites and other debris that might come into the Earth’s atmosphere. The first phase of the “Space Fence” is expected to be operational in 2018. It’s being built to replace a space radar array that was shut down in 2013.

“We have a long history of working with Lockheed. In 2014, we started brainstorming with them,” said Emcor’s Manager of Government Sales Jerry Krause. “They didn’t have any drawings. We engineered this things from ground up.”

The Post-Bulletin ( ) reports that Crenlo already has shipped out the first batch of racks and they expect to have a similar order from Lockheed in early 2017

While making a rack to house electronics may not sound like a major project, these high-end custom cabinets are designed to protect very expensive and sensitive components that need to weather earthquakes, hurricanes and other threats. That means built-in “shock absorbers.”

These cabinets also require special electromagnetic interference shielding to protect the equipment from outside fields and to keep machines’ transmissions from escaping. To hold the equipment, the racks are heavy duty to accommodate a weight capacity of 1,800 pounds.

“This equipment is worth a lot. It’s a big deal that they are trusting us to protect it,” said Jill Wood, Crenlo marketing communications specialist.

The Space Fence contract comes at time when business is solid for Crenlo and Emcor, said Steve Dick, Crenlo’s general manager for enclosures. He estimates shipments for the enclosures/racks are up by about 30 percent so far this year. Emcor makes up 20 percent to 25 percent of Crenlo’s business. The core cab market continues “to hold its own,” he said.

This individual contract is not large enough to drive Crenlo to expand its workforce of about 700 employees or add any production lines. However, it positions the 65-year-old for future growth.

“This helps our reputation within the industry, not only with Lockheed. Our military defense work just keeps growing. In total, that could potentially be worth millions,” said Dick.

Crenlo is not the only Rochester manufacturer to make parts for the Space Fence. Rochester’s Domaille Engineering was contracted in 2015 to create precision thermal management assemblies to be used in the S-band ground-based radars.