When Bill Eibon, chief technology officer of p-Chip Corporation, was looking for a location to test and manufacture the young company’s micro-transponder, he searched all over North America.
The company’s microchip – about the size of a grain of salt – helps businesses trace and authenticate just about anything from auto parts to luxury items. But it wasn’t until Eibon, a 1985 graduate of Lorain County Community College (LCCC), visited his alma mater’s campus as a potential location, that he found the right fit.
LCCC’s business support system had evolved alongside the changing needs of today’s high-tech manufacturing companies. And when it came to lab space and training within the rapidly emerging microchip sector, LCCC was a national standout.
“I was blown away by what LCCC was doing,” says Eibon. “We make computer chips. We do wafer handling and testing. And that’s done here at this college.”
Access to tech-savvy students
In 2021, through the business recruitment efforts of the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise, Eibon moved p-Chip’s lab space into the Richard A. Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems. It’s the same building that houses LCCC’s microelectronic manufacturing (MEMS) education and training program.
“The MEMS program in and of itself was one of the main reasons we fell in love with this site and what LCCC can offer,” Eibon says.
Both the Associate of Applied Science and the Bachelor of Applied Science degrees in MEMS are industry-tailored and hands-on, with core curriculum focused on printed circuit board (PCB) and microelectronic manufacturing, design, assembly and prototyping. And each boasts 100% job placement for graduates, in part because of the work-based learning experience students are required to gain. And now, with p-Chip on campus, LCCC students have even more employer options and p-Chip has a pool of talent to choose from.
“Everything about our proprietary chip and readers, the software inside of it, the printed circuit board design, all the manufacturing, it’s all in-house,” Eibon says. “So having students who know how to handle electronic components, how to design build and test PCB prototypes is important to us.”
A better place for p-Chip testing
The p-Chip technology is not only tiny, but also versatile and affordable. Eibon says the company’s microchip can trace nearly any product through its supply chain from manufacturers sourcing raw materials to the end user. And to ensure privacy, the chips can only be read in person with a controlled, p-Chip issued device.
“All the information about that object, where it’s been, how it’s made, who’s owned it, is locked in a digital fashion,” Eibon says. “That data can be stored on computers, LAN networks, in the Cloud, or on Blockchains.”
Because these chips can be placed in and on anything, the team is constantly testing to ensure the chips can withstand the various elements they’ll be exposed to. To do this, Eibon contracts with SMART Microsystems, an organization in the same building that performs testing and inspection for microelectronic sub-assembly manufacturing.
“Within a few minutes I realized I need to be doing my testing with SMART Microsystems,” Eibon says. “It’s not just about the simplicity of cutting your cost by not shipping stuff around the world to do the tests. You can have conversations with people. Changing samples means, let’s meet downstairs.”
As worldwide brands embrace p-Chip’s capabilities, Eibon says he is proud the company’s global impact is rooted in a community college campus.