Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
August 10, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Ascend Manufacturing launches a new subsidiary

Ascend Medical leverages the 3D printing or additive manufacturing capabilities that Ascend Manufacturing has developed for the medical device space.

Justin Nussbaum brought his new company named Ascend Manufacturing to the region as a participant in Cohort 2 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Ascend is a manufacturing services company utilizing a new property addictive manufacturing technique to produce R&D and production level parts fast and inexpensive enough to compete with injection molding, without incurring the time or cost to make the tooling needed for injection molding.

Now, some five years later, the company has launched a subsidiary named Ascend Medical, and Nussbaum, who earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida (USF), has hired a fellow USF alum as the full-time Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of both enterprises.

Mike Kastura, who has extensive experience in product development, marketing, and business development joined the Ascend team earlier this year after nearly four and one-half years at Magnum Venus Products and, prior to that, a little more than five years at DeRoyal, the international medical products and innovative healthcare solutions company founded in Knoxville more than 50 years ago.

“My primary focus is on the commercialization of Ascend companies and the partnership with Ascend Medical,” Kastura told us during a recent interview. His addition to the team allows Nussbaum to focus on the R&D side of both businesses.

What was the impetus for creating the subsidiary?

Kastura says it started with the Sheltowee Angel Network, which operates Marble City Angels in Knoxville as well as chapters in Nashville (Music City Angels) and Louisville, KY (Derby City Angels). Angel Network CEO Eric Dobson and his colleague Alex Day, who is CEO of the Sheltowee Business Network, suggested that Ascend Manufacturing consider medical devices. It is an area that Sheltowee knows fairly well.

As noted in this article from last September, Sheltowee had just announced Venture Fund II with a goal of raising $25 million and investing about 40 percent in HealthTech, MedTech and medical devices. As part of the new effort, the existing Sheltowee Medical Device Fund, launched in December 2020, would be rolled into the new fund.

Using the 3D printing or additive manufacturing capabilities that Ascend Manufacturing was developing in the medical device space seemed like a natural fit. After all, the company has secured about a half-dozen patents related to its low-volume 3D printing machine that is 20 times more powerful than the proof of concept machine that it first developed.

Kastura says the commercial machine that Ascend Manufacturing has developed is akin to the output of a copier – an entire page at one time – rather than the more traditional way that 3D printers produce their output.

“Our focus is on part production at output speeds and economic value equal to injection molding,” he explains. “Our long-term goal is to replace injection molding entirely.”

At least at this time, Ascend Medical does not plan to create its own line of medical device products. Instead, it will focus on making shorter-run products for existing med device manufacturers.

Like what you've read?

Forward to a friend!

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!