Ohio Entrepreneur Embodies Spirit of the Wright Brothers
Entrepreneur Greg Morris chuckled when asked, “Why did you start a new manufacturing business after you sold a successful one to GE and semi-retired?”
“Manufacturing is cool,” said Morris, now CEO of Vertex Manufacturing, a traditional and additive manufacturing company he and Steve Rengers founded in early 2020. “I enjoy the technology. It has the power to create a unique innovative culture that can solve tough problems in design, production, and cost.”
Steeped in manufacturing history, Morris was the sixth generation to work in his family’s Cincinnati-based steel distribution business, E.K. Morris. Established in 1850, E.K. Morris customers encompassed the biggest names in manufacturing and invention, including the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop in nearby Dayton, Ohio. The Wright brothers also thought technology was cool: they built their own printing press while still in their teens, manufactured their own brand of bicycle, and pursued their renowned interest in flight research.
Though selling steel was low-tech, Morris appreciated the high-tech work of machine shops and fabricators who were using advanced manufacturing to build parts that made up so many consumer products. “From auto and airplane parts to appliances and computer products, the processes and volume of work in our region span industries and is fascinating.”
Goodbye Metal, Hello Plastic
In the 1990s, injection molding was in high demand. Inspired by advanced technology, Morris, his brother, and his E.K. Morris customer, Bill Noak, hit upon an idea to start their own business. By 1994, they opened Morris Technologies, Inc. (MTI) to pursue rapid prototyping using 3D CAD and stereolithography, an early 3D polymer printing process (their 1990s brochure doesn’t even mention 3D printing).
Hello Again, Metal
As additive manufacturing (AM) developed, MTI invested in new 3D printing equipment in 2003 making it the first company in North America to purchase direct-metal, laser-sintering AM machines. This revolutionary process enabled MTI to create complex metal parts with incredible accuracy and mechanical properties. MTI grew to become one of the world’s premier metal 3D printing companies with premier aerospace customers such as Aerojet Rocketdyne, Honeywell, and GE Aviation . In 2012, GE purchased MTI and Greg Morris, along with many employees, continued to work for the company under GE.
Founding a company on the Gold Standard
By the end of the decade, Greg Morris and Steve Rengers, a former MTI employee, felt the itch to create a special kind of manufacturing business. In January 2020, Greg and Steve opened Vertex Manufacturing which combines the innovative culture they had previously nurtured at MTI with their combined experiences in additive and subtractive technologies to solve some very complex manufacturing challenges in cost, design, engineering, and production.
Even with the pandemic, Vertex found success. “Greg cultivates a creative environment where employees can play around with challenges and succeed. He creates an innovation mindset,” says Vertex customer Bill Herman, president of New Era Assessments, an AM company.
“We are about a unique culture. That’s not easy to put together,” says Morris. “We leverage advanced technologies from machining and combine those into solutions for customers that are most effective.”
Morris credits their success to consistent dialogue with customers, employees’ propensity to experiment, and their team’s 100-plus years of experience in manufacturing and prototyping.
“Success doesn’t happen overnight,” says Morris. “We’re not resting on our laurels.” Vertex Manufacturing is working closely with its customers on several projects. Just as the Wright brothers found success with their subsequent company (the Wright Company capitalized on their airplane invention) Morris and Rengers have the right ingredients to find success as well.
Hear Greg Morris speak at AMT's MFG2021 + MTForecast Conference, Nov. 2-5, in Denver, Colo. The event brings together the manufacturing technology industry to network and gain insight on economic, market, and technology trends. In, Technology Insights – How Additive Manufacturing Can Catapult Your Manufacturing Business, Morris and other successful AM entrepreneurs discuss how to harvest value from digital technology and prepare for the interconnected ecosystem. Visit www.MFGMeeting.com.
About the Author
As AMT’s Managing Editor, Kathy seeks out connections, builds relationships, and strives to learn more about the people of the manufacturing industry. A writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience on the topics of manufacturing, technology, architecture, art, and parenting, Kathy is an avid listener who is deeply curious.
Kathy is particularly interested in autonomous vehicles. Since she was a member of Team ENSCO in the 2004 and 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, she’s been enthralled with the progress of self-driving vehicles.
When she’s not writing or mingling at manufacturing industry events, Kathy is spending time with her husband and four children creating art, visiting museums, hiking, traveling, and entertaining friends and family. She does try to sneak in reading, yoga, Sudoku, and long walks with her dog, Meadow.