Small Biz Spotlight
Butler Technologies & the Olympic Chain of Inclusion
By Mark Stone
Butler Technologies, a precision screen printed products manufacturer headquartered in Butler, PA, is making a splash with new technology on a global stage. The recently-certified WBE is one of several diverse suppliers outfitting Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Butler’s technology is incorporated into Team USA’s heated jackets and is already being considered for use in future products.
The highlight of the heavy-duty, down-filled red, white and blue parkas is the high-tech heating feature hidden inside the jackets. Developed by DuPont Advanced Materials, this heating technology is composed of conductive stretchable silver and carbon inks that warm up instantly from the jacket’s concealed battery. Using a printed heater from Butler, there are three heat settings that can provide up to 11 hours of continuous warmth. For a cold climate like Pyeongchang where temperatures hover around 15° F, the jackets go a long way to keeping Team USA warm. The jackets are thin, flexible and even washable (as long as you’re careful).
What makes these jackets stand out, even more, is the fact that they were manufactured entirely by U.S. companies. Ralph Lauren spearheaded clothing and design while DuPont delivered the printed heaters. The conductive carbon and silver inks were printed by Butler and designed by Ralph Lauren to resemble the shape of an American flag. Lawrence, Massachusetts, apparel manufacturer 99Degrees provided the bonding onto the jacket’s interior backing. Bringing the package together, New York-based Principled Design created the concealed connectors which attach the battery pack to the heating panel, and Baltimore-based Key Tech developed the discreet rechargeable power module.
“It is not about the technology but the experience of comfort,” said Principled Design’s founder and CEO Despina Papadopoulos in a Ralph Lauren blog post. “The jacket looks great without the technology, but the technology brings a new layer to the experience.”
Mike Wagner, Head of Engineering at Butler Technologies, added that because these companies are “local” and accessible, partnering is more efficient and accelerates getting the product to market.
“Knowing the materials, technology and labor were all sourced in the U.S. provides a great sense of collective pride among all those involved. This ensures that the state of American Manufacturing is strong,” he said.
American figure skater Adam Rippon was beaming with pride when he took part in the opening ceremony wearing the jacket. In a recent Instagram post, Rippon said, “Tonight I walked in the #OpeningCeremony and got to watch my old friend @yunakim light the Olympic flame. Representing the USA is one of the greatest honors of my life and being able to do it as my authentic self makes it all so much sweeter.” Rippon went on to win a bronze medal for his free skate performance, and in doing so made history by becoming the first out gay man from the States to win a Winter Olympics medal.
For Butler Technologies, despite having participated in several unique projects, few have provided the visibility of this Olympic jacket. “It’s been such an exciting experience to partner with such an iconic American company such as Ralph Lauren,” Wagner said. “To develop a printed heater for the Olympic jacket was such an honor. The employees of Butler Technologies take great pride in knowing that they have contributed to our country in such an extraordinary manner.”
It may be something as simple as a jacket, but its background creates a warm narrative about how an integrated, diverse supply chain can support an Olympic figure skater’s courage to be an authentic, amazing athlete.