ELKHART — The Elkhart Truth’s search for hidden gems turned up a manufacturer on Elkhart’s west side that got its start when one of the city’s historic families got involved in the early days of generating electricity from wind power.
Formerly headquartered on North Main Street, American Electronic Components is now tucked back on Lafayette Street, quietly doing work with a big reach.
American Electronic Components
FOUNDED/WHY IT'S HERE
“This company was originally founded by the Bucklen family,” said Keith Vanderbosch, vice president. “Back in the ’30s they were building windmills to generate power for farms. What goes around comes around. They were experimenting because of the batteries that were in use.
“They were experimenting with switching gear to control the loads that were presented to them when the batteries were switching in and out. It’s a nasty, nasty thing for a contact to do ... out of that came the Durakool brand of mercury displacement relays and tilt switches,” Vanderbosch said.
WHAT IT DOES
In addition to making switches and durable seals — its glass-to-metal seals are so tight, leakage is measured in numbers of helium atoms — it also can do deep-drawn steel and can even help companies set up automated systems.
“We intend to stay a manufacturer, and the way we’re going about doing that is looking at specialized, niche capabilities that we have because of the types of products that we’ve built in the past, and then capitalizing on those,” Vanderbosch said.
WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU KNEW
Your vehicle may have AEC components in it, and your sump pump may incorporate a switch made by AEC.
WHERE IT REACHES
Globally (and even beyond — see below).
It goes up against big American companies and companies from Germany, Japan and South Korea.
Ÿ Its switches are part of the sensors in tire-pressure monitors.
Ÿ It make the hood switches in Ford’s F-250 pickup trucks.
Ÿ American Electronic Components also makes sensors for amphibious vehicles.
Ÿ It’s working on a new patented switch for car key fobs to extend battery life, said Mark Del Giudice, company president.
Ÿ AEC can manufacture items from batches of one to batches of 7 million.
Ÿ “We’ve made 24-pin seals for devices that get sent into space. ... They’re extremely expensive, but fun to play with,” said Vanderbosch.
In two weeks we’ll profile a company whose signs you might have seen if you’ve ever ridden a shuttle bus.