Little Firm, Big Talents

LA MESA -- A couple of times a day, Phil Sluder pushes away from his computer and saunters a block over for coffee at Cosmos Coffee Cafe.
He's a regular there and the baristas know his order.
What they don't know is that back in his office, Sluder has quietly built the kind of company that is referred to as the backbone of the American economy: A small business that from its little perch in La Mesa for the last 17 years has had a hand in a wide range of products found in many homes. He's helping Apple build a manufacturing machine for its Ipads as we speak.
Walk up the quiet, carpeted hallway of his offices just off Allison Avenue and you think you've walked into a high-tech workshop.
Five guys, dressed casually and glued to their screen, munching on bagels and watching as small, unidentifiable shapes and figures spiral on the computers in front of them.
Sluder is an engineer but his company, TriAxial Design and Analysis, isn't in the construction business.
"Most people hear 'engineer' and they think buildings and bridges,'' Sluder says. "That's not us.''

When Sluder got out of San Diego State with his degree in mechanical engineering, he looked to pick up assignments from larger engineering firms that needed temporary help on important projects. He developed expertise in challenging computer aided design (CAD) software and began teaching its use while marketing engineering assignments.

He's done work for SAIC and General Atomics, including work his team is now doing designing some internal aspects of the multinational magnetic fusion project known as US Iter. Scanning through his company website, you see a history of projects from medical devices to consumer products.

Sluder's team didn't design the Apple Ipad, but they are currently working to design the casing and revolving platform that will allow the Ipad manufacturer to assure that product's glass quality. CLICK HERE to see that work in progress.

Sluder, a father of two recent college graduates, holds four patents, including one that involves the design of a futuristic gas gun designed to deliver payloads to space more cheaply than current rockets. 

In general, Sluder has built his business by developing extreme expertise in the CAD software and helping product manufacturers and engineering departments of larger corporations that need temporary help with specific assignments.

"It is far more cost-effective to hire us than to add staff for a project,'' Sluder said. He and his employees will generate about $850,000 a year working at about $85 per hour. He doesn't intend to grow his firm much bigger because the ebb and flow of projects can be challenging to finance if you grow much larger.

And lest you think this unassuming office is a nerd-filled black hole for indecipherable, detailed work, check out the Nerf-like projectile gun sitting on the nearby bookcase. It shoots a round, spherical object and is the source of one of the four patents Sluder holds. CLICK HERE to see it fired!

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Tags: La Mesa Today, La Mesa business, La Mesa news, La Mesa newspaper, Phil Sluder, TriAxial Design and Analysis

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Comment by chris shea on April 5, 2014 at 1:44pm
Great piece. I've seen Phil in the Village for years and didn't know his name! Super interesting business!
The short video is fun!

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