Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 16, Issue 49
Spotlight on: Argent Data SystemsScott Miller, owner
By DAVID MINSKY
The website for Argent Data Systems says the company manufactures “electronic products for amateur radio, education, and commercial users.”
But the Santa Maria-based company is also affiliated with hyperionloop.com, which is known for its “smart hoops” or hula hoops with light emitting diodes (LED) and programmable electronics. Glittering with a rainbow of colors, the hoops are a popular accessory within the electronic dance music scene.
Owner Scott Miller’s hoops are similar to what other companies in Southern California make, but they’re different in one way: They have a removable lithium ion battery. Anyone with a little know-how in trigonometry and calculus can customize them too. With all of the coordination of gyros and accelerometers, it’s one of the most math and programming intensive devices he’s ever worked on.
“When am I ever going to use this? To make this hula hoop, you need to know differential equations,” Miller said.
Miller has several 3-D-printing machines that create plastic parts, which he’s using to constantly tweak the hoops.
A Santa Maria native, Miller started the business out of his bedroom in 2003, building everything by hand. He said he never really intended to make it into a business.
Before Argent, Miller was working in the information technology business.
“I’m a programmer first and foremost,” Miller told the Sun. “The manufacturing end of things is a learning process.”
Elsewhere in his office you’ll find a bric-a-brac of scattered electronic parts on shelves, as well as other gadgets, like oscilloscopes (an electronic instrument that allows you to observe and measure constantly varying signal voltages), and a pick-and-place machine (a machine that mounts components onto a circuit board). Nearby an employee painstakingly solders microelectronics under a microscope.
The Sun became familiar with Argent after Miller did a solid for one of the paper’s writers a couple of weeks ago.
Arts Editor Joe Payne was trying to transcribe notes for a story when the recorder’s memory failed. In a near panic, Payne sought help from Miller, who extracted the memory chip and soldered leads to the individual pins so he could download the interviews Payne so diligently gathered.
It was a complete success.
While Miller is most known for LED hula hoops, his company is also known for its ham radios, which Miller said are used in 86 countries, on two Antarctic stations, and have been launched twice into space.
Another interesting tidbit about Miller: He’s known as a “Burner,” or a person who goes to the annual Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nev. Miller’s been a Burner for some time now. In fact, all of the employees in his shop are Burners. His hoops are popular at the festival.
“It seems like a fairly simple product,” Miller said. “You take some lights and shove them into a tube. But it’s actually more complicated than that.”
Staff Writer David Minsky wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, email, or mail.
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