For Rob Mudge, president of RPM & Associates, the Rushmore Region is his home. Even though almost all of his clients are outside South Dakota, he’s staying here.
“We live here because we want to live here, not because the business is here,” Rob said. “You can live here in Rapid City, and do well very well.”
RPM-Innovations-RPMI-222-System-4-(1).jpgRob was born in Hot Springs, and raised in Edgemont and Sturgis. His wife Debbie grew up in Rapid City. After he graduated from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology with a degree in metallurgical engineering, he took a job that involved lots of travel. That’s the nature of engineering; you go where the work is.
But Rob and Deb wanted to raise their family in the Black Hills. In 1982, Rob and Deb, with help from Rob’s parents Jim and Phyllis Mudge, launched RPM & Associates in Rapid City.
RPM & Associates
The company developed a specialty, solving wear problems in heavy-duty equipment at coal-fired power plants, cement plants, mining operations and chemical processing plants. Machines that crush rock, coal and other commodities take a serious beating in day-to-day operations. RPM’s use of additive welding and other technology allowed these companies to rebuild, rather than replace, pieces that wear down.
“We are focused on solving wear problems for our customer base using innovative ideas, automatic welding systems, creative machining and proper material selection,” according to the RPM Associates website.
These innovative ideas helped RPM branch out into a number of other fields, including projects for the Department of Defense and the aerospace industry. In 1996, RPM Solutions was formed, followed in 2001 by RPM Innovations.
A power plant customer of RPM Associates, pleased with the company’s work, asked Rob to look into wear problems on pollution control equipment at power plants. That led Rob and Shawn Veurink to create of RPM Solutions. The company manufactures and rebuilds more than 100 parts for nearly a half dozen different types of spray dryers and atomizers in the Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) systems of coal-fired power plants, incinerators, and waste-to-energy centers.
The newest RPM business uses Laser Deposition Technology to add new material in the repair, cladding and manufacture of equipment. “It’s like 3-D printing on steroids,” Rob said.
LDT is a process in which metal powder is injected into the focused beam of a high-power laser under tightly controlled atmospheric conditions. The focused laser beam melts the surface of the target material and generates a small molten pool of base material.
Powder delivered into this same spot is absorbed into the melt pool, thus generating a deposit of material. The resulting deposits may then be used to build or repair metal parts for a variety of different applications.
At home in the Rushmore Region
Today, less than 1 percent of RPM’s business comes from South Dakota companies. But he has no plans to relocate. He likes the South Dakota business climate and the Black Hills lifestyle. With electronic communications and air service available, it’s easier to stay in touch with clients.