5 cool companies in Irvine

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David Cox founded the 3D printing company, Purple Platypus five years ago. When it came to selecting a name, Cox wanted something that would stand out from the crowd, and thus decided on the catchy, yet quirky title of Purple Platypus.

ByKimberly PierceallOrange County Register

Attempting to highlight a handful of Irvines best and brightest businesses that may not have the biggest brand name recognition especially when youre up against names known the world over (see inside) is a lot like finding a needle in a needle stack.

The city has no shortage of entrepreneurial activity in its business parks and glass-windowed offices. Among those with a headquarters here are companies with one step in the future printing in three dimensions, with a trajectory for the skies ferrying passengers on private planes and with a mission to arm car owners with a tool that could put them on a level playing field with mechanics.

Heres more about the businesses in your back yard.

Location:17332 Von Karman Ave. 100.

Back story:First things first whats with the name? David Cox, the companys founder and president/CEO, said most of the company names he encountered in some 10 years in the 3D printing industry were forgettable.

I was going to name it something people would remember, he said. And its hard to forget the companys logo a serious, tie-wearing platypus with a purple hue as well as the mascot for the companys division that does the printing itself, Purple Porcupine, which is you guessed it a purple porcupine wearing a bowtie.

The printers his company sells can cost $10,000 to $600,000. If his company prints something for someone else, it comes with a minimum $150 charge and can cost up to $40,000 in some cases depending on how many items are printed.

Cox, the exclusive seller of 3D printers from the now merged Objet and Stratasys companies, started the company in his Costa Mesa garage five years ago after he was a sales rep for three years.

He moved the company to Irvine from Santa Ana in May 2012 and is now surrounded by potential customers, namely design firms and research and development departments for some of the worlds biggest brand names.

Whats cool about the company:When the special effects designers behind the big screen story of Iron Man needed a more convincing glove, they used machines sold to them by Purple Platypus to print one, wearable, in one piece. Seen a rubber smart phone case recently? It likely came from a 3D printer. The smartphone itself at least in the case of Apples iPhone was first sculpted as a prototype with the machines. Invisalign braces? Yup, printed on a 3D printer. Imagine an inkjet printer that lays layers of resin (one on top of the other) rather than ink or a glue gun that coils wire lengths of plastic with precision into identifiable three-dimensional items. Among the printers the company sells are ones that can print a solid object that can stand some three feet tall.

Back story:The company started in 2006 and began flying in 2009, based at Long Beach Airport before moving their headquarters to the Irvine side near John Wayne Airport in 2011. And despite the weary economy, the company has flourished growing with customers including quite a few who sold their own planes but still want to fly the private skies.

Whats cool about the company:Its like booking a regular flight except in this case, you get the plane to yourself. Dont expect Southwest prices though. A ride in a private jet is still a ride in a private jet. The fares vary widely depending on the route and plane, but unlike other charter rentals, a would-be flyer can get a guaranteed quote online that includes the rate for all fees, fuel and more. JetSuite also offers last-minute deals to its Facebook friends starting at $499 to rent an entire four-seat Phenom 100 plane, one way (ex: $499 to fly from Santa Ana to Van Nuys and wave to everyone below in traffic, or take a trip from South Lake Tahoe to Palm Springs, or Las Vegas to Corpus Christi, Texas. Those were among the last-minute routes offered on Jan. 31).

And for that price, you get free Wi-Fi on board, too.

Back story:Coming home from vacation and want to make sure the blinds are open, the heater is on and the lights are glowing in time for your entrance? Thats what the director of marketing for Insteon did, from his smartphone, hundreds of miles away from home. Insteons inventions have made the house of the future the house of now. The company started in a Newport Beach condo, then moved to Costa Mesa and eventually settled in Irvine.

Whats cool about the company:Its latest popular product an LED light bulb ($29.99) that can be dimmed remotely was born out of an internal dare, of sorts. Google executives had announced a couple of years ago that they planned to get into home automation and invent the first remote-controlled light bulb.

Upon hearing that, Insteon executives decided to make their own. Google still doesnt have one and others have invented bulbs controlled by remote control, but Insteon says it has the worlds first light bulb that can be controlled through a network of devices.

Back story:Harold Lees company started in Australia in 1963, crafting a modern look for that nations nurseries and childrens rooms with products made of 100 percent cotton.

It used to be very outdated, polyester, mint green, he said of the baby and kids items coming out of Australia at the time.

Three years ago, he moved the companys headquarters to Irvine not long after visiting a friend here.

I fell in love with Irvine and Orange County. All the infrastructure and weather, he said.

Whats cool about the company:In addition to designing and developing all of the companies products from a space in Irvine, the company has started offering $15 classes on topics such as baby nutrition, prenatal yoga and yoga classes for mom and her new little one. Participants also get a voucher to buy products in the companys retail store on site.

Back story:That pesky check engine light that can be a harbinger of doom or a harmless error is revealed for what it really is with CarMDs handheld device that aims to make that, and other mysteries of modern computer-bearing cars less of an unknown left to a repair shop to diagnose.

The company registered its invention with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in 2002, launched the car diagnostic tool in 2006 and moved from Fountain Valley to Irvine in January 2012. The devices have been largely sold through infomercials, the Home Shopping Network and select auto parts stores. It usually costs about $120 plus shipping and handling. Three vehicles can use the device at a time for a maximum of six repair reports a month at no extra cost, unless a customer wants to use it on more cars or get more reports.

Whats cool about the companys product:The handheld device that plugs into a cars onboard computer not only tells you whats ailing your car, but also estimates a price what a repair shop might charge or what youll pay out of pocket if you decide to fix it yourself. And updates new cars, new problems, new recalls, etc. are made daily and downloaded to the device if its plugged into a computer connected to the Internet. What if your car starts making a funny noise while youre on the road and away from a computer? Pull over and plug in, then read the code to an Irvine-based technician after you call the 800-number on the back.

Irvine is home to some 21,000 businesses, not the least of which ar
e some of the most recognized brands in the world. Here are just some with headquarters here.

Kelley Blue Book Co. Inc. (automotive)

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