Lehigh Valley Company Creates World’s Lightest High-Security Bike Lock
By Colin McEvoy on October 6, 2016
Did you know the world’s lightest high-security bike lock is manufactured and sold right here in the Lehigh Valley?
The Bethlehem-based startup Altor Locks has created the 560G, a high-strength bicycle lock composed of four solid Grade 5 titanium rods, linked together by stainless steel rivets that incorporate titanium shields.
Often used in fighter jets and spacecraft, Grade 5 titanium is one of the strongest alloys in the world. But thanks to its very high strength-to-weight ratio, the 560G is also lightweight, and derives its name from its weight of only 560 grams, or 1.23 pounds.
“No one else in the market is currently using Grade 5 titanium,” said Dylan Cato, co-founder and COO of Altor Locks. “We did a lot of research, a lot of prototypes were made, and we’re finally at the point where it’s on the market.”
Based in a co-working space at 26 East Third Street, Altor Locks recently received a $15,000 technology transfer grant from the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ). Cato said those funds will be used to help Altor Locks market and commercialize their product, as well as support the hiring of a sales representative and trade show expenses.
“Altor is Latin for ‘protector,’” said Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator. “The aptly-named company is currently commercializing the 560G; a lightweight, high-security bike lock that seeks to serve a niche market currently underwhelmed with existing products in the marketplace. The KIZ is excited to support Altor in this endeavor and looking forward to the commercial success of the 560G.”
Cato was a mechanical engineering student at Lehigh University when he came up with the idea for the 560G as part of a project for his integrated product development course. He launched the company along with fellow co-founder Karen Schaufeld, the Altor Locks CEO and a member of Lehigh University’s board of trustees.
Cato worked on the design and sourcing for the 560g during long train rides in 2015, during three-hour commutes to an internship in Long Island. In April, he launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $35,000, but ended up raising $81,134 from 378 backers, Cato said.
Each lock is assembled, tested, and packaged in Bethlehem, where Altor Locks also services all its customers, which includes independent bike shops and bike riders from over 20 countries. Cato said the Lehigh Valley is a good place to launch a startup, especially due to resources available like the Southside Bethlehem KIZ.
“It’s a great opportunity for startup companies, and I think there’s something really special here,” he said. “There’s a real spirit of entrepreneurship here in the South Side, especially with the KIZ and Lehigh University being here.”
Other bicycle locks are comprised of flimsy materials, vulnerable to bolt cutters, and made on flat planes instead of rounded ones, which affects resistance to cutting. A video created for the 560G’s Kickstarter campaign shows it is resistant to heating, freezing, chiseling, blades, bolt cutters, and other methods thieves might attempt.
The lightweight nature of the 560G makes it more convenient to carry than heavier locks as well. While a key is used to open it, it can be locked simply by pressing it down with a thumb. When not in use, it can be folded down to a compact packages, Cato said, and two 560Gs can be linked together to extend reach or increase security.
KIZs are designated areas within Pennsylvania that foster entrepreneurial growth in coordination with the efforts of institutions of higher education. In Bethlehem’s case, the KIZ provides an incentive for graduating Lehigh and Northampton Community College students with an idea for a startup company to locate in the city, rather than leaving the state for Silicon Valley or another technology hub.
Technology transfer grants can go to a company located in the Southside Bethlehem KIZ that has been in operation for less than eight years and falls within a set of approved industry clusters, Schiavone said. The KIZ provides several incentives to qualified businesses, which also include student internship grants and KIZ tax credits.
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