A Legacy of Innovation: Massa’s enduring Impact on Naval and Commercial Oceanographics
By Dawn Stancavish
Massa Products Corporation (Massa) is a 3rd generation woman run, family-owned business. However, their expertise in the field of Electroacoustics has its start at the beginning of the field itself in the late 1920s with Frank Massa, the company’s founder. Frank was one of the first engineers to apply engineering principles to sound. Allowing for the field to expand, and new types of products to grow to convert electricity to sound and sound into electricity in more ways than before. This skill and knowledge helped modernize necessary equipment for various industries: film, audio, military, oceanographic, and more. During WWII Frank was the industry leader who worked directly with the Navy under the guidance of and appointment by Admiral Furer to advance the design and construction for deployment of required sonar transducers necessary to win the war. In this effort in 3.5 years, Frank designed over 200 transducer types, 150 of which went into production, and thousands of these were actually mass-produced and utilized! Frank founded Massa in 1945 following the end of WWII. Today Massa is the only business in the field of Electroacoustics that has the continuity of both advancement and production of sonar transducers, sensors, systems, and ultrasonics that can be traced directly to the dawn of the industry.
Ahead of their time, is now relevant again:
As the world around us shifts and we as people face new challenges, sometimes we see that it is the market that defines what products are needed, and sometimes it is the technology itself that defines the market. We have in recent years all witnessed both phenomena. We have seen what is possible when an innovative, practical technological and accessible product is placed before the market and seen how our lives literally are transformed. We have also all seen that case of, “I wish I had,” or “If only there was a product that did X.”
Massa has not sacrificed quality or innovation in their longevity – if anything it has increased.
Many businesses today are suffering from turnover and bureaucracy that get in the way of truly understanding and delivering what is needed. As a nation we have seen manufacturing grossly outsourced, and several trades decline. Covid only made this worse. These things have had an impact that might not have been evident in the short term but have in fact hurt America in the long term, which unfortunately we are now beginning to see in certain fields.
Although there are several new innovative companies that are eager to help with wonderful new technologies and products, they are often at a disadvantage because they rely on financial backing from their investors, and they often lack the longevity and experience of older companies. Whilst several older companies may have worked on similar types of products or programs as to what is now being sought, often lack the continuity and personal experience of their employees due to turnover. Just because a company has done it before does not mean that their people have. This can impact the products and programs they deliver on because the end result is often over spec-ed and overpriced, and that itself fails to meet the exact needs (price point/performance/practicality) that is desired by the market.
Massa, having a long and rich history of working with both government and industry, has an advantage and a visibility that many others don’t. This is the case with their keen in-depth understanding of their field and products, but also in their history of designs, problem-solving, programs, and developments they have been involved in over time.
Navy, USCG and Oceanographic Science:
These groups have a very important relationship. They depend on technology and products to work reliably in complex environments and for sometimes the same, and sometimes different purposes. The data they use to do their jobs from such products needs to be proper for the exact job.
Many times, these groups also share some of the same problems that they need to detect and prevent: environmental issues that are impacting the ice caps, the temperatures of the seas and how that impacts their equipment, trafficking of drugs and people, whales and endangered marine species that may be in the wrong place at the wrong time (ship strike, etc.), and other items of national security that are dependent on detection in the ocean. Sometimes commercial products are sought and repurposed. Sometimes products are developed in the past but for geopolitical reasons never materialized into common market use by these groups.
Massa has some advantages in these types of situations and has some new products that are being developed and some being revitalized. In Massa’s history there were several changes in the focus in geopolitics, and several innovations. Some that were fully developed, some that were only in their infancy when things may have shifted. Also, Massa has a long-standing history of creating products for marine sciences, sub bottom profiling, whale study etc. We also still have strong professional talent well versed in these areas.
MassaSonic AmberJack and MassaSonic RoboLobster were both recently showcased at SeaAirSpace in 2023. AmberJack is a new take on an older Massa design that was fully tested by the US Navy. It has less than 1 degree of barring of accuracy with a signal to noise ratio of 10dB. The frequency range is 2.6kHz-5.1kHz and can operate across that entire range. At a signal to noise ratio of 0dB the barring accuracy was better than 2degrees. Its weight is 200lbs or less (depending on desired use) and is an ideal tool for the USCG, as well as other Naval crafts that are smaller in size.