I’ve been working with Brandon Acker, CEO of Titan Abrasive Systems, since 2017. While I know all about Titan’s industrial blasting equipment and the company’s history, I didn’t know the full details of Brandon’s story.

A funny, low-key guy, Brandon used to be a surfer, and in fact, met his wife Daniela during a surfing trip to Costa Rica. He rarely gets upset – or least, I’ve never seen it. He’s quick to give positive feedback and encouragement. When he and Daniela visit Costa Rica, they often bring back the most delicious hand-picked, small batch roasted coffee beans. 😍

Photos of Costa Rican coffee; image © Brandon Acker, Titan Abrasive

Watching Brandon grow and change Titan Abrasive over the last seven years has been an educational experience. But it’s also left me with the sense I was missing something – namely, what has driven him to succeed?

For this reason, I finally asked if I could interview him about his “early days” after purchasing the company in 2013. I’m glad I asked, because like many of the entrepreneurs I feature on this blog, his story is one of grit and determination.

But what sets him apart is his vision and how he applies ingenuity to solve challenges within the abrasive blast industry.

Bred in the bone: From uncle to nephew

Brandon’s alma mater, Arizona State University, hosted a panel of the 2015 winners of the Smithsonian Ingenuity Awards (source). To start the discussion, the moderator defined “ingenuity,” because he hadn’t really used the word before. It means: “the quality [or process] of being clever, original, and inventive.” 

Ingenuity differs from innovation. With innovation, you create something new. But it’s ingenuity that often drives innovation because it’s about solving problems cleverly or in an inventive way.

titan abrasive - 1960s product line
The 1960s Titan product line: Blast Machines and Blast Cabinets © Titan Abrasive

Brandon’s uncle, Bruce Maurer, founded Titan Abrasive in 1953. He built the Titan name based on the cast iron abrasive regulator valves found on Titan blast machines. Abrasive media often causes valves to clog; Maurer solved this problem – and reduced blasting down-time.

Titan quickly grew and by the 1960s, Maurer had moved the company from the backyard “humble beginnings” shed to his first production facility.

As a pre-teen, Brandon began working with his uncle to learn the business and worked with him through high school. He bought the Titan name, logo, equipment designs, and distribution rights from his cousin after his uncle died.

Brandon’s humble beginning: From storage unit to GE Aerospace

To keep costs low, Brandon first ran the company out of a storage unit he rented. “I pretty much lived there,” he says.

To keep tractor trailers from idling too long when making deliveries, he would help unload them. He packed replacement parts – his main source of income – in the dark while spending his days learning everything about blasting.

He also began thinking through how to redesign the Titan product line, which hadn’t been updated in years.

According to Brandon, although he worked with his uncle, he didn’t have actual blasting experience – meaning, he hadn’t spent time in a blast room, hose in hand, blasting paint or rust off vehicle parts or other items.

“What I did know,” he said, “was used equipment. I’d go to auctions and buy stuff, including old Titan blast machines and blast cabinets. I also met Brian Fox, who is my engineer today, and by talking with him, doing research, and taking stuff apart, I began figuring things out.”

With his increased knowledge he built his first blast machine by hand and shipped it. The customer loved it!

The GE Aerospace Blast Room shortly after installation © Titan Abrasive

His first big break came in in 2017, when GE Aerospace purchased a custom blast room where they surface prep jet engines.

“That story is interesting,” says Brandon, “because all of us quoting on the project were called into one meeting. Titan competitors sell through distributors, so that’s who showed up. Titan, however, sells direct, so it was me at that meeting as well. That’s how I had the edge – because I could answer the engineers’ technical questions and offer a customized solution. The other guys couldn’t.”

He had made the decision early on to sell direct because he had seen first-hand the challenges of selling through distributors – including the long lead times and meeting quotas versus providing the best system.

From ingenuity to innovation – the redesigned dust collector

He and Brian Fox were also of like minds. While employed at another blast equipment company (a Titan competitor), Brian had submitted a design for a completely reconfigured dust collector. He was told, however, that no one would buy it, it was too expensive to build, etc. etc.

When Brandon saw the design several years later, he knew the industry needed it. “I hired Brian and we built it and introduced it in 2015,” he says. “By this time, we were selling blast machines, with the rock-solid Titan cast iron valves, dust collectors, and custom blast rooms.”

Titan’s completely redesigned blast cabinet followed in 2021. An industry game changer, the cabinet features design elements that solve many legacy challenges inherent in competitor blast cabinets. Big companies needing a custom blast cabinet now come calling.

“Brandon has taken Titan to a whole other level.”

Today, when they’re not quoting or designing custom blast rooms, Brandon and Brian Fox are busy redesigning Titan’s media reclaim system. His vision is to make all Titan blast equipment meet the rigorous demands of industrial blasting on a daily or even 24/7 basis.

Brandon is also committed to manufacturing in the United States. Titan’s complete line of abrasive blast equipment is sourced and made in the U.S. – everything from the steel used in the blast room enclosures to the nozzles on the blast hoses.

Says John Rush, a sales guy for Bearon Manufacturing, the company that machines Titan’s cast iron valves, “Our CEO believes no company is too small to work with because you never know what that company will become – and Titan is an excellent example. We began working with Brandon in 2013 and have watched him take Titan to a whole other level.”

To learn about Titan Abrasive and its Made in USA blast equipment, visit www.titanabrasive.com

Full Disclosure

Titan Abrasive is a client of Huff Industrial Marketing. Brandon did not ask to be interviewed, nor was I paid to write this piece (although I will accept hand-picked Costa Rican coffee beans, ha!). I’m thrilled he shared his inspiring story with me.

My mission is to keep manufacturing jobs state-side and this blog is my way of giving back. We like to think a “small” choice, such as purchasing something made in the U.S. by American workers, won’t make a difference. It does.