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ARMED ROBOTS, GOOEY SNACKS MADE BY SAME FIRM

talon_fm_small.jpgIt's tough being a small business owner. Sure, you've got a vision for where you want to lead your fledgling enterprise. But the market can be unforgiving. And, often times, you do what you have to meet payroll -- even if the jobs or the clients aren't quite what you had planned on, in the first place.Same goes for the defense business. There are a ton of less-than-Lockheed sized companies out there looking to supply the Pentagon. But they have to dip into other markets, as well, in order to get by. Just the other day, for example, I spoke to a firm that's developing a new explosives detector -- and an anti-aging skin cream, too.gushers.jpgBut Foster-Miller, the company behind the armed robots that are about to be shipped off to Iraq, may win the award for the oddest array of expertise, ever. When they're not building gun-toting, death-dealing machines, Foster-Miller scientists are helping make chewy, gooey fruit snacks; training railway workers in staying safe; building bone-growth devices; and testing out new vending machines for Pepsi.Now, granted, all of these projects take engineering know-how. For example, Foster-Miller -- recently bought-up by the British defense concern Qinetiq -- "developed a proprietary machine to make Gushers, a liquid-filled fruit snack, for General Mills."Similarly, for Tastee Caramel Apples, "Foster-Miller developed a state-of the-art machine that picks up an apple, inserts a stick, and then applies caramel and nuts in precise amounts and in the right location on the apple." But am I the only one who's a little concerned that the very first robotic killer to be rolling around Iraq is made by the Tastee Caramel Apple men?

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