Sigma Design Invests in the Expansion of its Welding Team and New Welding Technology

At Sigma Design, our weld shop is one of the lifelines of our manufacturing capabilities. Our ability to fabricate elaborate frames and weldments serves as the literal backbone to the state of the art products and equipment we manufacture. As our company has grown, we have also invested heavily in our welding team as well as the welding technology we can use to find solutions for our customers. Our welders are AWS and ASME certified for GTAW, SMAW, GMAW welding of aluminum, stainless steel and carbon steel. Sigma uses their OTC welders to provide optimum welding performance on stainless steel, and aluminum delivering high-quality pulse welding by performing optimized waveform control according to the material being welded. Our weld shop offers a full compliment of Lincoln, Miller and OTC equipment, each offering their own application for a variety of needs.

Contact Sigma Design Company today, we are a one stop shop for all of your design, analysis and manufacturing needs!

Sigma Design Reflects on 22 Years of Evolution

Sigma Design is celebrating their 22nd anniversary under current ownership. However, the company’s origins go back much further, originally founded in 1962 as a machine design firm by brothers Murph and John Abraham. Machine design became a tougher and tougher gig as the manufacturing sector in New Jersey, and nationwide for that matter, started to contract through the 80’s and 90’s. The Abraham brothers had started seriously considering closing shop. Sigma’s current owner, Jerry Lynch, knew the brothers for some time. As fate would have it over a friendly lunch, they mentioned that if the right buyer came along, they would probably sell the company. Entrepreneurship had been a lifelong dream for Jerry, an engineer by trade with decades of experience in manufacturing. The idea of taking a company that was established but struggling and in need of a new vision appealed to Jerry and the acquisition was complete in early 1999.

Sigma Design began under new ownership as it had ended under the former ownership, strictly a design firm with no manufacturing capabilities. Jerry could see the trends, as well as the desire by current customers to have a design firm that was also engaged in the manufacturing and production process. Customers wanted a one stop shop that could produce their designs, rather than just deliver the detailed design and manufacturing package. The ability for a single company to fully design and draft, then pilot, test, debug and refine a piece of equipment became strongly in demand. Many large manufacturers do not have the internal resources dedicated to refining and perfecting engineered systems. This ultimately led to the foundation of the Sigma Design of today, when in 2011 they purchased a 20,000 sq-ft facility to afford means to manufacture their designs.

Sigma continued their evolution once they had room to work. Since acquiring the new facility they have gained capabilities in all facets of manufacturing. Sigma has a full weld shop offering qualified welders in TIG, MIG and SMAW process as well as a CNC machining area. They have a fully tooled assembly area which can accommodate electrical control panel fabrication and large electro-mechanical assemblies. Drawing on an area of expertise of their owner, Sigma formed a partnership with Spiral Water Technologies. This necessitated a 200 GPM water filtration system test loop that is now a fixture in the Sigma Shop.

One area where Sigma Design excels is with advanced engineering and analysis. Sigma caught on early to the 3D modeling FEA trend and has engineering expertise to use these tools. Performing stress analysis, heat loading, fluid flow etc. in a digital environment helps their customers visualize their designs and adapt to design conditions before manufacture, and more importantly, service in the field. These tools also aid with material selection and manufacturing process layouts. Sigma has become an expert ally for their customers in using these tools on both Sigma Designs, as well as finding non-obvious challenges with customer supplied designs. Jerry along with his smart, creative staff has transformed the business into a single-source provider of design, analysis and manufacturing services of new products, equipment, and machinery.

As Sigma heads towards the future, they are gaining momentum and stronger than ever. They have started to establish themselves as a reliable design and manufacturing partner for large, international companies. This has led to an aggressively growing work history, especially with repeat manufacturing work of large devices and pieces of equipment. Sigma will continue to evolve, learn, and enhance their business model as their company grows into 2021 and beyond.

Lessons From 2020 Have American Manufacturing Ready for a Strong 2021

In what wound up being one of the most challenging years in anyone’s memory, the American economy faced a gauntlet of obstacles in 2020. A global pandemic, record unemployment numbers and a contentious election cycle led to a disastrous first half of the year by many metrics. However, as it always has, the American economy and manufacturing sector improvised and adapted. Remote working, meeting, and selling surged as the US had to respond to the pandemic, which also placed an even higher focus on employee safety. Efforts to reshore American manufacturing were already well underway heading into 2020, however the pandemic and seemingly instant surge in consumer demand for goods like PPE, medical goods and cleaning equipment led to rethinking many industry supply chains. Countries where labor is cheap often lack the infrastructure to quickly respond to large demand swings. The cost of commercial transportation continues to and will most likely always continue to rise. Reshoring became even more of an economical issue, as well as a necessity for increased response to demand.

From a recent Forbes.com article:
“Despite 60% of manufacturers feeling the impact of COVID on operations, a recent survey of senior leaders of manufacturing and distribution companies noted significant or modest growth in company revenue during the pandemic. Demand for products is surging, requiring new and innovative production methods, and many manufacturers have stepped up to the plate. As we close out the year, we will better understand just how much manufacturing changed in 2020. But economic uncertainty aside, the unprecedented supply chain disruptions of the year are a blessing in disguise for manufacturers, as they encouraged the often-stagnant industry to move faster and become more resilient than ever before. If there were a year to push the industry forward towards progress, this was it.” 1

American manufacturing looks to be heading into 2021 largely recovered from the hit it took in early 2020, and ready to soar. It is easy, and somewhat lazy to point to the DOW as any sort of indicator for the economy, specifically in manufacturing. However, the American Manufacturing Index (US ISM Manufacturing PMI) is a reliable indicator of the state of the manufacturing sector, and signs are looking great heading into 2021. The index is up roughly 45 percent from its low in May 2020, and almost back to its highs we experienced through 2017-2018. With the COVID vaccine already being distributed, albeit in limited numbers, America is on the cusp of turning the corner on the pandemic and getting back to some state of normalcy during 2021.

It is no secret that the domestic network of small design, engineering, and fabrication businesses are the backbone of large American manufacturers. At Sigma design, we pride ourselves on being part of that network serving large American companies across many industries. Whether it be Medical and Life Sciences, or Clean Energy and Wastewater Treatment, Production Machinery and Fixturing, or a startup getting its product design refined and to market, we have the capability to serve any customer at any level. Sigma Design also looks poised to be heading into 2021 with great momentum and an ever-growing portfolio of projects for our customers. We have invested heavily in our capabilities in recent years to be a one stop shop for our customers. From advanced design analysis and engineering, welding and fabricating, machining and assembling, to panel building and programming, Sigma Design can take a project from idea to reality. We have a library of satisfied, repeat customers to prove it.

1. Amar Hanspal, “Five Predictions For The Manufacturing Industry In 2021” Forbes, December 7th, 2020, accessed January 15th, 2021,  https://www.forbes.com/sites/amarhanspal/2020/12/07/five-predictions-for-the-manufacturing-industry-in-2021/?sh=79586f0428ca

Small, Local shops will be paramount to the effort of “Reshoring” American manufacturing

The idea of bringing manufacturing back stateside has been a part of American dialog for years but is a difficult process to actually execute. Whether it be lower labor and overhead costs, or initial investment needed, it is not going to be possible to bring the majority of manufacturing of American companies back to our shores. It takes more than just dialog and dreams of “Made in America” to actually bring manufacturing back, it has to make economic sense. Now it looks like the combination of rising labor and living costs in Asia, as well and American manufacturing sector that never seems to slow down with automation and innovation, is starting to turn the tide. And this is something every person in the country is getting behind.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Americas largest companies started offshoring manufacturing. It made economic sense. America had passed its manufacturing glory days to some extent, and citizens wanted easy access to inexpensive goods. Companies could circumvent US labor and environmental laws and use trade agreements to offset huge shipping costs. This led to a more consumer and service-based economy rather than the manufacturing powerhouse we once were.

The global pandemic that hit when the American economy already showed signs of slowing also served as a wakeup call in addition to the rhetoric and motivation to bring manufacturing back. Supply chains were exposed at their weakest points. Countries with different success rates at containing the COVID outbreak had different difficulties with supplying goods to their people, as well as countries they traded with. For example, if an American company manufactures PPE such as N95 masks, and has capacity to ramp up production to meet an exploding demand, it doesn’t make a difference if the raw materials can’t be purchased from a country in much worse shape due to the pandemic. Reshoring for some industries has become a matter of necessity and national security.

These times have demanded that large manufacturers get more efficient with their labor costs and manufacturing structure. The time is here to take a good look at how we can do things differently, and reshore American manufacturing. Having facilities thousands of miles away all over the world is presenting more challenges, and having production in the states is looking more appealing. American efforts in recent years with smart manufacturing, lean thinking and advanced automation has positioned many companies to do just that.

It’s not an easy process, and the huge network of local design and manufacturing facilities across the country that have always been the scaffolding to larger corporations are about to be called upon to rise to the effort. Large manufacturers have always relied on smaller shops for innovation, problem solving, process automation and laying the groundwork for massive production facilities. These shops at the bottom of the corporate supply chains provide stable local employment and opportunities at good paying jobs not only in engineering, but also in skilled trades such as welding and machining. This should help turn the tide a bit in favor of being a economy of more thinkers and builders, rather than consumers and providers. This is something any American can get behind.

Sigma Design has seen recent growth reflecting efforts by some of Americas largest corporations re-thinking their manufacturing processes. A small, veteran owned company located in Middlesex, NJ we serve a variety of customers throughout the Northeast, and are proud to be part of the large network of suppliers that are the backbone, and to some extent, unsung heroes of American manufacturing.

Hydroelectric Turbine Maintenance Platform Development for the Army Corp of Engineers

Sigma Design recently completed a project that was in response to a very challenging problem. They were approached by a customer to design a platform to be used for hydroelectric turbine maintenance by the Army Corp of Engineers. The constraints seemed to be quite a challenge. The platform was to be suspended from the underside of the turbine in the 26 foot diameter chamber below, where water exits after powering the turbine. Workers then could stand on the platform to inspect or repair the turbine blades. However one constraint made this design particularly challenging. The only way to access the chamber was through a 24” x 30” manway. This meant that the platform had to be shipped to the customer in basic parts, passed through the doorway, and assembled from inside the chamber.

A problem like this requires the engineering expertise that Sigma prides itself on.

After thorough dialogue with the customer on design options, Sigma developed a modular platform that could be broken down to basic pieces and passed into the chamber. Aluminum beams and plate were chosen as the primary materials of construction to keep weight down for the workers handling the pieces. The platform was designed and assembled in CAD and very thorough FEA was applied to look at how stresses would affect the platform under desired workloads. The result was a detailed design package delivered to the satisfied customer. It was time to start the fabrication process, which Sigma completed in-house at their Middlesex, New Jersey facility.

26 feet Diameter Platform lifted by 5 each 3 Ton Grip Hoists

Another challenge arose when it was time to assemble and test the platform. It had to be assembled, suspended in a state the replicates mounting points in the turbine chamber, and loaded with over 10,000 lbs to load test it. Sigma got to work and devised 5 fixtures, each replicating the mounting points in the turbine chamber. The platform was then assembled, suspended from the 5 fixtures, and loaded with water bags to achieve the required load to test the platform for safety. Sigma set up cameras and brought a workstation to the test area to record deflection data, as well as present to the customer remotely as a “Digital FAT”.

Water Bags used for Load Testing

The result was another Sigma success and another satisfied customer. Do you have a design challenge that you need another set of eyes to look at? Please give us a call 732-629-7555 or send us a request at info@sigmadesign.net

Engineers Without Borders

Sigma Design Company has been working on water products and systems for almost 20 years. Whether it is Ballast Water Treatment Testing or the design of Complex Marine Systems, Sigma has emerged as the ‘go-to’ expert on all types of water-related systems. Sigma has provided technical engineering support to Catholic Relief Service (CRS) for 15 years, with clean water projects in Guatemala, Kenya, and the Philippines.

When Fordham University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB)was looking for

 technical mentors, it was Sigma’s expertise in navigating water projects around the globe that made us a good fit. “Engineers Without Borders USA believes in the power of engineering to change lives. Clean water. Reliable energy. Safe access. These are gifts that truly keep on giving.” To learn more please visit the EWB website.

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Three years into our involvement with this impressive group of students, we have been surprised that many industry professionals do not know about EWB. There are nearly 300 chapters throughout the U.S., with each group committed to using their technical skills to improve the lives of others. The projects have been described by the students as ‘life changing’ and have made for some very interesting job interviews.

At a recent meeting at Fordham, graduates who started the EWB program returned to share their stories about how prospective employers were impressed by their involvement in this challenging venture. Check out the Fordham chapter here.

The Fordham EWB project was to design and develop a cooperative fish pond for a community in Uganda. This project is student-driven, with the mentors’ input as advisors in the design process.  After getting EWB approval for the project, the team visited thirty-four fish farming sites in the surrounding area to assess the successes and failures of each venture. Land surveys and assessments of water supply were conducted to determine a suitable site for the first fish pond. Take a look!

The team is preparing for its third working trip in 2018.

Our collaboration as technical mentors has been extremely rewarding and we are grateful for the opportunity to work with EWB!  

 

Make it Better and Improve Performance!

Dymax Corporation, located in Torrington, CT, is a leading manufacturer of advanced light-curable adhesives, coatings, oligomers, light-curing equipment, and fluid dispensing systems that work together to optimize manufacturing assembly processes.  Dymax came to Sigma Design Company to improve their WIDECURE® conveyor system. WIDECURE is a 25″ wide UV curing system with 700 mW/cm² of curing power. This system is typically used in industrial plants for the curing of adhesives during the assembly of aerospace, electronic and automotive components.  Dymax Corporation is well known for making manufactures more efficient and need to update the design of the WIDECURE with additional safety and performance features. Dymax presented Sigma with a solid and dependable machine, but a machine that lacked the features needed by its industrial customers and users. Learn more about Dymax here.

Sigma took their original prototypes and examined every single nut and bolt to do a complete redesign of the original machine. Aside from adding a number of safety and performance features to the system, Sigma greatly improved the user interface of the unit and overall quality and reliability of the system. The WIDECURE is aesthetically more pleasing and a truly gorgeous machine. Operators will be very pleased with its new ergonomic design and low level machine noise. Sigma’s new design also includes provisions for lifting and transporting the machine in a safer manner. WATCH VIDEO HERE!

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Dymax WIDECURE conveyor system at Sigma Design Company facility.

Sigma engineered several important features, making the new WIDECURE system a real state of the art unit. The control scheme of the machine was redesigned to be category 3 safety compliant.  Our engineers added an Allen Bradley PLC and HMI (Programmable Logic Controller and Human Machine Interface), and an open loop stepper system to smoothly lift and lower the UV lamp assembly.  Sigma turned a dependable machine into a world class system allowing the customer to better meet the needs of the industrial marketplace.

Contact Sigma Design Company about how we can improve your designs! 

Full “STEAM” Ahead

We are all familiar with STEM but what is STEAM?  “STEAM” takes the standard STEM formulation (science, technology, engineering, and math) and adds an A for arts. The movement, led by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) encourages the integration of Art + Design in K-20 education.

It is not about teaching art as a separate discipline but exploring where art naturally fits. Proponents of STEAM suggest we can be better engineers by learning how to think creatively through challenging design projects, like this one.   

Our design team at SIGMA became part of a RISD graduate’s studio in a recent fabrication project combining art and engineering. Rebecca Manson, an artist specializing in ceramics, was creating an eight foot diameter sphere made of thousands of small porcelain parts. Ms. Manson describes the piece as…”a look underneath our skin at the enduring structure that all humans share”. By recalling what is known as the ‘Overview Effect’;.. “the principal that when one sees the earth from space, feelings of deep love and concern for the planet reportedly wash over them…” the sphere represents a memorial to the planet earth. This stunning ‘union of bones’ created with paint over glaze over pigmented clay results in layers of color that change with light, angle and personal perspective. Only a very talented engineering and fabrication team would be able to make this project a reality.

Fortunately, the artist found SIGMA Design.

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Howard Mikuylak working on the sphere

The giant, extremely fragile sphere had to be constructed in a mold, one half at a time.  SIGMA’s challenge was to construct the internal structural framework, which would support and align the sphere to rotate about its vertical axis.  Solid knowledge of geometry, strength of materials, and adhesives was required. Testing was done on the materials and their flexibility under various conditions and temperatures. Too much rigidity in the structure or adhesives would have caused the structure to break.

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Sigma Design’s Max Burns and Bruce Knapp working on the 1/2 sphere

When the first half was delivered in its ‘nest’ a rope ladder was constructed to allow work on the internal structure without stepping on the delicate ceramic shell. When the internal structure was done and secured into the shell, it was time to release the shell from the ‘nest’.

If you have ever tried to turn a warm cake out of a pan, hoping it would come out in one piece without breaking, you might understand our anxiety as we carefully turned over the nest. Would this giant sculpture come crashing out destroying months of work on the ceramic pieces? Would it require a bit of coaxing, tapping, and gravity, like that cake? 

We held our breaths, turned it over, and, well- it was stuck! Twelve hours later we had the sculpture safely out of the nested mold, which then returned to the artist’s studio for the creation of the second half.

Rebecca’s team got to work and weeks later we had the second half back in our shop. Upon delivery of the ‘northern hemisphere’, SIGMA got to work on joining the halves, and installing the pedestal.

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The finished product! (Sphere #2, 2016)

Throughout the project, SIGMA’s ability to support the artist’s vision while working within the realities of math and physics was a unique challenge. The idea that STEAM education might make these types of collaborations happen more often is very exciting to us.

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Rebecca Manson & the Sigma Design Team

Interested in Contributing to US Manufacturing?

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day celebration, there is still a debate over who first proposed a day to celebrate the American worker. Was it the carpenter from New York or the machinist from New Jersey? The New Yorker suggested a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” (Link here) Despite the eloquence of the carpenter, this NJ company votes for the machinist. Either way, both sought to recognize the American worker and the dignity of labor.

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As we celebrate Labor Day 2016, we can’t ignore its partner every September—‘Back to School’.   And we wonder, who will teach the next generation of manufacturers? Tech schools and community colleges are partnering with local manufacturers like Sigma Design Company to give the next generation of workers the technical education and chance to start a manufacturing career in NJ. We recognize that seasoned machinists and other manufacturing tradesmen are also an integral part in this education process.

For senior workers, there might be a desire to slow down but not stop working altogether. Studs Terkel, the author of “Working”, writes “Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash…….” We think working with inventers and designers, and manufacturing right here in NJ can provide immeasurable satisfaction—and some cash.

We do honest work that leads to the creation of tangible products. As most of our work is custom and requires a multitude of talents, we’ve found that there is nothing that a group of skilled workers cannot figure out! It is that complement of training, age, and experience that makes our projects successful. We are offering experienced tradesmen an opportunity to teach their craft to the next generation of American manufacturers. If you or someone you know would like to join us, call 732-629-7555 or email Jerry Lynch at info@sigmadesign.net !

Where’d You Earn Your Stripes?

It’s hard to talk about going down to New Orleans without mentioning oysters, po’boys and beignets. But food had to take a back seat during a recent trip to the Big Easy where over 40 McDermott International employees gathered for a reunion. A street car to the Garden District brought us to Bruno’s Tavern to meet with the men who designed, fabricated, and constructed some of the largest marine equipment in the world during the 80’s & 90’s. These projects sent us to Singapore, Spain, Dubai, and our favorite assignment, the south of France. A typical project would require 18 hour days with an occasional day off with this new ‘family’ of expats. The work required supervising large groups of machinists, welders, riggers, and electricians with the task of building monstrous-sized cranes, installing deep sea platforms, and laying hundreds of miles of deep sea gas and crude pipelines.McDermott DB 101The bonds formed living and working together years ago were evident as each person shared stories from then and now. A recurring theme heard throughout the day was about the novice sent into the field, some as young as 22, without any real experience or preparation for the work and responsibility for which they were hired.   They credited McDermott International, originally headquartered in New Orleans, for hiring the right people, giving you a job to do and the tools that were needed to do it, and then just leaving you alone.   You were hired for your ability to work smartly and independently.

These experiences, particularly the offshore projects created the foundation that makes Sigma Design Company able to handle today’s challenging engineering projects. What an adventure it was! It was so great to see everyone! Thanks to Mike McIntosh, Rich Lockwood and Richard Smith for bringing so many of us together.