Category Archives: Made in USA

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.

 

Contact Us With Your Project Needs!

sigmapicSince 1999, we have been trusted by hundreds of manufacturing firms for our engineering and manufacturing services and would love to transform your smart ideas into successful products and machinery. Please give us a call or e-mail us about the projects you are currently working on!  http://www.sigmadesign.net/contact/

Prototypes with a Twist

An inventor needed a customized auger for an unusual application. The problem was that it could not be produced using traditional  CNC machine methods or as an injection molded plastic part. So, a few hours spent with a product development expert at Sigma resulted in the complex blade geometry needed for the auger in a process that could be readily manufactured.

 With our Rapid Prototyping FDM machines we can take your design concepts and grow ABS plastic parts. Used as a quick, proof of concept development tool, parts can usually be created, manufactured and shipped in just two (2) days.

Sigma Design is ready to:
*Take your geometry and produce prototypes.
*Design new geometry and produce prototypes.
*Develop and manufacture prototype devices, specialty production equipment and controls with testing capabilities in-house.

Prevention Invention

Anyone with a gas stove has probably had the scary experience of realizing that they have left the stove burner on. Unlike today’s refrigerators that call you back to the room when you have left the door ajar, most gas burners provide no indication that they are still on. A simple mistake could lead to a deadly fire in your home. Burner Disc

Matthew Porraro came to Sigma Design with a solution to prevent kitchen fires. Porraro invented a plastic disc that attaches to each knob on the stove, which illuminates when the burner is on. Sigma Design took his initial design and prototype and improved it, integrating a light circuit and an audible alarm.

BurnerAlert™ is the only reminder and timer product on the market that will retrofit on gas and electric stoves.

This is just one example of the projects that come to the Sigma Design team. Like BurnerAlert™, let us take your smart idea and turn it into a viable product!

University and 3D Printing Industry Collaboration Featured on PBS

Lafayette College seniors Jake Hyatt and Max Bergelson visited Sigma’s 20,000 square-foot Technology Commercialization and New Product Manufacturing Center to film a project for their Political Economy course.

Lafayette College students Max Bergelson, left, and Jake Hyatt interview Sigma President Jerry Lynch about 3D printing.

Lafayette College students Max Bergelson, left, and Jake Hyatt interview Sigma President Jerry Lynch about 3D printing.

The college produced a public affairs program in partnership with PBS, which featured Sigma’s 3D rapid prototyping and manufacturing services.

According to Lafayette professor and executive producer Mark Crain, Lafayette College constantly wrestles with ways to bridge academics and real world developments. “The opportunity for Max and Jake to visit Sigma Design Company and see first hand how 3D printing is transforming business and society is an amazing opportunity.  They’ll learn even more as they produce our broadcast that illuminates this innovative, complex technology for PBS39 viewers,” he said.

The program was broadcast to approximately  2.6 million households in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The program is available on the PBS39 YouTube site and the Lafayette College homepage.

Sigma’s 3D Rapid Prototyping FDM Machine can take your design concept and create a working prototype in three days. To learn more about our 3D Rapid Prototyping services or to submit a file and receive a quote, please visit: http://www.sigmadesign.net/3d_rapid.php

SIGMA Design Company- Turning Smart Ideas into Product Solutions