Category Archives: People

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!  


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.


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 !

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!

People Power: Michael Collins, Mechanical Engineer

Michael Collins started at Sigma Design Company several years ago as a mechanical engineering co-op student. Michael was studying Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Mechatronics and Product Design at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. After graduation he began his career at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Philadelphia, PA as a mechanical engineer. After some prodding he returned to Sigma being hired full-time in April and is working on new project engineering and design. Michael also supports manufacturing and work cell development.

Michael working on the wiring of the WATTLOTS Power Arbor™ base.

As a Mechanical Engineer, Michael brings a sound understanding of engineering fundamentals and creativity to Sigma’s clients and projects.

Recently, he has worked on the WATTLOTS Solar Power Arbor’s™ ; a Sigma-manufactured solar tracking base for PV solar parking lot canopy systems.
He has also worked on our Glen Mills French Press G-M™, which is used for Life Science cell studies. The system provides cell homogenization for researchers. His latest design project is a novel exercise device whose purpose is to assist users while performing squats, and a saucer for children to use in the ocean where they will moved from the incoming wave before being placed back on the beach.

Michael enjoys the variety of projects he works on at Sigma. “Every project forces me to gain insight into a topic I had never looked at before,” he said.

When he’s not working, Michael spends a lot of time at the beach, since he is an avid surfer. He also enjoys woodworking and is a home brewer.

SIGMA Design Company Offers a TEAM of Professional Designers and Engineers

People Power: Thank You and Best Wishes to Kathleen Lynch, Marketing, SIGMA

Kathleen Lynch who has enhanced Sigma’s marketing activities since last summer is leaving Sigma Design Company for a position to promote art projects in nearby New York City.

Kathleen Lynch, Marketing SIGMA

Kathleen Lynch, Marketing SIGMA

Kathleen, a 2010 Rutgers University Graduate spent a year in France, working in the art world, before joining Sigma in July 2011. Since then she was instrumental in designing a new look and feel of Sigma’s marketing collateral and trade show messaging. Kathleen also served as a representative of Sigma at industry trade shows (see SIGMA’S Cimquest story) and college recruitment fairs (See SIGMA’S Middlesex County story). Kathleen provided not only a much needed visual sensibility during Sigma’s expansion and opening of our 200 Pond Avenue Center, but she generously shared her enthusiasm with us all and brightened the office every day.

Kathleen started in March at a New York non-profit that produces public art projects in New York City, where she will combine her love for art, her fine arts degree and her marketing talents. The Sigma family wishes Kathleen well.

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People Power: Bob Messinger, Senior Project Design Engineer

Whether you need Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on an injected molded medical device part or on a large steel bridge structure, then Bob Messinger, Senior Project Design Engineer takes care of business. Bob is an experienced mechanical engineer and one of five Solidworks specialists at SIGMA. His recent project experience spans the Ohmsett National Testing Platform (see SIGMA blog article), Motion Power Express™ energy harvester (see SIGMA blog article) and the Rapid Vodka Chiller.

Bob Messinger, Senior Project Design Engineer, SIGMA Design Company

Bob joined SIGMA in 2004 after a 21 year career with Hayward Pool Products where he designed filters, pumps, valves and water management devices that utilize precision injection and blow molded plastic parts. Prior to that, Bob spent 4 years with Valcor Engineering Corp. designing electro-mechanical solenoid valves for aircraft, aerospace and nuclear applications. Bob has extensive training that includes Cosmo FEA (linear and nonlinear, Solidworks (Beginner in 2000, Advanced in 2000 and Advanced in 2011); Solidworks surface, SDRC Ideas Design and Drafting, and Pro/E Design and Advanced Design.

Bob is a long time Harley-Davidson enthusiast who also enjoys cabinet making in his home woodshop. What Bob likes best about Sigma is “the wide range of activities, from micro to maxi, keeps the job interesting and challenging”.

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