Sigma Equipment Corp. manufactures machines and corresponding components for a variety of specialized industries. When an integral piece of a larger machine began emerging from the manufacturing process with signs of damage, Ed D’Errico, president of Sigma Equipment, contacted the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) for answers.

SATOP provides free engineering assistance to small businesses with technical challenges through the expertise of the program’s Alliance Partners, 50 aerospace companies and universities involved in the U.S. Space Program. SATOP’s New York center is located in Syracuse.

The part being damaged during the manufacturing process is called a roller. Sigma Equipment produces the rollers to be used in other machines as a working part. Somewhere along the production line cracks were forming in the rollers, rendering them flawed and unusable.

“We couldn’t figure out when the cracks formed, or the circumstances that initially caused them. We were stumped,” said D’Errico.

D’Errico knew that finding a qualified individual, and paying for the expensive testing and research necessary to reach a solution, would be time and cost prohibitive. After reaching several dead ends, he started expanding his research into available resources; it was then that he found SATOP.

After learning of SATOP through the Hudson Valley Development Center in Fishkill, NY, D’Errico filed a Request for Technical Assistance (RTA) with SATOP’s New York center in Syracuse. AJ Lucas, SATOP program engineer, matched the Sigma Equipment RTA with Dr. Vincent Choo, an associate professor at New Mexico State University (NMSU), a Platinum level SATOP Alliance Partner.

D’Errico provided Choo with a description of the manufacturing process. Choo was then able to analyze and observe the process utilizing different techniques and resources unavailable to Sigma Equipment.

“NMSU has access to machinery that many smaller businesses find either cost prohibitive, or that require high levels of expertise to operate correctly. After my initial analysis of the challenge presented by Sigma, I used different machines, including an ultrasonic machine, to analyze the parts and the manufacturing process. I was able to identify the source of the cracking and provide a solution to Sigma,” said Choo.

Since SATOP stepped in, Sigma Equipment has been able to fix the glitch in the manufacturing process and produce flawless machine rollers.

“SATOP has given us more than just a solution to our challenge. The program has provided us with a valuable service that combined the tools and knowledge needed to correctly analyze our rollers,” said D’Errico. “This solution was not something we could have devised in-house. Through SATOP, smaller companies like us are able to use resources normally reserved for larger companies.”

Lucas pointed out that the Sigma Equipment RTA exemplifies the need for a program like SATOP, saying, “In a short period of time, NMSU, through SATOP, was able to help a small company solve a troublesome manufacturing issue and move forward, and that’s the reason SATOP exists: to help small businesses succeed and grow and continue to make a positive impact on our nation’s economy.”