A manufacturer of clear window insulating panels in Hoosick Falls, NY has improved its product design and likely will quadruple its workforce, thanks to technical assistance provided by the NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP).
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.
Jim Devine is the owner and president of Windo-Therm, the small manufacturing company located in Hoosick Falls, NY, near the Vermont border. Devine developed and patented the Windo-Therm insulation system and began selling to homeowners in 1998.
The sturdy Windo-Therm panel mounts on the indoor side of existing windows and with weather-stripping seals to eliminate drafts and create a thermal barrier. The Windo-Therm frame’s two separate surfaces trap a pocket of air between them. A second air pocket is created between the Windo-Therm panel and the existing window, tripling the window’s insulation value and saving as much as 55 percent on annual heating bills.
“Homeowners were telling me that the product was good but I knew it could be even better,” said Devine.
While Windo-Therm made old windows more energy efficient, local historic preservationists and other homeowners had an issue with the inclusion of grid work in the panels. The grids were needed to prevent deformation of the aluminum frames due to thermal contraction. To satisfy customer demand and simplify the building process, the grid work in the insulating panels needed to be removed and the outer frame strengthened.
“We needed a way to enhance the structural integrity of the panel, without detracting from its appearance,” explained Devine.
He then learned about SATOP and the free technical advice it offers from the Center for Economic Growth (CEG) in Albany, NY. Devine filled out a Request for Technical Assistance (RTA) and AJ Lucas, SATOP New York project engineer, matched the technical challenge with Ali Sadegh, a full professor at City University of New York (CUNY), a SATOP Alliance Partner.
Sadegh quickly analyzed the Windo-Therm frame, assessing its weaknesses and determining how to re-design the frame to minimize deflection.
“Without grids, the aluminum frame could be deformed by the pulling force of the plastic glazing materials, causing air leaks. The product needed to remain air-tight for insulation purposes,” said Sadegh. “I optimized the cross sectional property of the outer frame creating a new design that would minimize deflection.”
Sadegh’s suggestions resulted in a new Windo-Therm product that boasts a stronger framework and a re-designed corner, both adding strength and avoiding excessive deflection.
Devine couldn’t be more pleased with the help he received from SATOP and CUNY. “It is really remarkable that a program like SATOP exists, offering extraordinary opportunities for people to do wonderful things,” he said. “It is great that a NASA program can get this close to everyday people in small business.”
Devine expects that the help he received from SATOP will not only have a major impact on his business, but also the entire village of Hoosick Falls. “Because of the new product I have to offer, it is highly likely that that I will quadruple my workforce here! While the rest of the country is loosing manufacturing jobs, SATOP helped create work in our community,” he said.
Devine has even grander long-term plans to approach “big box” retailers with Windo-Therm and eventually branch out to overseas markets.