Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
European aerospace giant Airbus is testing its 3D manufactured parts with quality assurance technology developed by Sigma Labs Inc. in Santa Fe.
Sigma announced the new contract Tuesday with Airbus, which will test the New Mexico startup’s quality-control system over the next few months before deciding whether to deploy it for permanent use on 3D printing machines as part of Airbus’s manufacturing process, said Sigma CEO and board chairman John Rice.
“Airbus brought us in to prove our product will resolve some of their problems,” Rice said.
The contract is part of Sigma’s new Test and Evaluation Program, which the Santa Fe company launched last year, reflecting its transition into full commercial operations to sell its product worldwide. Under that program, a company pays 20% of the cost of Sigma’s quality-control software and hardware system up front to test it out in their operations before fully integrating it into their manufacturing process at full price, Rice said.
That testing phase can take from one to four months.
That would represent up to about $500,000 in revenue for Sigma. But the deal could well grow into a multimillion-dollar contract if Airbus deploys Sigma’s system on many of the other 3D printing machines the aerospace company operates, Rice said.
The company, which launched in 2010, had concentrated on research and development of its technology for years. It signed contracts with original equipment manufacturers such as Honeywell Aerospace and some European companies that focus on 3D printing, such as Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB in Sweden.
Its technology provides real-time monitoring of 3D parts during manufacturing and afterwards to detect any inconsistencies in process or defects in products.
“You need to see what’s happening layer by layer as parts are built, and each layer is the diameter of a human hair, so that’s a lot of layers,” Rice said. “Sigma monitors the manufacture of each part and layer in real time. It stops the machine if it sees something going wrong for operators to make a change.”
Company revenue has been erratic during its research and development years, reaching about $1 million in 2016 and then declining to $641,000 in 2017 and $389,000 last year.
Sigma traded on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board when it launched after merging with a public company that was no longer operating. It moved to the NASDAQ in 2017. Sigma stock closed at $1.26 Tuesday.
The company is now aggressively pursuing commercial sales, with two representatives in Europe and another salesperson for North and South America. It employs 20 people at the Santa Fe Business Incubator, where it’s currently headquartered.