New Website in the works for Helical Probe Test

To address the expanding market of our popular TP-3 Helical Test Probe units,  Apex Designs has purchased the domain name  and is once again working with the talented group over at Kickstand Creative to build the all new site to showcase our lineup of soil compaction testing tools.

HPT_anim The TP-3 (terra probe 3) is the latest evolution in our lineup of soil compaction testing tools.  Traditionally used by geotech and civil engineers for pre-construction testing, the helical probe test remains the most efficient method of determining soil compaction properties at relatively shallow depths.   Our new TP-3 unit features a revised helical shape that augers quickly into the ground by either cordless electrical drill or by wrench.  Weighing in at a mere 1.4 lb, the new TP-3 is much more portable than the Dynamic Cone Penetrometer and performs tests 4 times quicker.   Considering that the price of the TP-3 is a small fraction of the cost of the DCP test units, The new TP-3 is also gaining popularity with the home inspection test industry, where it can be used to quickly test for problem areas adjacent to deck footings and home foundations.

The new site will allow for direct inquiries and online sales.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress.


Torque wrench readings correlate to soil compaction properties

Torque wrench readings correlate to soil compaction properties.

– Steve Frank


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What’s my Engineering Degree Worth?

   “I also briefly worked under one Civil Engineering PE while I was in between machine design jobs.  He had difficulty interpreting measurements taken with dial calipers.”

PE  101    Interesting thing happened to me last week.  I got a phone call from someone at the GA Secretary of State who was charged with “investigating” my company practicing engineering unlawfully because I’m not registered as a Professional Engineer with the State of GA.  A Professional Engineer, or PE as they are called frequently within the industry is a credential given to engineers that allows them to place their stamp of approval on designs stating that the design meets all applicable codes and governing body requirements for safety etc.  Basically, they sign off that the bridge will support the load that will be placed on it, that the foundation of the house is properly designed to bear the weight of the house, that the wind load from the hurricane won’t topple the building etc.   In ’96 I graduated from

Masters Degree in Engineering for entrepeneurs makes no mention of having to obtain PE license.

Mis-Guided:  Masters Degree in Engineering path for entrepreneurs makes no mention of PE license.

Southern Poly with a BS MET and found a job quickly working as a “Laboratory Test Engineer” (important to note that that was the title placed on my business card) under the supervision of a group of registered Civil Engineering PEs.  I conducted all sorts of tests on their behalf related to building materials- doing everything from wind load simulations, structural columns, staircase evaluations etc.  I took the data from the tests, wrote the reports and submitted them to the PE’s for their stamp of approval.   In many cases, the products we tested conformed to ASTM standards so the products could be approved to those standards, and in some cases the tests were conducted to provide evidentiary support for some form of law suit.  Although the work was mildly amusing to me (getting to load up a 25 ft long fiberglass column structure until it literally blew up under 30 tons of load, for example) I had little interest in Civil Engineering and building materials, and decided I’d move on to chase things closer to my heart within Mechanical Engineering.   Over the next decade I worked as a machine designer, designing all kinds of really cool things related to radiation chambers used for life science research, to fully automated machinery used in all kinds of manufacturing.   During that decade of experience, I never worked underneath the supervision of a PE.  The companies I worked for were relatively small and I found great reward engaging the projects all the way from concept sketches to the machine’s final delivery and support.

What’s an Engineer?    Today I am very fortunate to have owned my own machine design company for 8 years.  The last two years have been particularly rewarding to me.  We’ve morphed into doing more and more scientific and medical related projects.  In particular, I was very fortunate to have met and worked with the group from Endure Medical.  They started as a small family owned surgical microscope refurbishing company in a garage.  However, because of their collective hard work in sales and marketing and with the vision of one particular talented engineer, they innovated a new type of optical lighting system that has revolutionized cataract surgical procedures.  Pretty soon the small family owned biz was getting notice from world wide industry leaders such as Leica and Zeiss.  In 2011, Endure Medical hired my firm to design a new mechanical balancing stand that would support their innovative microscopes and give them the function and tactile feel that the German-made models had.  We developed a terrific relationship together designing many new products related to surgical microscopes. Two years later, Endure Medical was acquired by Alcon Labs, a Novartis company that has more zeros in their balance sheet than the National debt.

The Double Standard      So…back to the phone call I got last week from the office of the Sec of State.  They’ve asked to voluntarily follow a cease and desist order to remove any and all terms from my website and any other media that uses the word “engineer or

Do audio engineers need PE licensing?

Do audio engineers need PE licensing?

engineering” or any other form of the root word.  You see, I never opted to take the Engineering in Training exam straight out of college.  Nor did I pursue the requirement to work underneath the direct supervision of a PE for seven years within my specific chosen discipline until I could acquire enough training and the recommendation by other PEs to where the State would then allow me the opportunity to take the Professional Engineer’s License exam.  The double standard is that despite me having a “Bachelor of Science Mechanical Engineering Technology” degree from an accredited and well recognized engineering specific State University, the Secretary of the same State says I can’t actually call myself an Engineer.   So let me ask.  What allows the universities to use the term Engineer if that  term is proprietary to the board of registered PEs?  How can schools advertise that they will give you the education to pursue a career in engineering when they know full well, that only a very small percentage of their graduates will actually choose to pursue a PE license?  I’m confused now.  What box do I check when I fill out any form that asks for my occupation?  What about the vast majority of my colleagues?  Very few of them pursued the PE license path, but all of them have some sort of title that has the word Engineer in it.  How can all the job postings I see on Linked In be searching for Engineers but there’s no requirement to have PE license to fill the job?  Does that mean that there are thousands of people currently in non-compliance with the state who perform engineering work daily but don’t have PE licenses?

Linked In Ads for "Engineers" make no mention of PE requirements.

Linked In ads for “Engineers” make no mention of PE requirements.

What about those design innovations made by my friends at Endure Medical, none of them registered PEs? Was there no legitimate engineering work performed there?

The Kicker    You know what the funniest part is?  In order to get audited by State as I have, someone has to file a complaint.  Here’s the kicker.  The person who filed the complaint is someone I know.  It gets better.  I actually referred one of my clients to him because the project involved a wall structure – something that I have zero experience in. We designed the mechanical portion of my client’s patent pending device and then and referred him to the structural PE to have them do a proper evaluation on the wall structure.  Evidently that PE was under the mis-guided impression we were trying to conduct our own studies on the wall.  So much for trying to do the right thing.  Despite the backlash for whatever the licensing board has in mind for us, I’ll continue to take on the projects that suit our level of expertise and call it whatever they want to call it.  And yes, I’ll defer other projects that are beyond our expertise to the right groups because ethically its the right thing to do, PE oath or not, friend.

Disclaimer:  I can really only claim that I actually know a handful of PEs.  Two of them are absolutely brilliant. One was an automotive expert and racecar driver that was essentially my mentor while attending college.  I learned more about real world physics and engineering from that guy in 4 years than I would have learned in 20 years of school.  The other guy is a terrific hard working friend from Southern Poly.  He chose the route to obtain his PE license and makes a very nice living in the HVAC industry.

I also briefly worked under one Civil Engineering PE while I was in between machine design jobs.  He had difficulty interpreting measurements taken with dial calipers.

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In Motion May 2012


This is one of my all time favorites:   Angry Man with Computer

I’m reminded by a popular TV series several years back “24” where American intelligence officer Jack Bauer thwarted the utter decimation of humn civilization every week simply by cracking the evil-doer’s codes via instant messaging and texting on his cell phone while stuck in some hole 600 feet undeground.  Just once, JUST ONE TIME, I’d like to see a movie where technology is portrayed realistically.  You know, your cell phone battery dies at the same time you realize you left your charger in the other car, your Powerpoint presentation is interrupted because Windows wants to perform an automatic update, or you can’t proceed with your order because your new password will have to have at least one capital letter and a minimum of 8 characters.  Nevermind that your Iphone can’t connect to your local network, the server is busy, we are experiencing heavy volume of calls at this time, run time error, and “would you like to make Dunkin Donuts as your homepage?”  No, I would NOT, but thank you very much.    Those of you who know me well, also know of how fond of and patient I am with tech support for anything computer related.  

But, when you think about it, what we use now in our everyday life is simply mind numbing.  Its absolutely incredible to think that my voice is a range of vibrations that are translated digitally to some random satellite orbiting the earth umpteen miles above and that it bounces that signal to a tower and back to my buddy Dave on his cell phone- who just so happens to be in Japan at the time of my call.   I’m skeptical of course when I’m told that Dave and I are not the only ones on the planet trying to have a conversation.  I’m even more skeptical when I’m told that there are millions upon millions of similar conversations bouncing every which way all over the globe at the very same time.   We have become SO reliant on technology that when it doesn’t work we are flabbergasted.  I met with another design consultant today that does a tremendous amount of work with satellite antenna receivers.  He showed me his CAD model of a project that he was working on.  The intracacy of the machined sections of this small and incredibly complex part was simply overwhelming.  “Who actually can even machine this sort of thing?” I asked.  It was rediculous.  Even if I could show you an image, you couldn’t truly appreciate it until you’ve seen it at the near micron level.  Its given me a much greater appreciation of the technology that we all take for granted every day.  Next time your call drops, or Java wants to run an update, try not to be the guy in the video.

– Steve Frank

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In Motion – January 2012

Up Front

Happy New Year and welcome to 2012!  Certainly we hope that 2012 will bring good health, happiness, and prosperity to all.   First off, I would like to welcome back USAF Captain, Robert Baker,  from his tour in Afghanistan where he flew med-evac helicopter missions retrieving wounded soldiers from the battlefield.  We are grateful for his service and safe return.   2011 was an interesting year for Apex Designs in terms of the variety of projects we’ve been working on.  Because much of our work is proprietary in nature,  we are very limited in what we can say or publish here in our newsletters- and you thought we were just lousy at keeping the blog going right?  Truth is, over the last year or two, our customer base has turned significantly from the manufacturing sector to the scientific and medical sectors.  Now with 2011 behind us along with the release of many of the projects we’ve worked on, we’re finally able to recognize some of our customers and their contributions to advancing technology.   – Steve Frank

Relationship Building

Micromeritics- Particulate Systems HPVA 4 Port aids scientists with the development of clean alternative energy sources.

With offices in Europe, Asia, and the US., Micromeritics and its subsidiary, Particulate Systems,  (Norcross GA) is a worldwide leader in the manufacture of laboratory instruments used in particle science and technology.   In October, Apex Designs was hired by Particulate Systems to assist with the design of a new product based on their successful HPVA-100.  The instrument has applications to the research and development of alternative clean energy sources by allowing scientists to measure the high-pressure adsorption isotherms with hydrogen, methane, carbon dioxide and other gases using the static volumetric method.  What exactly does that mean?  Very basically, it means that the instrument uses gases under high pressure and constant volume to determine the physical characteristics of the sample material being analyzed.  Of primary interest is the measurement of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration, Methane capacities from Coal-bed and Shale, and Hydrogen Storage capacities.   The new product, dubbed the “HPVA 4 Port”, will allow greater throughput for laboratories accustomed to performing one analysis at time.  The HPVA 4 Port allows for simultaneous evaluations of similar or different materials – expediting the analysis process.  Apex Designs worked directly with Particulate System’s engineers to provide the mechanical design of the new instrument; including all valving, plumbing, framework and sheetmetal panels, and electrical component placement.  The instrument is currently undergoing final testing and evaluation and is set to be released to the public in March 2012.  For more information about Micromeritics, Particulate Systems, or the new HPVA 4 Port, please contact Pat Wommack 770-662-3681 or visit their website at

Endure Medical’s Ophthalmalic Surgical Microscope Stand had 4 degrees of freedom that allows near limitless positioning.

Endure Medical  is a local GA business that competes heads up against some of the world’s largest manufacturers of surgical microscopes.  Endure’s microscopes are founded on its ILLUMIN-i technology, a patent-pending illumination module that creates optics with homogeneous, brilliant red reflex and tremendous detail perception.  The ILLUMIN-i offers bicollimated light beams and multiple angles of delivery that enhance the optical view for surgeons.  Unlike traditional illumination systems, the ILLUMIN-i incorporates dual, zero-degree, collimated illumination as well as a third, oblique beam. 

Apex Designs has been working with Endure to design an all new microscope stand that will be used for ophthalmalic surgical procedures.  The new stand has a series of mechanically balanced linkage arms that allow surgeons effortless, and a near-limitless positioning of the microscope head.  The patent pending stand was unveiled last October at a tradeshow in Orlando and will certainly make its mark as the new industry standard in surgical microscopy.  Interested parties can contact Rob Hewlett at 770-888-3755 or visit their site

Did you know…

Hager Companies,  Montgomery AL, manufactures between 10-15,ooo door hinges daily for use in commercial and industrial applications? Recently, Apex Designs was hired to perform an independent study of their design and manufacturing processes to assist with Hager’s quality assurance program.  Apex Designs conducted two comprehensive on-site studies and performed a series of CAD studies that pinpointed areas where Hager could improve its design and manufacturing process to help ensure better component fitment and reduce waste.  

Apex Designs founder, Steve Frank, has a new job.  It’s true, Steve was hired on as a contract instructor with the Porsche Sport Driving School based out of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham AL.  Frank grew up in the motorsports industry and has taught at several racing schools around the country.  “It’s a nice break from the office routine”, Frank said.  “Getting out and working with motorsport enthusiasts and imparting to them what I’ve learned in 20 some years of racing is really rewarding. Plus, the cars are just incredible machines and really evoke the passion of what motorsports is all about”.  Frank will keep his “day job” as CEO and mechanical design engineer at Apex Designs and will fill in as needed with the school.  For detailed information about the school or to make a reservation to become a participant,  go to their website  or call 888-204-7474.


If you have any news related to engineering or manufacturing and would like us to add it to our newsletter, please submit your article to :  Articles should be kept brief, (200 words or less) and formatted in web friendly text.

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In Motion May 2011- Memorial Day & Manufacturer’s Networking

Up Front

US Army Ranger, Pat Tillman

Here, just a few days away from Memorial Day weekend, I was inspired  by my son’s baseball coach, who after our after our game this evening, gave the boys a very different post-game debrief.   Coach Mitch told our group of 10 year old boys about Pat Tillman, the Cardinals football player who, in a life-long representation of honor, courage, and humility gave up his multi-million dollar NFL contract to become a US Army Ranger and who ultimately gave his life on the battle field of Afghanistan in the pursuit of keeping our nation free from terrorists.   I applaud Coach Mitch for his words to our kids tonight.  In today’s society where it seems we are running faster every day in the relentless race of career building and  kid reering, the words from our kid’s baseball coach evoked a sobering clarity of what really matters.  As you enjoy your Memorial Day weekend activities- lake outings, cookouts, gatherings with friends and family, baseball games (and of course watching the Indy 500!!) take time to remind your family of the hard work and sacrifices that have been and continue to be made by our servicemen that allow us to enjoy the freedoms that we often take for granted.  

Captain Robert Baker, USAF

A special thanks goes out to my good friend Rob Baker, a USAF med-evac helicopter pilot, recently deployed to Afghanistan to serve his country.  Safe travels my friend, ’till you return and we race together again.

– Steve Frank

Technical presentations educate group of manufacturers.

May 10, Lawrenceville GA

Manufacturers from around the metro Atlanta area enjoyed a series of technical presentations at the monthly networking  event hosted by Networking MFG.  The meeting was held at MLC CAD Systems and included topical discussions from three different companies.  Sunita Verma of Atlanta based Sync-Resource  spoke about ISO certifications and debunked many of the myths associated with Compliance programs.   Sync Resources is an ISO 9001 and Six Sigma consulting firm specializing in the support of product and service industries.  For more information please visit their website or read their blog about “on-shoring” trends and Lean Manufacturing

Dave Dahlstrand, of Branson Ultrasonics engaged the group with a presentation about ultrasonic welding and its wide array of uses in plastics joining.  Dahlstrand, a textile development engineer, has over 30 years of experience working in the plastics industry and holds many patents associated with plastic’s joining techniques. Branson Ultrasonics provides turn key plastics welding solutions to numerous  Fortune 500 companies and offers education and training support for engineers and designers working in the plastics industries.  

The meeting wrapped up with a presentation by Steve Frank of Apex Designs, Suwanee GA.  Frank, a mechanical design engineer gave a technical presentation on carbon fiber based composites.  Frank told the group about carbon fiber’s advantages in providing high strength to weight ratios, favorable fatigue characteristics, and radiolucent properties.  Frank passed around examples of  pre-preg carbon fiber raw materials and showed how the raw materials are formed and cured into finalized parts.  Apex Designs is a mechanical engineering design and fabrication firm that specializes in machinery and components for the manufacturing, medical, automotive and aerospace industries.  For more information, please visit their website

Networking MFG, was founded by Jason Moss, a local sales executive, to promote interaction between manufacturers, engineers, and related service providers around the metro Atlanta area.  Now in its 4th year of operation, Networking MFG hosts meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at MLC CAD Systems in Lawrenceville GA and offers professionals in the manufacturing industry opportunities to connect and promote their businesses.   To learn more or to join the group, please visit

-Contributed by Candee Fowler

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In Motion – April 2011

Up Front

Over the last several months, I’ve had many opportunities to meet with other manufacturers and engineers here in the Atlanta area, and I’ve noticed one topic that seems to arise regardless of the industry served.  The common thread is the backlash of problems they’ve encountered with outsourcing thier products to China.  Virtually everyone I know in the manufacturing and engineering disciplines has a story to share about how they’ve been burned by outsourcing their products overseas.  Quality issues and copywrite infringment top the list of problems my colleauges are dealing with from their Chinese sources.  One of our clients told me that they found their own product- one that they spent years developing before sending production overseas- listed for sale on the internet and marketed under a different name.  Good luck enforcing that one, boys. Another told me that they had pulled production of their circuit boards because of a high incidence of malfunction.  They told me that the components used on the board were not the same as what was spec’d nor used in prior shipments.  Corporations run by the Dollar Executives have sold their manufacturing souls in the name of profit margin, and it has not only backfired on them, it has contributed significantly to crippling our entire economic well being.  With China building the vast majority of the products that once kept US factories running three shifts, its no wonder the dollar is tanking and unemployment remains high. 

What can we do to change this?  Vote for the next politician promising change?  Please.  A friend of mine has a different solution.  One that can make a direct impact and that is politically unbiased.  Earlier this year, Jason Moss formed a non-profit coorporation called “Vote with Your Wallet”.  The idea is simple – if American consumers had a choice to purchase products made in their community versus overseas,  they could make a decision on which product to purchase.  My friend offers the example of the Duracell battery factory in La Grange GA which builds virtually all of their AAA batteries sold world wide.  If their competitor’s batteries are built elsewhere and the price was similar, would you not make the choice to purchase the batteries built locally versus the ones built elsewhere?  Its simple.  Increased sales means increased production which means more jobs created locally.   There are numerous examples of products just like this that are still manufactured in the USA.  Educating the consumer gives them the choice to ‘vote with their wallets’ by choosing to purchase products made in the US over ones made overseas.  If just 3% of consumers changed their buying habits to support products made locally, just think of how much that would stimulate our economy.  I’m in. How bout you?  I’d encourage you to support this cause by going to their site and by clicking the like button on facebook.  I’d also encourage you to make a donation if you can to help bring this grassroots movement into the forefront of our media’s attention.  With enough support, we can change our own economy one vote at a time and take back control of the innovations we worked so hard on to develop.

Carbon Fiber Composite Centrifuge Cup Bucket compression moldingCarbon Fiber Manufacturing- Centrifuge Buckets

For those that have NOT been diligently following our blog, (both of you), we’ve been BUSY with the production of our carbon fiber parts.  As of last week, we completed our first order of 500 carbon fiber centrifuge buckets used for medical and scientific applications.  The swing out style centrifuge buckets were designed with a hybrid of pre-preg carbon fiber and aluminum and were manufactured in house using our compression molding oven.  The parts were exceptionally lightweight and strong, weigh a mere 105 grams, and can hold a wide variety of media requiring separation for scientific analysis at very high speeds in a shorter timeframe and with less stress and wear on the centrifuge machine.  Stronger, safer, and more reliable.  First discussions for this application began back in July of 2010 and along the way, we developed a very neat proprietary tooling solution for parts that have steep walls and little draft angles which typically make manufacturing difficult.   With the first 500 parts behind us, and the development of our tooling techniques, we are actively seeking other manufacturing projects in carbon fiber for parts that require a tooled finish on both the inside and outside surfaces.  If you have the need for exceptionally lightweight and strong components ranging in sizes up to 18″ x 18″ give us a call and we’ll see if we can provide a viable carbon fiber based solution for your innovation – and one that you can be assured will never be found on or shipped by the container load.

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Carbon Fiber Compression Molding Centrifuge Buckets

Stress Analysis of Centrifuge Bucket

For all the masses out there at the edge of their seats waiting for the next in the series…
Our last post documented our process of ramping up from prototype to production of our carbon fiber centrifuge buckets. A quick recap on the project scope- our company, Apex Designs, was hired to develop and manufacture lightweight but exceptionally strong swing out style centrifuge buckets to house viles or bags of blood that are spun in centrifuges for medical and scientific research. We proposed to build the parts from carbon fiber- specifically bi directional pre-preg carbon. Because our client required a smooth finish on both the inside and outside of part, we opted for a compression molding process that would give us tooled finishes on all surfaces of the part. (See previous blog below on the development of the tooling.)
We use a CAD software called Solidworks for our design and simulation work. Solidworks does a very good job at performing stress analysis on parts and assemblies made from most of the common materials used in manufacturing- metals, plastics, etc. It does NOT however, allow you to perform direct stress simulations on composite materials (well, not without an add on $12k non linear simulation program).   However, it is still very helpful to perform an analysis with the standard package just to be able to identify the highest stressed areas or features of the parts even if the numbers have no relevance.

So, in the real world,  hand calculations are performed to give you an idea of where you think you should be and testing is required to verify your calculations. The cool part about composites is that you can orient the fibers of the layup to give you the strength characteristics that you want. The reality is, however, that testing is absolutely necessary to validate what you think is the proper layup schedule. Because we are building parts that have an aluminum ring inserted into the layup- and did not know how that would effect our part’s strength, we sent a few samples out for testing to a proper engineering materials testing lab. The tests results showed our prototype buckets met the strength requirements set forth by our client, but because we were going to build several hundred parts, we decided to build our own testing fixture to test samples of the batches built in house. This would allow us to verify the consistency of our parts and allow us to sleep at night!

Straight out of college, I worked as a materials test engineer where we conducted all kinds of materials and product testing- we got to break to alot of stuff- everything from metal roof panels to 25 ft long fiberglass columns under hundreds of tons of load. My background there in ASTM standardized testing gave me the confidence that we could build our own test rig.

To load up our parts, all we’d need is a simple hydraulic ram with a known piston diameter, a good quality pressure gage, and a nice rigid frame to place the buckets under load. We converted a 20 ton hydraulic press into our test rig by adding a rigid fixture to hold the cups, and adding a pressure gage to the ram. For peace of mind, we dis-assembled the ram to measure the actual piston diameter instead of just assuming the literature it came with was correct. It was as stated, but if it were wrong, our calculations would be totally bogus.

Carbon fiber centrifuge cup undergoing tensile testing to verify its strength properties.

Pressure = force/ area where pressure is in PSI, force is in Pounds, and area is in inches^2. Figuring the force applied to the cup is a simple matter of converting the pressure registered on the gage and multiplying it by the area of the ram’s piston. For our tests, we loaded the bucket in 200 psi increments and held the load for 30 seconds before proceeding up the scale. In most tests, a strain gage of sorts is used to measure the deflection of part at each load. The simluation from our Solidworks software showed us the most likely type of deformation, so we chose to measure that deformation using a micrometer. The good news is that the deflections we saw were pretty miniscule for the substantial loads applied. Carbon’s yield point and ultimate failure point are very close together so the lack of strain was really of no surprise to us.

With the testing fixture in house, we are now able to validate our part’s strength characteristics and it will allow us to try new methods or layup schedules with new products that are surely to follow our medical centrifuge buckets. And no – you dont get the numbers and no I’m not ready to divulge how we solved our silicone tooling problems- well not yet anyway! Like my friend Scott says, “a baker’s success is in how he protects his recipe” Of course, if I can be of any help, I’d be glad to speak with you. Our contact info is on our website

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Time Flies!

Apex Designs Owner, Steve Frank

Apex Designs Owner, Steve Frank

I came across our first business model I wrote many years ago and it gave me an opportunity to reflect. I feel very fortunate when I consider that Apex Designs is now in its fourth year of business! Business plans are highly speculative sometimes, and serve more as a guideline than a solid path. Of course, my business plan wasn’t exactly ‘spot on’ with what we’ve evolved into, and at the time it was written I had no idea that our work would have application to so many different industries. When I think about the variety of projects we’ve tackled over the last four years, it’s pretty amazing and far reaching from the list generated in that first business plan. Just to give you an idea, here’s a sampling of some of the projects we’ve been involved with: X-ray inspection machinery for NASA’s solid rocket fuel canisters, oil purification systems for steam turbines, industrial design of Bluetooth headsets, communication equipment for the military, X-ray irradiators used for sterilization and biological research, automated textile cutting mechanisms, hi-powered rifle components, racecar parts, HVAC assembly fixtures, even a robotic transportation system. We are grateful to all of our customers for providing us with the opportunity to assist them in achieving the goals set forth in their business plans.?

Keep up the good work! – Steve Frank

With the economy booming like it is (sad joke) most of us are dedicating a lot more time to marketing and networking. Let’s face it, when you have more business than you can handle, the proposals you send out are maybe not quite as spectacular as the ones you’re probably trying to put together right now. There’s no argument that a well written, professional appearing proposal is key to getting a second look. One of the things we always include with our proposals is a really sharp looking image of the concept we are proposing. Apex Designs recently acquired an upgrade to their Solidworks CAD modeling software that allows us to render models with materials, textures, and backgrounds that turn standard 3d models into photo-realistic images. The images can be exported into a variety of formats that are easily manipulated with common windows based software. Apex Designs can whip out a really sharp looking image of your concept in a relatively short period of time. Most of the concept models we use in our proposals are done in just a couple hours. We can work from your napkin sketches or your CAD data. Set yourself apart from the stack and allow us to help make your proposal pop with photo-like images.

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CAD-CAM & Composites Speed Development of Defense Prototypes

Aluminum tooling prepared with release agent prior to lamination

Aluminum tooling prepared with release agent prior to lamination

Apex Designs recently partnered with ASK Research of Duluth GA and SC Composites of Hochton GA to prototype of a series of carbon fiber composite parts for a local based defense contractor. The project encompassed tooling design, tooling manufacture, and production of four prototype units in carbon fiber.

Aluminum tooling prepared with release agent prior to lamination Carbon fiber is among the top material choices for parts that have complex shapes and require a high strength to weight ratio.

Carbon fiber is among the top material choices for parts that have complex shapes and require a high strength to weight ratio.

The parts’ geometric complexities required an all 3d digital exchange of information between designers and fabricators – as traditional 2d dimensioned drawings could not fully describe the parts. Because of these complexities, many of the tools were built in several removable sections. This feature allowed many of the parts to be manufactured as a single contiguous unit which ultimately saved time and reduced manufacturing costs.

First, Apex Designs’ designed the  tooling in their 3d Solidworks CAD software to match the geometry and specifications outlined by the defense contractor.   Next, the tool’s CAD data was passed to ASK Researh  to program thier multi-axis CNC milling machines. The CAD-CAM interface aided the machinists in defining cutter paths which verified the tool’s geometry and sped the production of the all-aluminum tools. 

Once the tooling production was completed, the project turned to component manufacturing. Fabricators at SC Composites prepped each tool with a release agent and prepared laminate sections of carbon fiber pre-preg to drape onto the tool’s irregular surfaces. The carbon fiber material was pre-impregnated with an elevated temperature curing epoxy resin that allowing many hours of “open time” at room temperature to lay up the carbon material onto the tool surface. Each layer of carbon was carefully applied by hand to assure proper fitment and structural integrity, as the carbon fiber’s orientation contributes significantly to the structural properties of the finished product. Once laminated, the parts were vacuum bagged and placed in an autoclave to force the carbon laminate tight against the tool surface, while evacuating any remaining air from the system. Temperature cycles were carefully ramped up and thermostatically controlled during the 6 hour curing cycle.

After curing, the parts were placed in fixtures for secondary, detailed machining operations using specialty diamond coated cutters. Finally each part was wet sanded and painted to military specification. In the end, a total of 4 prototype assemblies, each consisting of up to 8 pieces per unit, went from concept to completion in less than 9 weeks.

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Apex Designs owner, Steve Frank with US Congressman John Linder.

Apex Designs owner, Steve Frank with US Congressman John Linder.

“In October, the Gwinnett based Networking Mfg group’s guest speaker was US Congressional Representative John Linder (R, GA). The hour long meeting was hosted as an open forum, where Congressman Linder addressed a wide range of questions that included the presidential election, the finanicial crisis, and the Fair Tax. Networking Mfg’s Advisory Board members were given a copy of Linder’s latest book “Fair Tax: The Truth”. “I’d recommend that every business owner in the country read this book” said Steve Frank, owner of Apex Designs. “Regardless of whether you consider yourself a liberal, moderate, or conservative, the fair tax is something that you should read about and consider suppporting if for nothing less than the amount of manufacturing business that it would bring back into the United States.”



Fixture CAD Model

Fixture CAD Model

Unless you’re lucky enough to be located in a place like Santa Barbara CA, its likely that your heating and cooling costs are a considerable portion of your plant’s annual budget. When it comes to energy efficiency with air handling, its no secret that the USA is way behind the Europeans. TROX GmbH is a German based company who supplies ultra-efficient climate control solutions around the globe. TROX uses its combined air/water exchange technology to control temperature in industrial plants, office buildings, schools and laboratories, whilst offering significant energy savings over the traditional American systems. With demand for energy efficient products skyrocketing world wide, TROX USA Inc was formed to bring their line of comfort cooling/heating solutions to the USA.

Assembly fixture in use at Trox's new plant in Cumming GA

Assembly fixture in use at Trox's new plant in Cumming GA

Because European building & construction standardize on metic system sizes, TROX USA hired Apex Designs to convert and modify their line of DID600B Active Chilled beams to match standard USA construction dimensions. Once the prototypes were built and TROX’s in-house tooling began production, Apex Designs was then contracted to design and supply precision tooling fixtures to aid in the assembly of the units. The new plant facility in Cumming GA utilizes the latest technology in CNC punching, presswork and a fully automated powder paint line. TROX USA can also handle high volume powder painting for your company as well. Call or visit their website today for more information.TROX USA Inc 770 569 1433 TROX USA

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