Richardson said he was not a stellar student in subjects he did not enjoy.
“Math and science I did well, but I hated other subjects,” he said. “Some people are just anxious to get going. I was not willing to work on things that seemed like a waste of time. I guess I’m still that way.”
Though an educator himself, his father was supportive.
“Dad said if you do something you love and you do it better than everyone else, you will always have a job and more money than you need.”
Richardson got a job as an electronics technician with a research and development firm that contracted with the Air Force. He eventually became a systems engineer before joining U.S. Defense Department mega-contractor Systems Planning Corporation. He worked in radar technology at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in Ridgecrest, Calif., for 10 years.
After seeing an ancillary need for two products that his company did not manufacture, in 1990, Richardson founded Delta Sigma in Hesperia, Calif., to build highly specialized radar cross section measurement equipment.
“The name represents the two math symbols in the radar equation. Delta stands for change and Sigma stands for electromagnetic reflectivity,” he said.
For the first 10 years, the company only worked on radar-related products. Eventually it evolved into engineering-to-order manufacturing and design work with aeronautical leaders Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Hughes Aircraft Company and Northrop Grumman.
“When somebody has a problem, we build a solution,” describes Richardson.
In 1997, the company began working with Lockheed so heavily that Richardson moved the company to Marietta.
A year ago, upon Lockheed’s request, the U.S. Air Force contracted with Delta Sigma to build a fully automated robotic system that picks up fasteners by part number and places them into the airplane part.
“There are a lot of fasteners on an airplane,” he said. “The center fuselage of the F-35 has 16,000 fasteners with 380 fasteners in just a small section. Presently, it is done one fastener at time. This system is going to automate the process.”
A half-scale prototype has been a year in the making. Delta Sigma has done all the mechanical and electrical designs and written all the software. The system is targeted to be operational by October.
Another project under way for Lockheed is a machine that will drill the holes and place the fasteners for the loading door of the C-130 cargo plane. The machine will be delivered in May and will be placed in production at Lockheed in June.
The project that has gained Delta Sigma the most honors is Projection Works, a 3-D projection system that places the instructions for assembling complex mechanical parts directly onto the surface of the part, laying out an infallible manual for assembly.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Richardson said.
Richardson said they had the idea in 2005, and it took three years to develop a beta version, which was installed at Lockheed to assist with the production of the F-22 vertical stabilizer. The product worked so well, a year later there were eight projection systems on the production line.
In January 2010, Delta Sigma released the patented technology to market, and it has been gaining traction since. Other manufacturers currently using the system include ATK, British Aerospace, and Gulfstream. Lockheed currently uses it on four lines since the F-22 stopped production.
In November, the company was awarded the Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Panel’s 2012 Defense Manufacturing Technology Achievement Award. The award recognizes world-class manufacturing capability that affordably meets war fighters’ needs throughout the defense system life cycle.
David See, project manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory, said, “People have been looking at 3-D models on their computer screens for years, but the computer screen is only 2-D. For the first time in history, 3-D data can be presented that is actually 3-D!”
Delta Sigma has just 18 employees located in its 15,000 square-foot building near Cobb Parkway North.
“How much our small company affects the aviation industry is out of proportion for our size,” Richardson said.