Tekna at IDSA 2016

Mike Rozweicz Presenting at IDSA

Tekna at IDSA International Conference 2016

The IDSA International Conference was in Detroit this year, which meant we were ready to make an impact! Sixteen of us across the organization participated in event sessions throughout the week. We explored the importance of taking risks, solving the right problems, and how to never lose sight of designing exceptional product experiences.

The IDSA International Conference was in Detroit this year, which meant we were ready to make an impact! Sixteen of us across the organization participated in event sessions throughout the week. We explored the importance of taking risks, solving the right problems, and how to never lose sight of designing exceptional product experiences.

IDSA International Conference - 2016 - Making an impact

Events like these aren’t just about learning and being inspired by others; they also bring teams together. While we loved listening to the keynote speakers, attending breakout sessions, and expanding our network, spending time together outside of the office was truly the icing on the cake.

This year’s event was particularly special as our VP Mike Rozewicz shared insights on Tekna’s successes in his “Blowing the Dust off the Rust Belt” talk. He explained how in a turbulent global economy, designers can transform uncertainty into opportunity by embracing risk. During the worst economic downturn of our generation, Tekna invested in its own people and ideas—when many product development companies were folding or implementing layoffs. We leveraged the power of great design, engineering, and manufacturing, as well as our robust Midwestern supply chain to make the Nära bassinet a success story with Great Recession roots. If you want to read more about Nära, head over to our case study in the portfolio.

Tekna Travels: At Work and Play in Hong Kong

The City of Hong Kong Skyline

Tekna Travels: At Work and Play in Hong Kong

By Daniel Altenritter, Lead Engineer

Matt Czach and I were fortunate enough to take  another trip to Asia this past June! As we entered the commercialization phase for a product in development, our client scheduled a meeting with their international supplier to fine-tune project expectations. Next stop, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong - Tekna Travels - At Work and Play - Commercialization phase

As part of our visit to the supplier in mainland China, we toured their manufacturing facility, gathering a wealth of hands-on design and manufacturing feedback —while meeting new friends in the business, finally connecting faces with names. Being excited to immerse ourselves into new cultures, we made time to squeeze in some of the sights, tastes, and sounds of this enchanting international hub.

Highlights include a memorable meal of Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) with pork buns, tripe (cow stomach lining), and beet cake after a jaunt by tram to Victoria Peak. I even managed to drop in on a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class.

It’s safe to say the trip was a wonderful success…minus the occasional translation fail.

Tekna Travels - At Work and Play

The Vacuum Cannon Chronicle

Vacuum cannon pointed at a pingpong paddle

The Vacuum Cannon Chronicle

By Jonathan Penrod, Engineering Intern

When I applied for an engineering internship at Tekna, I had no idea what projects awaited me. Long calculations and paperwork were at the forefront of my imagination. But rather than a tedious stream of desk work, I’ve found myself engaged in interesting assignments every week—the most memorable involving a vacuum, PVC tubing, and a Ping-Pong ball.

One of my advisors had seen a video of engineers shooting a Ping-Pong ball through a Ping-Pong paddle and challenged me to reenact this during an “entertainment break” at a team luncheon.

A Method to Our Madness

First, I’ll tell you about the working concept behind our cannon design. The ends of a 1 ½” PVC pipe are sealed using tinfoil and duct tape after a Ping-Pong ball is placed inside. The PVC pipe has a pneumatic fitting in its wall allowing a vacuum pump to remove air molecules. This means that when either tinfoil cap is punctured, outside air rushes in, filling the vacuum space and forcing the Ping-Pong ball out the opposite end. The Ping-Pong ball accelerates as quickly as the air enters the chamber, as there’s hardly any air resistance on the vacuum side of the ball. This experiment can accelerate a Ping-Pong ball to over 400 mph!

To give the same ball more kinetic energy, we needed to accelerate it faster than the speed of sound. This poses a problem, as air does not naturally fill a vacuum any faster than the speed of sound due to micro eddies and swirls propagating the air. But the supersonic barrier can be broken if we use a converging/diverging nozzle. When a volume of gas (air in our case) moves through a narrowing tube, the particles accelerate due to the conservation of mass (the same volume of air that goes in one end has to come out the other). If the tube begins to diverge or get bigger, the air particles traveling subsonic begin to slow down.

Diverging Air(y) Quite Contrary

Something strange happens when air is traveling at the speed of sound: in the condensing nozzle (going from big to small), the air particles do not accelerate because they are already traveling at the speed of sound. If the same supersonic air passes through a diverging nozzle (going from small to big), the pressure of the gas decreases and the particles actually accelerate! Think of it as cars in a traffic jam on the freeway, when suddenly six lanes open up. The little air particles spread out and begin traveling faster. While this seems counter-intuitive, coupling a converging nozzle with a diverging nozzle actually accelerates air to the speed of sound on the converging side, but then it diverges and continues accelerating past supersonic speed—exactly the behavior we sought for our cannon!

Roll Out the Barrels

I designed a converging/diverging nozzle with SolidWorks and 3D printed a part overnight. I epoxied this nozzle into a section of PVC tubing and connected it to the end of our vacuum chamber. On the other side of the nozzle, I used a union to sandwich our tinfoil seal, which held back the pressure from a final pressure chamber. So now we have a vacuum tube for the Ping-Pong ball, a nozzle, and a pressure barrier made from aluminum foil that withholds the pressure from a final chamber. The idea is that I can pump up the pressure until it ruptures the middle aluminum barrier. The pressure difference will cause air to accelerate into the converging/diverging nozzle, which speeds the air past the sound barrier, potentially propelling the Ping-Pong ball out the barrel faster than the speed of sound.


After assembling pneumatic fittings, pressure gages, PVC couplings, and hoses, I decided that the cannon was finally ready to go. I ran about 30 tests to figure out how many sheets of aluminum foil would be adequate for the vacuum chamber end caps—settling on three for the barrel end and 10 between the pressure chamber and the nozzle. We set up a few cameras and even included a thermal imaging unit to capture the cannon in all its glory! Filling the pressure chamber for the final run was verysatisfying. The pressure climbed to just over 80psi before rupturing the aluminum seal with a loud crack. Different runs sent the Ping-Pong ball through a pizza box, into a block of structure foam, and cracked the handle of a Ping-Pong paddle.  While our process didn’t quite achieve the same clean hole that we saw in the initial video, we decided that we could improve our design in the future.

Team Tekna for the Win

Reflecting on our cannon vacuum experiment, I’m amazed at how unique and fun the experience has been—where else but Tekna would I be able to build cannons for lunch entertainment? Ultimately, aside from the good times, I also gained some very valuable lessons. The project pushed me creatively, mathematically and also helped me understand how to pace my research while adhering to deadlines and a budget —all while working in a team environment. I am so grateful for the resourcefulness and fun that Tekna encourages every day, and I can’t wait for the next chapter!

Vacuum Cannon - Engineering Internship - Jonathan Penrod

Teams that Weld Together…

A Tekna team member welding

Teams that Weld Together...

Tekna’s professional development “from innovation to realization” model plays out in every aspect of our business. We encourage our people to continually learn new skills, expanding the boundaries of their functional roles. We also believe in helping them do this by investing in professional development that is both relevant and fun!

Professional Development - Teams that Weld Together...

We decided to try something a little different this year and chartered a custom welding class with Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Over a five-week period, a group of nine designers and engineers gained exposure to commonly used manufacturing methods including: MIG, TIG, Plasma, and Oxy-fuel cutting  and brazing processes. Coursework was divided between classroom lectures and shop time with welders.

The result? New friendships forged (pun intended). Knowledge gained. A great time had by all!

Licensed to Grill

Hot dogs grilling on a traeger

Licensed to Grill

We were invited to join Kevin Laroc of Kevlar BBQ for our second Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned event. Dan and Eric spent the weekend at the Blues, Brews & Barbecue competition observing and assisting with food prep and cooking.

Kevlar cooks with Traeger grills, sporting two of the new Pro 34’s. The crew cooked up ribs, brisket, chicken, and pork, putting another long night of smoking meats in the books!

Smoke Off - 2016 - Tekna BBQ Competition Design Research

Nara Bassinet is on the Move

The Nara Bassinet

Nara Bassinet is on the Move

The Nara bassinet is, quite literally, our baby. We designed the Nara bassinet from the ground up, to bring mothers closer to newborns while providing hospital staff with an enhanced care solution. And today, we are extremely proud to announce our first shipment to distribution!

Nara Bassinet - bringing mothers closer to newborns

This moment is a testament to both Tekna’s diverse group of talent—the designers, engineers, and production staff who worked collectively to refine the bassinet at every step—and also our obsession with quality, seen through many long days, late nights and weekends.

For now, we rest…assured that this is only the beginning in a long line of Nara successes!

Rebrand Recap: Tekna's New Identity Takes Shape

Tekna Business Cards

Rebrand Recap: Tekna's New Identity Takes Shape

Over the past thirty years, our business has expanded in ways we couldn’t have imagined—thanks to our talented people and their commitment to reliability and innovation. Earlier this year, we decided it was time for a rebrand identity to follow suit.

At Tekna, idea sharing and role versatility is at the core of our business. We believe our unique ability to research, design, build, and bring a concept through to market is what sets us apart. When we began evaluating our branding and how it reflects these qualities, we naturally turned to our own people. We started with surveys, focus groups, and conversations about every aspect of our business.

Through this collaborative process, we discovered three key themes that embody our rebrand.

1 – Established but fresh.

2 – Inviting but strong.

3 – Serious but playful.

How does this translate to our visual brand? Take a brief look at how we created and analyzed countless versions of our logo.

Our name, Tekna (a derivative of the Swedish word teckna, meaning “to draw or design”), followed by a period, represents who we are and how we work. It is an embodiment of our company values: curious, creative, authentic, trusted, and driven. All of this defines our tone, voice, and visual style. Most importantly, it puts down on paper what we’ve always known.

Last month marked the launch of teknateam.com, our new website and the centerpiece of our rebranding initiative.  Stay tuned for more, as we continue to unveil elements of our exciting new identity!

Smoke Off 2016

Tekna's team at the smoke-off

Smoke Off 2016

Opportunity Strikes

We take design research seriously, diving head first into the culture and life surrounding our subject. And when the research involves delicious smoked meats…you better believe we signed up for the first BBQ smoke off  we could find!

Smoke Off - 2016 - Tekna BBQ Competition Design Research

Living the Dream

This year was our second smoke-off competition and with a previous amateur division entry under our belt, we decided to step it up to pro. This wild BBQ ride of passion, meat sweats, and SCIENCE is anything but slowing down. Real-world experience—a hands-on approach to understanding smoking methods and techniques—has yielded design insights that could never be gleaned while sitting at a desk.

Beyond BBQ

Somewhere along the way, lost in the smoke, our quest became more than simply research. We expanded our culinary horizons, enjoying the sheer creativity of inventing crowd-pleasing concoctions. In the end, we discovered that the overall experience was about sharing…sharing mouthwatering meat with some old friends and a whole lot of new ones.

Next year is lucky number three. Come spring, you’ll know where to find us!

We've Expanded!

The Tekna sign being put on a building

We've Expanded!

We are thrilled to be settling into our new Tekna East – Realization production facility at Midlink Business Park. As Tekna’s capabilities grow, our work requires greater space flexibility. The 51,000 sq ft expansion allows us to reclaim 15,000 sq ft at our bustling Tekna West – Innovation studio.

Tekna East - We've Expanded - From Innovation to Realization

Tekna East boasts a prime location with convenient access to the I-94 corridor, as well as complimentary freight docking to simplify shipping and deliveries. Additionally, we’ve installed new technologies to enhance quality assurance processes in our production lines, such as the Faro high-precision 3D measurement and imaging arm.

Yet the most promising aspect of our expansion is Tekna’s commitment to growth. We believe this new space beautifully compliments our Innovation / Realization business vision, while better serving our diverse customer base. See for yourself the evolution of this exciting REALIZATION!