Cryomech makes its name as a problem-solver – Physics World


Company’s past, present and future determined by developing products on-demand

Cool stuff: For nearly 60 years, Cryomech – based in Syracuse, New York – has made a name for itself as a problem-solving partner for its customers. (Courtesy: Cryomech)

The Gifford-McMahon Cryocooler may be synonymous with Cryomech, but the company’s legacy isn’t defined by product. It’s far more about problem-solving and the company’s consistent success doing so since it was founded in 1963

“We understand that in science and in emerging technologies, the customer’s approach to their research is unique and we have to always be prepared to come forward with a unique product or solution for that,” says Cryomech’s business-development manager Tabitha Sebastino.

“That’s something we’re immensely proud of: that we’re able to think so creatively, consistently and reliably when it comes to solving customer problems.”

We’re able to think so creatively, consistently and reliably when it comes to solving customer problems

Tabitha Sebastino

That consistent creativity drives the routine release of pioneering technology, from the legendary Pulse Tube Cryocooler to more recent solutions like laboratory-scale helium-recovery systems. This Cryomech quest for perfection spans all its products, from cryocoolers to cryostats.

“Today researchers are very much focused on their area of expertise and they’re expecting their scientific equipment to be more reliable and just a little bit more autonomous,” Sebastino adds. “The market demands confidence that a product works as promised out of the box, and for a very long time.”

New challenges

Cryomech hq lores

Cryomech evolves quickly, releasing new products almost annually. The company’s flexible nature also equipped it well for succeeding even amid a pandemic that brought production to a standstill at first.

“What Cryomech found was how to take the adaptive and quick-on-your-feet problem-solving mentality we use for product development, and shifted it to our business,” Sebastino says. “We adopted a multi-shift, seven-day-a-week operations model that not only allowed us to get our employees back to work faster in a safe and socially-distant environment, but it also allowed us to continue to fulfill customer orders. We were back shipping product again probably within two weeks of the shutdown.

“And then in September, we were able to take that manufacturing model and shift it into our new space,” she says.

That new Syracuse-based facility brings all Cryomech operations under one state-of-the-art roof. Because of unprecedented growth over the last decade or so, the old campus just a few blocks away ended up including multiple buildings. Some employees had never actually worked together.

“There’s been an interesting time of re-introduction to one another,” Sebastino says. “It leads to stronger collaboration. It also leads to stronger information and knowledge sharing which is at the foundation of what makes Cryomech great.”

That collaboration is essential at Cryomech, where they take an integrated approach to R&D.

“Our R&D process sits right next to our engineering and operations. It’s not something separate that develops in isolation that then presents products to the company, it’s a group that actually solves the company’s problems and the customer’s problems in real time,” Sebastino says. “If we can’t pull something off the shelf, that team springs into action to develop a solution for them.”

The sales and customer-service team asks a lot of questions of their cutting-edge customers. They have a deep bank of product options available and want to ensure the customer is provided the best solution for their application. If those established solutions don’t fit, R&D and engineering staff at Cryomech will look into providing a new configuration.

One example was when the company first commercialized the Pulse Tube Cryocooler in 1999, initially offering a heat lift – the amount of heat a cryocooler can remove at a certain temperature – of [email protected] 4.2K. It subsequently introduced a 0.75W, 1W, 1.5W and now a 2W version. Today, Cryomech offers the world’s largest selection of two-stage Pulse Tube Cryocoolers available anywhere.

Driving innovation

This air of creativity comes from all over the company. It’s by the design of the late Peter Gifford, the second-generation owner of the company who grew it from a niche operation to legitimate world leader over the course of 40 years.

“Peter took so much pride in taking people off the street right from here in Syracuse,” Sebastino says. “When you create the right environment, you can take just about anybody and really teach them the science and teach them what an important role they can play in the scientific community.

Peter Gifford

“We really live that model,” she says. “And the ability to collaborate and the ability to share information is at the foundation of it.”

Cryomech converted to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) before Gifford’s death in 2017.)

“Employee ownership really was Peter’s parting gift,” Sebastino says. “He knew he was leaving his company and leaving his technology in very good hands.

“So, in selling his company to the employees, he really passed the baton to us to take this company he created and move it forward into the future,” she says.

A seat at the table

With a healthy mix of direct-sale and original equipment manufacturers, Cryomech feels uniquely positioned heading into the future. As it continues to develop new products on a customer-by-customer basis, it also strives to serve its larger partners with higher volumes of equipment linked to emerging technologies like quantum computing, fusion and large-scale magnet systems.

“We always want Cryomech to be the name on people’s minds. When they have new technology that is being developed, we want to be at that table,” Sebastino says. “We want to be the people that are really enabling these pioneering technologies of the future.”

No matter where the future takes Cryomech, it will always enhance a legacy of problem-solving that’s been more than 55 years in the making. It’s this no-matter-what spirit that drives its workforce and ensures their seat at the proverbial table of emerging technology.

“Everybody gets a solution,” Sebastino says. “When we take on a challenge, we always deliver.”

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