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Airtronics Metal Products
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Founded in 2001, NC2 is an architectural collective based in San Francisco, CA, that specializes in innovative commercial, retail and residential projects. This creative 'think-tank' studio started as Naylor and Chu Inc., with a focus on architecture and graphic design before expanding into new products and services. NC2 is now the mother company of Studio N for architecture, Studio C for interior design and graphic design, and Q-House for kit-of-parts housing.
Two years ago, the firm designed a Southern California apartment complex featuring custom woven-wood balcony railings. The customers said their budget wouldn't allow for wood railings, and suggested using standard welded pipe railings instead. The architects balked.
"Our railing design was a key aesthetic component of the entire project," said Russ Naylor, president of NC2. Rather than abandon their woven-pattern railing design, Naylor and partner Heddie Chu opted to create their design in sheet metal. They had a local sheet metal manufacturer produce the railings, and the project was completed to the satisfaction of everyone. "The railings looked great, were more attractive and less expensive than pipe, and required less maintenance than wood," added Naylor.
Back in their San Francisco offices, NC2 continued to experiment with sheet metal designs ? for balcony railings, gates, stairs, screens and panels. They found that by manipulating a flat sheet of metal, they could produce an aesthetically superior product for less than the cost of traditional pipe railings, while still allowing the designer customization of patterns.
Inspired, the duo launched "Bòk Modern" (Bòk, pronounced 'boke,' means good fortune in Korean), a line of decorative metal railings, panels and screens. Simple and efficient by design, the panels require no welding or grinding in production, are 100 percent recyclable, and require no posts or external brackets for installation. Instead, the "brackets" are incorporated into the folded panel.
NC2 hopes to build Bòk Modern into a national railing and architectural screen supply company, targeting residential and commercial hospitality projects. After having some panels manufactured in China and being dissatisfied with the quality, turnaround time, and freight costs, they went shopping for a local sheet metal fabricator. The team visited and interviewed dozens of Bay Area sheet metal shops before ending their quest at Airtronics Metal Products, Inc. in San Jose.
Airtronics is a full-service precision sheet metal products fabricator located in San Jose that was founded in 1960 and now provides standard and custom engineering, design, production and value-added manufacturing services to customers in industries ranging from semiconductor, medical and networking to food processing, architectural and consumer electronics. The fabricator is ISO 9001:2008 registered and ISO 13485:2003 certified.
"Some shops just didn't have the right equipment ? for example, a laser bed that could accommodate a five ft by ten ft piece of sheet metal," noted Naylor, who found that every shop they visited was excited about doing something outside their normal industry. "But Airtronics had everything we needed: the right combination of equipment, enough room, a high level of quality control, and a willingness to work with us on a project that was new to them."
Because NC2 was new to metal and Airtronics was new to architecture, "the first six months of the partnership entailed a lot of collaboration; both of us were on the steep side of the learning curve," said Jeff Burke, president and CEO of Airtronics. "It has been an exciting venture, one we hope to continue and grow with."
The first joint projects included a Mill Valley residence and a Berkeley recreation center. For the residence, Airtronics used an Amada Gemini Laser machine to cut water patterns into panels for exterior balconies and stairs. For the art studio inside the home, they laser cut a Roy Lichenstein-like design into panels for the loft and staircase. For the recreation center, they created cat-eye-patterned panels for a business center loft and staircase.
Other potential joint projects on the horizon include a condominium complex in Hunters Point, CA; an athletic center at Laney (Oakland) College; and a parking garage at the University of California San Francisco.
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