June 2014 and Aberlink, the largest UK owned manufacturer of coordinate measuring machines, celebrated an accomplished 21 years in the business of coordinate metrology amongst customers, members of the media and distributors from all corners of the World.
New products were unveiled (including the large-volume Azimuth and the high-speed Axiom too HS) and a traditional English Summer tea was enjoyed by all attendees, in unusually favourable weather.
For a comprehensive report of the day written by Production Engineering Solutions, head to: http://www.pesmag.co.uk/features/30/20149/3111/
Here, we take the chance to reflect on the last 21 years with 21 facts you may or may not know about the continuing success story that is, Aberlink.
1. The Early Years
Formed in 1993 by Marcus Eales and Gavin Bailey, Mechanical Engineers, with impressive pedigrees, Aberlink Innovative Metrology can truly be described as a remarkable UK success story. With the aim of providing UK Industry with a cost effective Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) that was an improvement on currently available models, the young dynamic company began producing its first CMM, the Axiom, in a converted Mill in Avening, Gloucestershire.
The remarkable levels of Axiom sales, in addition to the global sales success of additional CMM models and Optical Measuring Systems, prompted the employment of further skilled staff and considerable investments in efficient CNC Machine tools to help keep-up with growing world-wide demand.
Having now earned a global reputation, for producing a range of 3D Coordinate Measuring Machines and Optical Measuring Systems, that are renowned for their quality, accuracy, robustness and above all for being easy to use, Aberlink's Avening base struggled to cope with the required throughput.
2. The Move to Eastcombe
To help satisfy the burgeoning worldwide demand for the company's growing range of high-quality Coordinate Measuring Machines and Optical Measuring Devices, in April 2008, Aberlink moved to an impressive, purpose-built Global Headquarters in Eastcombe, Nr Stroud. Boasting easy access to the M5, Aberlink's new, spacious HQ houses all of the company's R ∓ D, manufacturing, sales, administration, training and showroom facilities. Aberlink's ultra-modern production unit is 4 times larger than the company's previous manufacturing facility; enabling a greater throughput of work Aberlink's modern workshop has been equipped with an impressive collection of highly efficient CNC machine tools.
3. Current Status
Since its inception, Aberlink has enjoyed phenomenal levels of generic growth, with an average year on year increase in turnover of more than 30%. The company's steadfast commitment to R&D has ensured a steady stream of commercially viable product launches, resulting in Aberlink becoming what is now largest UK owned manufacturer of Coordinate Measuring Machines.
Aberlink's co-directors have fashioned a high-tech measuring company based on delivering technologically advanced products at a value for money price.
A profound understanding of the principles of design for manufacturing, the use of advanced materials and an innovative approach to metrology helps this creative, design-lead company's range of high quality products to deliver class-leading speed of operation and impressive accuracy figures. Unlike some of its competitors, Aberlink is a prolific generator of patents and IP, much of which is embedded within its advanced measuring products.
As the company's products are intended for use by the world's most discerning of consumers - Quality Professionals, all Aberlink products undergo meticulous in-process checks and exhaustive final inspection routines.
Minimum reliance on components from outside suppliers also helps Aberlink to control its important quality function.
Superior design, high build quality, the use quality materials and Aberlink's scrupulous approach to quality standards ensures that Aberlink products enjoy extended working lives, even when used in harsh workshop conditions. Many examples of the first Axiom CMMs produced over 20 years ago remain in daily use. As Aberlink products can be upgraded with the latest controllers, probing systems and software, they have no built-in obsolescence.
7. Autonomous Design Manufacture
Aberlink are the world's most autonomous CMM design and manufacturing company. In addition to producing more parts for its own products than any other manufacturer, all Aberlink's software is written in-house.
As admin, design, R & D, production and software development takes place under one roof, efficiencies gained result in superior products and cost savings for customers.
8. The Need for Speed
A profound understanding of the principles of design for manufacturing, the use of advanced lightweight materials and an innovative approach to metrology helps Aberlink's range of high quality products to deliver class-leading speed of operation and impressive accuracy and repeatability figures.
In addition to continuing domestic market success, Aberlink products are popular throughout the world. The company now has distributors in every industrialised country and currently exports an impressive 82% of its output.
10. Axiom too
The successor to Aberlink's first Coordinate Measuring Machine, the Axiom too is Aberlink's best selling CMM and can truly be described as the complete Inspection Centre. High measuring accuracies are achieved through the use of the latest metrology techniques and advanced in-house manufacturing methods. The Axiom too boasts an all aluminium bridge resulting in a very low thermal mass, rendering the machine ideal for use either in controlled environments or within less than perfect shop-floor conditions. Thanks to the Axiom too's use of advanced materials, the machine's reduced inertia results in class leading speed of operation. For increased accuracy, air bearings are located to optimise performance in all three axes, whilst a granite Y Beam allows preloading of bridge bearings in both directions. Borrowed from the Aerospace industry, the CMM's sturdy component support consists of an advanced granite/aluminium honeycomb construction, this technology, provides natural damping and further improves the machine's thermal properties.
11. Zenith too
The medium/large capacity Zenith too range consists of 10 machines with XYZ capacities from 1000x1000x600mm - 1000x3000x800mm. The range's cutting edge, all aluminium construction, advanced drive design and raised guide-ways ensures that despite their generous measuring envelopes, the machines' extremely low inertia characteristics guarantees high operational speed. Impressive accuracy and repeatability figures are further aided by the Zenith too's measuring structure being completely independent of the machine's granite surface table. Although the Aberlink series is perfectly suited to use within environmentally controlled inspection departments, it is on the shop floor where the Zenith too range's low thermal mass and extremely robust characteristics come to the fore, enabling the accurate measurement of large components to take place nearer to their point of manufacture.
Launched in April 2014, the impressive Azimuth is the largest CMM ever produced by Aberlink. With a choice of 1200mm X-axis, 1000-3000mm Y-axis and 1000mm Z-axis, the new CMM is targeted at manufacturers of large components within industries such as the Oil & Gas, Aerospace and the Automotive sector. The innovative Azimuth delivers extended measuring capacity, high accuracy, excellent ease-of-use and exceptional speed, at a very cost effective price.
13. Shop-floor CMM
The growing global demand for a versatile means of accurate measurement that can be used within flexible manufacturing systems has prompted Aberlink to take an innovative approach to designing a remarkable solution. Although full details relating to Aberlink's soon to be launched (2015) shop floor proof CMM remain secret, further information will be available on the day of Aberlink's 21st anniversary celebration.
++The Xtreme CMM was launched April 2016
14. Project X
Project X boasts a unique measuring system based on a revolutionary, Aberlink patented, Colour-Matrix scale. The innovative Optical Measuring device is able to measure X,Y and rotational positions with extremely high levels of accuracy. Due to its robust construction Project X is equally at home within a company's inspection department or on a shop floor, and despite a generous measuring capacity of 400 x 300mm with 125mm of motorised Z axis focus, the compact unit occupies a relatively small footprint.
A smooth air-bearing system, high inertia adjustment hand-wheels and automatic edge detection helps ensure Project X's class-leading accuracy and ease of operation. The system's high-quality Telecentric Lens means that operational metrology is not reliant on focus, whilst a high-resolution monitor guarantees that all displayed images and graphics are crisp and clear. Further improving speed of operation, a rapid digital magnification facility, negates the need to changes lenses. Retailing for the same price as a conventional profile projector, yet delivering vastly improved functionality and higher levels of accuracy, Aberlink's popular manual Project X is currently the optical measuring device of choice to a wide variety of industries throughout the world.
15. Colour CMM Camera
The Aberlink colour CMM camera is ideal for use by both manual and CNC CMMs for high resolution non-contact inspection and is ideal for measuring low-profile 2D parts in addition to small and delicate components.
The units light settings, edge detection and optical scanning tools are all fully programmable enabling users to use touch and vision technology within the same inspection program. This significantly increases the versatility of CMMs at a fraction of the cost of a standalone vision machine.
16. Aberlink Software
Aberlink's 3D Windows based, intuitive software, was designed purposefully around a graphical interface, unlike comparable packages from some of the company's competitors whose graphics can best be described as a software afterthought. A welcome bi-product of any Aberlink CMM inspection routine is that a simultaneous picture of the measured component is created on the computer screen. Dimensions between the measured features, mirroring those that appear on the component drawing, are then picked off as required. In essence this 'smart' software represents an intelligent measuring system that is able to automatically recognise and define the various features being measured. Aberlink 3D is claimed to be the easiest to use CMM software currently available, and a complete novice is usually able to perform relatively involved measurement routines after just 5 minutes training. Such has been the success of Aberlink 3D, it is now used my several other metrology companies.
Aberlink's Vision Software module enhances the capability of Aberlink 3D with a set of powerful vision measurement tools - now you can use the same software with your touch probe and non-contact system.
The Aberlink CAD Comparison software module complements Aberlink 3D with the capability to measure (compare) surfaces directly to a CAD model of the part - often the only way to measure complex parts. Powerful alignment routines allow the CAD model to be used to create a best-fit datum, whilst colour report templates provide the output formats required to analyse complex surfaces.
17. A Range to Suit all Requirements
Aberlink's comprehensive range incorporates 23 standard sizes of CNC and manual CMM variants, enabling the precise measurement of the smallest of components to parts of over 3 metres long and up to 6 tonnes in weight. Aberlink customers are also able to choose from a wide range of probing and non-contact measurement choices and on-machine fixturing options. This wide range of available solutions allows Aberlink to offer high quality CMMs to suit all applications and budgets.
Gavin Bailey recently enthused, "The phenomenal progress we have made over the past 21 years is due largely to the hard work and the continuing dedication of our loyal employees. As we enjoy an extremely low staff turnover, this continuity has allowed the development of a tremendous skill base, aided in the development of many exciting new products and continues to enable Aberlink to deliver outstanding levels of service to our global customers."
19. Satellite Show-Rooms
In addition to Aberlink's Headquarters showroom, to enable all UK prospective customers to witness product demonstrations closer to their places of work, Aberlink has established regional show-rooms close to the motorway network in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland and in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
20. Full Range of Services
To complement Aberlink's high quality product range, the company offers a comprehensive range of complementary services.
Prospective users are able to rent a CMM on very advantageous terms. If a decision is made to buy a system during a rental period, 80% of the rental payments are counted toward the purchase.
Aberlink's global team of Service Engineers are able to provide the best value and highest level of customer service at all times. Aberlink personnel can repair, verify, calibrate and adjust CMMs to meet original specifications. All of the factory trained engineers are highly skilled and undergo regular new product and refresher training. For customers looking to train new staff, expand their knowledge or for those requiring application specific training, Aberlink offer a range of standard and tailored training courses. Fully qualified Trainers are on hand to provide training at Aberlink HQ or at customers' premises.
21. The Future
Through the innovative work of Aberlink's prolific R & D Department, and motivated by the evolving needs of global industry, over the next few years the company intend to introduce a steady stream of advanced new CMMs, Vision Measuring Systems and exciting new Software applications. Many of these products are currently in various stages of development and will be launched over the next 1 - 3 years.
Aberlink's desire to innovate and provide its global customers with the very latest, most efficient Metrology Tools is reflected in products such as the soon to be launched shop-floor CMM.