Fuelling Accuracy at Pacson Valves - Zenith 3 CMM Case Study NPI Solutions - Critical Subcontracts Components

The current global Covid-19 pandemic has caused a monumental shift in manufacturing, both in the way parts are produced but also the processes to produce them. As more companies turn their focus to the medical industry, quality assurance has taken on an increased level of importance. One such manufacturing company involved in this radical challenge is NPI Solutions Ltd.

Established in 2001, NPI are a subcontract machining company specialising in the precision engineering and manufacture of products for diverse sectors including defence, medical and power generation to the more niche, high-end audio market.

The Irvine, Ayrshire-based company has the capacity to fulfil every customer demand, boasting not only a wide range of 4 and 5 axis mills and turning centres, but also modern, fully equipped sheet metal, anodising and powder coating departments - the whole manufacturing process under one roof. It is this one-stop approach that has found NPI growing dramatically, handling upwards of 400 orders per month equating to over 40,000 components.

However, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies have found themselves dedicating resources to the manufacture of ventilators. Such critical medical equipment is ultimately reliant upon components subject to the most stringent quality control requirements.

NPI Operations Director, George Gillespie explains: "As a company we invest a lot of money every year in the latest production equipment, we're quite happy to spend £250k on a machine tool because it produces components. We had not made significant investment in quality and inspection for several years, relying on a combination of manually driven coordinate measuring machines and other standard inspection room equipment. The ventilators gave us the nudge required: we had to get a new, more advanced CNC CMM, and fast!"

"When the ventilator work started coming through at pace, we found ourselves making 3 of the main critical ventilator body components in very large batches. Machined on 3 or 4 faces, the components were intricate and required considerable inspection. We had to be able to check them very accurately and very fast. To have manually checked the required geometry for these components would have been a nightmare."

The main issue facing NPI was that due to the knock-on effect of the pandemic, many CMM manufacturers did not have the ability to demo, supply or install a machine, and certainly not in the required timescale.

George continues: "We knew of Aberlink and the great reputation that the company has and so, assisted by Tony Smith of Northern Metrology, we quickly placed an order for an Axiom too CNC CMM (600x640x500mm). In an ideal world, we needed a CMM installed and operational in two weeks - Aberlink really stepped up to the mark in exceptional circumstances."

Following the successful installation of the cutting-edge Axiom too CNC CMM, complete with fully motorised probe head, the final piece of the puzzle was training, made more difficult by the need for social distancing.

Aberlink were able to offer NPI a full and extensive remote online training session. However, George being a skilled engineer by trade, and faced with increasingly tight deadlines, made the decision to test the waters himself. He explains: "With the support of two or three phone calls to Aberlink's free technical support, I was up and running with the machine. If you are a good CNC machinist and you know your way around parts, the Aberlink Axiom too CMM is so easy to learn. I am a great believer in just diving right in and the included Aberlink 3D measurement software was so easy to learn, even when working with CAD models. Although not a substitute for dedicated, hands-on training, the support videos and manuals supplied with the machine are more than enough to get you up and going."

Now, with the slowing demand for the ventilator components, NPI plan on making the Axiom too an integral part of their manufacturing and it will be heavily relied upon for the accuracy of all projects, including those for the company's many tier 1 and tier 2 customers who demand comprehensive inspection reports.

George reflects on the importance of the purchase: "If I can produce inspection reports straight from the CMM, confidence in our ability to produce quality products grows straight away. In addition, many of the components that are manufactured these days, simply cannot be checked efficiently without a CMM. Now I can put a part on the machine, load the measurement program and hit a button. Something that may have taken a couple of hours to measure previously might now take 5 minutes."

Fuelling Accuracy at Pacson Valves - Zenith 3 CMM Case Study

Originally established in the small Scottish coastal town of Carnoustie, for over 30 years, Pacson Valves have been at the very forefront of design, development and manufacture of high-integrity pressure valves for the Oil and Gas industry. Valves that are now supplied Worldwide, to some of the biggest names within it.

With a long-standing history in the precision engineering of valve equipment, the now Dundee-based, Pacson, continue to buck the trend in the oft-volatile industry of Oil and Gas. Not only maintaining a solid order book but continuing to expand and invest in further cutting-edge manufacturing tooling and technology to cope with global customer demand.

The almost entirely in-house process of design, development, manufacturing and assembly championed by Pacson has resulted in bespoke R&D work for the likes of BP, Exxon and Shell. This dynamic approach has meant that customers regularly task Pacson with creating valves, capable of exceptional performance in controlling very strictly regulated pressures, for very specific one-off projects.

Using exotic materials such as Carbon Steel, Duplex and Super Duplex Stainless Steels, Inconel and Titanium, Pacson manufacture a wide range of ball, gate, needle and check valves.

In an industry where every part is integral and safety critical, quality assurance plays a vital role and customers demand that the very latest accreditation is held. Pacson, through a quality assurance programme committed to continuous improvement and performance, are accredited to ISO9001:2015, Pressure Equipment Directive 2014/68/ EU and meet the requirements of API17D which governs the Design and Operation of Subsea Production Systems - Subsea Wellhead and Tree Equipment.

Already in use by quality inspectors were two articulating measurement arms and an Aberlink Axiom too Manual CMM. When the need to speed-up throughput via the use of a CNC CMM was identified, the company didn’t need to look too far for an ideal solution.

Quality Manager, Frank McGraw and Quality Assurance Engineer, Simon Hamilton explain: “Although we had looked at other CMM suppliers, quality staff were already familiar with the ease of use of Aberlink CMMs and measurement software, having had experience at both Pacson and through use at previous employment at other manufacturing companies.”

Ably assisted by the Aberlink regional sales manager, Tony Smith, the decision was made, and an order placed for Aberlink’s accurate and cost-effective Zenith 3 CNC CMM, with its generous, large-volume measurement range ideally suited to the Oil and Gas industry.

Now installed in a dedicated inspection area, Frank and Simon explain the impact the Zenith 3 CMM has made: “We can already see the difference our new Aberlink CMM is making, especially when measuring smaller batches of 20-25 components. We measure a wide variety of (mostly) singular machined components, ranging from 100mm² up to 0.5m² in size and before, measuring them manually may have taken up to 45 minutes per part, whereas now, it’s perhaps 5 – 6 minutes per part and the repeatability is excellent.”

“With a limited number of sta in our inspection team, the Zenith 3 CMM with its CNC capabilities has sped up the measurement process, and both our day and night shift staff have found that the CMM has completely removed bottlenecks. We’re saving a lot of time.”

“Our investment was very much prompted by an up-turn in workload and the need to increase inspection throughput. The Zenith 3 CNC CMM will benefi t Pacson for years to come and we expect to see a rapid return on our investment.”

Installed with Aberlink’s industry-standard, easy-to-use 3D measurement software, Pacson are also enjoying the depth of functionality offered by the optional Programming from CAD software module.

Quality Assurance Engineer, Chris Friar continues: “The Aberlink 3D software is really easy to pick-up, especially in comparison to other software packages we’ve looked at, but the addition of the CAD software makes our inspection work so much quicker.”

“Within an hour we can have a fully-fl edged program that, once complete, allows us to start batch loading components. We can take a CAD model and upload it straight to the CMM so we can pre-program components before they even hit the shop fl oor. Once we get more programs onto the CMM, the work becomes repeat, speeding up the whole measurement process.”

“The Aberlink 3D software really is easy to use, from novice to expert, no matter your background and previous experience of using CMMs.”

NTG Invests in third Aberlink CMM

NTG Invests in third Aberlink CMM

Established in 1979 as a provider of precision tool-room services for local North East business, N.T.G. Precision Engineering (NTG) quickly gained an excellent reputation for the quality of its work and soon established a loyal customer base across a range of demanding industries. Now, following almost 40 years of continuous growth, in addition to serving the N.E. region's precision engineering requirements, NTG has developed into a major supplier to a variety of demanding industrial sectors across the UK, Europe and USA.

Regular investments in state-of-the-art machine tools, advanced production aids and high precision inspection equipment has ensured that the company remains at the forefront of technological advancements and is able to adapt to changing marketplace conditions.

Reflecting the company's highly developed quality ethos, NTG achieved ISO 9001:2008 accreditation in 2000 and have held the prestigious 'World Class' precision machining accreditation from the Gauge and Tool Manufacturers Association (GTMA) since 2008. In addition to regular staff training, regular investments in premium quality inspection equipment also helps NTG to compete in international, quality driven market places.

The mainstay of NTG's quality and inspection provision is its collection of high precision Aberlink Coordinate Measuring Machines. Ever rising levels of business and the need for the company's inspection department to keep pace with increasing levels of production recently prompted the purchase of the company's third Aberlink CMM.

Mark Withycombe, NTG Operations Manager explained. "In addition to other advanced machine tools, our first-class subcontract precision engineering facility is equipped with sophisticated 5 axis machines that are operated by highly skilled, dedicated staff. This enables us to deliver quality components and engineering solutions to the most challenging of both UK and international customers.

"Whether it is a one-off special or batch work, we are able to work from drawings or can also reverse engineer samples to suit all needs. In addition to delivering on time and on budget, NTG's reputation has been built on our culture of providing the highest standards of quality.

"Just as we pursue a policy of remaining loyal to suppliers who not only deliver premium quality machine tools, but also provide first class levels of service, we have remained loyal to Aberlink for the same reasons. As well as the accuracy, speed and ease of use of our Aberlink CMM's, we have been very impressed with their reliability and the excellent levels of service the company provides.

"Recent increased levels of production meant that we needed a further CMM for our inspection department. Although we were very happy with our previous two Aberlink CMMs, as other manufacturers machines may have improved, we looked at a couple of alternative CMMs. Satisfied that Aberlink's Axiom too CMM best suited our needs, we were happy to remain loyal to the brand and to place another order.

"Now installed and fully operational, just like our existing Aberlink CMMs, our new, third machine is able to get through large volumes of precision component inspection routines and has removed the potential for delays in our inspection department.

"Given the nature of many of the industries we serve, such as the Oil and Gas, Subsea, Power Generation and Automotive sectors, the ability to offer the highest standards of component inspection is a prerequisite for gaining contracts. In addition to providing the required accuracy and speed, it helps that our three Aberlink CMMs are able to generate the detailed inspection reports demanded by our customers."

The Axiom too is the best-selling CMM from the largest UK owned Coordinate Measuring Machine manufacturer. Aberlink's cost effective Axiom too is available in both manual and CNC variants in a range of capacities and is described by Aberlink as the 'complete inspection centre'. The recently upgraded CMM is ideal for use in either controlled environments such as inspection departments, or within less than perfect shop-floor conditions, as it boasts an aluminium bridge with a very low thermal mass. Thanks to the Axiom too's use of advanced materials, the machine's reduced inertia also results in class leading speed of operation.

Borrowed from the laser optics industry, the CMM's sturdy table consists of an advanced granite/aluminium honeycomb construction, this arrangement, provides natural damping and further improves the machine's thermal properties. Despite the Axiom too's generous X-Y-Z measuring volume (640mm x 600, 900, 1200 or1500mm x 500mm), the machine's compact design occupies a relatively small footprint, with the controller and all peripherals housed within the Axiom too's workbench.

The Axiom too utilises Aberlink's renowned 3D software, ensuring greater user productivity and profitability. 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, can then be simply 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 the easiest to use and most intuitive CMM software currently available.

Aberlink shop-floor accuracy for Martin Aerospace

Established in 1993 in Lanark, Central Scotland, over the past 24 years Martin Aerospace has developed into a respected supplier of precision manufactured products to the global aerospace and quality critical industries. Martin Aerospace manufacture a wide range of components, from relatively simple parts to the production of components with complex geometrical shapes, on the company's advanced five-axis machine tools.

Operations such as turning, milling and drilling are completed on machine tools with the benefit of live in process probing that continually monitors quality. The company's machines are linked to central computerised systems which are used to manage work scheduling and machining programmes, also to permanent record actual component dimensions.

Martin Aerospace use two CNC CMMs located in an environmentally controlled area to perform 100% final inspection on the company's output. Although, in accordance with its policy of supplying production staff with the best available inspection aids, a search was recently made for an additional CMM that had the ability to deliver the required standards of inspection accuracy on the company's shop-floor. Having considered the offerings from leading CMM manufacturers, an Xtreme CNC CMM was purchased from Aberlink.

Martin Aerospace Quality Manager Colin Tonnar explained. "Quality is central to all of Martin Aerospace's activities, in addition to consistently delivering parts and kits on-time and on budget, our quality ethos and recording and traceability systems are amongst our key competitive advantages. As well as enabling us to consistently achieve 100% score cards from the most demanding of our global customers, our strict quality regime assists us in driving down internal costs through achieving right first time production and by the reduction of scrap levels.

Aberlink shop-floor accuracy for Martin Aerospace

"We ensure that our production personnel have quality uppermost in their minds and support them by delivering on-going training, by using state of the art Q-Pulse quality managements systems and by providing them with the latest inspection equipment.

"Following a trouble free installation in a central location on our shop-floor and operator training, our new Aberlink CMM is now being used by our production staff for in-process inspection procedures. Now, rather that lose valuable production time taking machined parts to our inspection department and waiting for a CMM to complete its current task, instant accurate inspection results can now be achieved close to the point of manufacture. This faster feed-back enables machine adjustments to be made when component dimensions drift from nominal conditions.

"Another typical use for our new Xtreme CMM is, our machine operators are now able to place first-off machined components on the new CMM's bed, the relevant program is then quickly selected and the start button pressed. Following rapid and precise, fully automated CNC measuring routines, captured inspection data is archived by our electronic system. Paper documents with all relevant information are also produced by the CMM for inclusion in our machinists' work folders.

"Having now installed a CNC CMM that is able to deliver our required levels of precision on our shop-floor, we have been able to reduce the time between the machining of components and the verification of their dimensions. In addition to allowing the quicker capture of data and increasing machine tool productive times, the use of our Aberlink Xtreme CMM has allowed our inspection department's CMMs to concentrate on their important final inspection duties."

Launched in a blaze of publicity at the MACH 2016 exhibition, the Xtreme CNC Coordinate Measuring Machine was designed to provide accuracy, ease of use and speed of measurement in production environments. The global success of the Xtreme means that Aberlink's Gloucestershire based manufacturing facility is now working flat-out to keep pace with both UK and overseas demand for this unique CMM.

The Xtreme has a novel non-Cartesian structure and makes use of linear motors and mechanical bearings, this advantageous arrangement guarantees that the CMM maintains its impressive accuracy performance at very fast measurement rates and ensures that it does not suffer from the accumulative inaccuracies that occur in conventional 3-axis Cartesian arrangements.

As the inexpensive CNC Xtreme requires no compressed air and boasts the shortest learning curve of any equivalent system – an inexperienced operator is normally able to become competent in the Xtreme's use in just one day, meaning that the robust CMM represents an ideal 'plug and go' solution. In addition, the Xtreme's integral temperature control function ensures that accuracy levels are maintained even when the surrounding ambient temperature is not controlled.

Ensuring greater user productivity and profitability, the Xtreme utilises Aberlink's renowned 3D software. A welcome bi-product of any Aberlink 3D inspection routine is that a simultaneous picture of the measured component is created on the CMMs computer screen. Dimensions between the measured features, mirroring those that appear on the component drawing, can be simply 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 the easiest to use and most intuitive CMM software currently available making it ideal for use by both quality and production personnel.


Bowers Group Launches Mobile Metrology Centre

Mobile Metrology Centre Offers On-Site Customer Demonstrations

Precision measurement expert Bowers Group has launched its new Mobile Metrology Centre offering on-site customer demonstrations on a wide range of metrology equipment. The mobile centre will travel around the UK showcasing high quality optical inspection systems including the Baty Venture Vision System and the Sylvac Scan optical measuring machine.

On-Site Customer Demonstrations

Also on display and available for demonstrations are the Accretech Surfcom Nex and Rockwell hardness tester, along with the Trimos V5 Height Gauge. In addition, customers will have the chance to see a range of Bowers Bore Gauges and Sylvac Bluetooth hand tools.

The Bowers team of metrology experts are visiting a selection of UK based locations over the coming weeks, starting in Scotland, and offering exclusive on-site customer demonstrations for convenience and ease.

Bowers Group  Mobile Metrology Centre

Effective Measurement Solutions

Bowers Group UK Sales Manager Martin Hawkins said; “The Mobile Metrology Centre is a fantastic addition to our services, allowing customers to enjoy on-site demonstrations by our team of knowledgeable metrology experts. We are very much looking forward to meeting customers and demonstrating our ability to develop effective measurement solutions for both standard and non-standard applications.”

Book a Demonstration!

For more details on how Bowers Group can provide you with an on-site demonstration, please get in touch with Bowers Group UK Sales Manager Martin Hawkins at or visit


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