John Tadman has no doubts why his company chose to buy the Leica LTD500 laser tracker system.
Says John, project manager for UK mechanical engineering firm Metalcraft: "Leica knocks spots off the competition. The system is a 'spot-on' solution for Metalcraft".
Strong words indeed from a man whose company has only been a Leica customer for just over eight weeks...
The Leica laser tracker is a top-quality mobile co-ordinate measurement system used worldwide for high-accuracy assembly and inspection of product lines in industries ranging from aerospace and automotives to robotics and railways.
Metalcraft purchased the tracker for the inspection and pinpoint measurement of one of its main products, inertia tubes. The tubes are an essential component for the massive new particle accelerator - the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - currently being built by the European Centre for Particle Physics (CERN) near Geneva, the world's largest particle physics research centre.
The LHC will be able to bring sub-atomic particles into head-on collisions at higher energies than ever previously achieved. This should allow scientists to recreate the conditions prevailing in the early universe, and to perform unprecedented research into the still untested theory of 'supersymmetry' - the possible underlying symmetry of all physical forces...
So why did Metalcraft opt for the Leica system, despite keen competition from several other companies active in the field? Well, one reason is what might be called the 'supersymmetry' of the existing Leica solution - the laser tracker is already the preferred option both for CERN itself and the German company, Accel Instruments. Accel placed the contract with Metalcraft for the tubes, which are a key component for the cold masses of the quadrupole magnets they are building for the CERN project.
Metalcraft project manager John Tadman and project engineer Barry Gelder put the advantages of a common project-wide measurement system in a nutshell: "The Leica laser tracker was the choice of CERN, so having one gives better continuity."
They also point to the "general good reputation of Leica in the UK", saying the products offered by rival companies were either out-dated or "still unproven in the field". Other factors cited are "quick access to technical support, the large UK customer base, and the stability and strength of the Leica organisation".
In addition, they praise the "excellent" quality of the training and support provided by Leica. While the formal requirement was for five days training, Metalcraft staff were able to fully inspect their inertia tubes after just three days. Nonetheless, the full training was completed as planned, and Leica now provides further informal training during routine visits.
And the success story doesn't end there. While Metalcraft has only had the laser tracker for eight weeks, it has already found many other applications for the system. For instance, as well as measuring the inertia tubes themselves, it has now been used to check the accuracy of the machine tool that manufactures the tubes. Small errors were actually discovered using the laser tracker, which was also used to correct them. And Metalcraft now has the system reserved for alignment activities it plans to perform on behalf of UK nuclear fuel cycle company BNFL - an industry where accuracy and precision are by-words for safety.
Source: Leica Geosystems