Machine shops today march to a faster tempo than ever before as they produce precision components for original equipment manufacturers who, themselves, must respond to the demands of the new world economy. OEMs throughout a wide range of industries depend on the skilled machinists in these machine shops to produce parts for the products OEMs themselves manufacture. ACU-RITE acutely understands these interdependent needs and this is one of the reasons for its leadership role in the industry as a manufacturer of digital readout (DRO) systems, as well as CNC control systems and precision glass scales used in machine shops and fabrication plants throughout the world.
Products such as ACU-RITE’s operator-friendly DRO systems enable machine operators to increase efficiencies and productivity, says Chris Anderson, marketing communications manager for the ISO-9001-certified Jamestown, N.Y.-headquartered company. “Our DRO 100, DRO 200, and VRO (vision readout) systems – combined with ACU-RITE precision glass scales – help machine shops reduce setup time, reduce rework, and reduce scrap as well,” Anderson says. He adds that shop owners can reap a return on investment in a matter of just days.
A genealogy such as ACU-RITE’s bears testimony to the company’s inherent technological foundation, the basis of which rests on unwavering accuracy and precision. “Our history can be traced back to the 1940s, when Bausch and Lomb constructed the David A. Richardson Grating Laboratory some 150 feet below ground level for the purpose of precision ruling and replication of diffraction gratings,” Anderson explains. This technology was applied to the ruling and replication of master linear scales in commercial quantities – which ultimately formed the foundation of the manufacture of precision glass scales.
Micro-Line – a Jamestown company successful in replicating precision patterns – was acquired by Bausch and Lomb in 1968. The combined technologies of each company resulted in the production of precision chrome line glass scales and other products ACU-RITE manufactures today. In 1985, Dr. Johannes Heidenhain GmbH of Germany, a premiere manufacturer of measurement products, acquired Micro-Line from Bausch & Lomb. Along with the acquisition came a new company name, ACU-RITE Incorporated. In the fall of 2001, under the direction of ACU-RITE’s parent company Dr. Johannes Heidenhain GmbH, ACU-RITE Incorporated of Jamestown and ANILAM Incorporated of Miramar, Fla. consolidated all operations into ACU-RITE’s 120,000-square-foot Jamestown facility where 150 people are employed. The company now operates as one entity under the name of Acu-Rite Companies Inc. “The consolidation solidified Acu-Rite Companies Inc.’s place as a leader in the machine tool accessory industry,” Anderson says.
Today’s skilled machinists have what amounts to a mentor with an exact formula in ACU-RITE’s readout systems combined with its line of precision glass scales. “Our systems measure machine movements accurately and communicate the distances the parts travel, as well as communicating the table position to the machinist,” explains Anderson. This procedure differs vastly from the methods machinists in the past used, in which they would have to actually count the number of turns they made on their hand wheel, for example.
Responding to the ever-changing demands and requirements on the floors of machine shops and fabrication plants worldwide, the company has a long line of industry firsts to its credit as it developed technologies designed into equipment to help machinists reduce positioning time and reduce scrap. Industry-wide demands for tools to help shops achieve increased productivity and profitability led ACU-RITE to introduce its first DRO system in the early 1970s. A few years later, in the late 1970s, the company introduced its Qwikcount DRO, designed for machine tools needing a smaller DRO, such as optical comparators, gauging equipment and grinders.
Throughout the 1980s, ACU-RITE added other products to its already impressive lineup; these included the first CRT-based readout systems ever brought to the market. “These systems, known as vision readout systems or VROs, were in our MillVision, TurnVision and EDMVision products,” Anderson says, adding the success of these new products led the company to re-think its destiny. “We then made a conscious effort to further broaden our product line.”
This new direction led ACU-RITE to develop innovative products throughout the 1990s, including its Master application-specific series of products for milling, turning and grinding. “Then in 1994, we introduced MILLPWR, our first CNC control system, which is a two- or three-axes control and three-axes readout system offering a versatile, flexible and cost-effective solution to increase efficiencies,” Anderson says. With the consolidation of ANILAM in 2001, the CNC product line grew by leaps and bounds. The addition of the ANILAM brand of CNC control systems allows Acu-Rite Companies Inc. to offer a wide range of controls for specific applications such as milling and turning. From the 3000 COMMANDO for boring mills to the 6000M digital control for machining centers, Acu-Rite Companies Inc. offers the machinist a wealth of CNC control system options. Today, the company’s complete line of user-friendly and application-specific digital readout systems, control systems and precision glass scales are the industry’s most advanced products offering the benefits machine shops and fabrication plants demand. “Our controls can also be retro-fitted to existing machines,” Anderson says.
ACU-RITE is able to offer its customers the full range of complementary application-specific digital and vision readout systems for milling, turning, grinding, EDM (electrical discharge machine), and general purpose applications because of a simple and successful method it developed early in its 40-year history. “We periodically survey our customers and we ask them how they use our readout systems and what they need in our systems to assure fail-safe precision and accuracy while they increase their productivity of high-quality components,” Anderson says. “We put the needs of our customers first when we design new products and we found out that they want products that are easy to use with easy features access, and they want greater flexibility with user-defined readouts.” In fact, ACU-RITE’s DRO 100, 200 and VRO 300 systems were introduced in 1997, after an intensive three-year market study based on learning exactly what customers required to help them get their jobs done more efficiently while producing high-precision machined parts each and every time.
Precision Glass Scale Technology
Precision glass scale technology is the industry standard for accurate position feedback while the machine tool’s movement is being measured, explains Anderson. “ACU-RITE precision glass scales are really at the heart of every one of our readout systems,” continues Anderson. “Glass continues to demonstrate superior reliability by consistently delivering accuracy and durability. Glass is also inherently stable in that it can resist changes in size, shape or density due to the environment in machine shops that can vary widely in temperature, contamination, or humidity.” It’s this stability that allows for the generation of numerous ultra-fine line patterns, he adds, so that ACU-RITE precision glass scales are among the most accurate measuring devices on the market. The company has long enjoyed a reputation in its precision glass scales for excellence in measurement and positioning technology. “Our precision scales have a reading head that’s enclosed inside an aluminum housing with die-cast sealed end caps, which makes them virtually unbreakable during standard machine tool usage,” explains Anderson. The reading head is protected from the environment by a recessed, highly chemical-resistant interlocking lip-seal to further prevent the entry of metal chips or other contaminants. A nickel-plated armor cable offers additional protection. “ACU-RITE precision glass scales provide long-lasting operation over thousands of miles of movement,” Anderson says. In fact, less than a fraction of 1 percent of one million ACU-RITE precision glass scales currently in machine-shop environments have been damaged due to breakage, Anderson notes. “There are fine comb-like lines etched on the glass scale inside the aluminum housing and the reader head reads the machine tool’s movement as it moves back and forth with the help of the DRO,” he continues. “In this manner, the operator can see the feedback information and make sure the machine’s part output stays within acceptable and precise tolerances.”
The company’s Class 100 clean room and one-of-a-kind precision glass scale replication process distinguishes Acu-Rite Companies Inc. from its competitors, says Anderson. “We can ensure process integrity in our clean room environment, which is computer controlled and equipped with vibration isolated equipment and is maintained with precision temperature control at 20 degrees Centigrade,” he continues. “This is to assure that our precision glass scales are the most precise and durable measurement products in the machine tool industry.”
One of the company’s recent responses to customer demand are products that will offer the ease of use shops and machinists continually clamor for. “The trend in the current market is focused mainly on easy-to-use products that provide a total package,” Anderson says. “Our highly skilled engineers in our research and development department are currently developing technological advances in the DRO product line. We plan on introducing new innovative products very soon.”
Acu-Rite Companies Inc. maintains a worldwide network of fully trained and qualified personnel ready to provide prompt delivery, thorough product training and skilled technical service and support. “We will continue to maintain and enhance our leadership role in this industry by continuing to introduce new and innovative products to help our customers improve efficiency, productivity and profitability,” Anderson says.