When you think of a stereo microscope you might picture two cylinders that you have to hunch over to look down. Well, things have moved on. Patented technology from one business now magnifies components to instead be inspected on a screen at eye-height. Maddy White reports.
Vision Engineering was founded in 1958 by Rob Freeman, a toolmaker who had previously worked as a race mechanic with the Jaguar Racing Team.
While at Jaguar, Rob was frustrated by having to dissemble race engine parts to inspect individual internal components, so he developed a borescope that allowed him to examine parts without the need for disassembly. Vision Engineering was born.
In 1994, Vision Engineering introduced the world’s first ‘eyepiece-less’ stereo microscope, the ‘Original Mantis’ (pictured right), designed to fill the gap between a bench magnifier and a microscope.
Vision Engineering in 2019
Today, the optical systems can be used for wide range of magnification, inspection and measurement applications across a number of industries including the industrial, medical, automotive and electronic sectors.
Headquartered in Woking, the business has another manufacturing site in Connecticut, North America, with offices also across the world.
Vision Engineering exports more than 90% of its products and is a globally leading manufacturer of unique ergonomic stereo microscopes and measuring systems.
The company received two Innovate UK grants for optical and digital technical development in 2018/19 with a value of £750,000.
A new era for the microscope
The microscopes are patented technology to enhance productivity and comfort at work. “Our customers don’t buy on price, they buy on quality – everything needs to be finished properly,” Managing Director of Vision Engineering, Mark Curtis told TM last week.
Typically you might think of having to look down binocular eyepieces in order for a product to be a ‘microscope’. The range of innovative products the company offers removes the need for this and magnifies the component to be inspected at eye-height instead.
The driver for this transformation?
Ergonomics can be described as the study of people and how they interact with their environment.
Successful integration of this within manufacturing and manufactured products can have substantial benefits, particularly with regards to improving productivity and safety culture.
“Our core design philosophy is ergonomics,” Curtis adds. “If you need to wear glasses and use a microscope, no problem.”
The factory floor is a mix of traditional tooling and advanced machinery – image courtesy of The Manufacturer.
An ergonomic microscope is not just about adjusting the seat height, or eyepiece position to improve body position.
Microscope ergonomics does concern the comfort of the operator, but it also involves improving eye fatigue, hand-to-eye coordination, accuracy and error rates, and many more factors.
For any profession that requires a long period of time using more traditional microscopes – medical, electronics or life sciences – no doubt eyes would become tired, productivity would wane and therefore efficiency would dip.
Using a microscope designed to negate these issues could offer multiple benefits to users. The company has created products with necessary innovations that are now being implemented across the world. Within optic technology, as the business proves, there is more than first meets the eye.