Best Instrument began operations in July 2005 at 'JCEL', or, Juniata Center For Entrepreneurial Leadership. Startup funding was a combination of cash from Inventor/Founder John W. Best, and a $35,000 grant/award, the "Big Idea Contest" from Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The new product idea, called a 'Viscometric Flowmeter' won in 2005. It should be noted the Viscometric Flowmeter patent application was filed in this timeframe and was later awarded. Development of several Viscometric Flowmeter printed circuit boards, custom hydraulic components and required inventory were accomplished at JCEL. Unfortunately, this small business 'incubator' was built from a rennovated school building in Huntingdon, PA. As such, there was a lack of running water in the 'school rooms' each business rented. This proved to make development very slow, as there were many instances where recently manufactured physical components needed to be cleaned.
It became mutually beneficial to rent a superior facility owned by Ginger McKay and Richard Henry. So, in the fall of 2006, Best Instrument moved to 310, Rolling Ridge Dr., Bellefonte, PA. This is the former location of Keystone Scientific, Inc. Unfortunately, a new client was located to rent the 310 Rolling Ridge facility, and the client (Piezo Kinetics) required the entire space. So, as of Spring of 2007, Best Instrument underwent a third move to the present location at 210 W. Hamilton / 617 Waring Ave., State College, PA.
The figure shows the rather compact development area at the Rolling Ridge shop. The initial startup machinery was
A SHOPTASK 1720XMTC combination lathe & mill. It can be seen at the upper right of the photo. This lathe was used primarily in milling mode, to CNC machine PEEK pressure manufolds and enclosures for the viscometric flowmeter. It was adequate to these tasks, but is a general purpose, low-cost hobby level machine. This machine was inhereted from ELMDAS Co., where it was used to mill cast aluminum electronics enclosures.
The photo also shows the first lathe purchased for rather compact development area at the Rolling Ridge shop. The initial startup lathe is a white SIEG C3 and can be seen at in the foreground on the right of the photo. This 7x14 'hobby class' lathe, was purchased with startup funding. Using a 3C collet system, the accuracy was improved to a level adequate to build the first generation of (Pre TSip™) UHPLC fitings.
The work surfaces to the left are merely for assembly and inspection.
As a somewhat nostalgic bit of anecdotal startup reminiscing, the small vacuum was occasionally put to use with a screen covering the end of the vacuum hose. In this manner, the cracks between the concrete floor slabs could be vacuumed, yielding not only the reward of better cleanliness, but a signigicant number of dropped ferrules were found. These lost ferrules proved to be a handy resource in the early days.
Epilog 35W Laser Engraver
Epilog 35W Laser Engraver
Laser engraver with rotary capability for MIL-SPEC compliant part marking.
This Epilog Legend seies laser is primarily used for marking anodized aluminum components on fittings. Purchased with a short focal lenth lens, the depth of focus is sacrificed to allow a smaller spot size. Consequently, markings down to 2pt fonts have been attained. This level of resolution is useful in marking small parts.
Fully automatic swiss style lathe, with live tooling, and sub-spindle.
This Citizen B12 lathe is primarily used for 'body parts' for fittings. Relatively complex parts up to 0.5" in diameter are automatically manufactured using 316 Stainless steel, or 6061 aluminum. This lathe was aquired when it became apparrent that it was attractive from a development standpoint to be able to easily manufacture new and improved fitting designs for non-standard applications. Additionally, relatively large quantities could be manufactured, (for custom products and prototypes) which allowed good customer economy while retaining design flexibility to quickly bring new designs to the customer.
This lathe also allows rapid attinment of very high levels of accuracy and repeatability. The bar feeder which cme with the lathe was sold and replaced with a 'rattle tube' style bar support. This lathe was used for short periods (4-8 hours) of 'semi-unattended' operation (the operator was always close enough to hear the lathe and respond in a few seconds). The lathe was typically set up for cycle times of a few minutes per part, and a 6 foot bar of stock would be consumed in 4-8 hours, depending on the part length. This works very well, as multiple other machines can be attended while the B12 is manufacturing. The 6 foot bar length was selected to allow stainless steel and aluminum raw materials to be shipped economically by standard UPS ground.
It might be of interest that the B12 requires 100 VAC 3 phase, about 2000 Watts at full load. This power requirement was derived from a rotary phase converter and matching transformer located under the rattle tube support framework. This support frame also formed a handy desk area for the CAD PC associated with the B12.
EMCO Super 11
EMCO Super 11
CNC retrofitted EMCO 'Maximat' Super 11 combination lathe/mill
This Austrian built EMCO Maximat Super 11 was acquired in 2008 and retrofitted with CNC control of all axis, including tailstock control for deep drilling. It provides a reasonably good level of precision (tenths) and a high level of general flexibility.
This EMCO 'Super 11' replaced the Sieg C3, providing far better rigidity. The Super 11 is considered to be a 'high end hobby lathe', or 'light general purpose lathe', but as such, does perform very well. This is likely owing to the fact that for the manufacture of fittings, and various jigs and fixtures the Super 11 is indeed very adequately rigid and adequately powered. This lathe represents splitting the two manufacturing requirements previously placed on the Sieg C3, namely, the 'general use', and the 'instrument lathe' functions. The Super 11 took 'general use' and many 'instrument' jobs, and quite a few 'instrument' jobs went to the Schaublin 70.
CNC Schaublin 70
Schaublin 70, converted to fully automatic CNC
The Schaublin 70 is a high precision lathe typically used in horology and precision instrument manufacture. As such, the size belies the price of thee lathes. Without the CNC additions, the base lathe here, bed, headstock and X-Z table are priced in the $20,000 neighborhood. They are exceptionally well built in terms of design and craftsmanship.
This lathe is typically used for parts under 1/16" in dimeter.
At Best Instrument, Inc. we added the following modifications or additions to this particular lathe:
Servo spindle motor.
X and Z axis control (Stepper motors)
Gang tool block, including miniature bar puller
Main spindle collet activator (pneumatic)
Mach 3 CNC control from PC, with Xbox gamepad manual control
The X and Z automation were manufactured and installed in 2008, to automate a high volume requirement of supplying Supelco with a sub-set of the 'Suppelconnect' precision fittings line. This was a 'pre-TSip™' approach to UHPLC. The manufacturing requirement was to remove and clean a brazed joint between 1/32" and 1/16" stainless steel tubings. This brazed joint had previously been recognized as a potential implementation of TSip™ as described by patent applications of 2007.