Knowing your history means knowing your future
A History of Innovations
From a mechanical work shop to innovating laser based shaft alignment Fixturlaser started the first business back in the early 80’s as Fixturteknik, a mechanical workshop manufacturing fixtures for the local car industry. An inquiry was made from a customer in another industry sector to solve a measurement problem. It resulted in our first laser based measurement system. At that time, laser light was generated by helium-neon filled cathode tubes, a bulky, sensitive and expensive technology. This first system was then developed into what later became the Digilaser product family.
The Digilaser-Combi – pioneer with visible red laser
Due to the work with fixtures we often came in contact with maintenance staff doing alignment of coupled machines. The first laser based shaft alignment systems on the market were using diode lasers, but with light of invisible wave length, with which it was perceived as difficult to work. As soon as the first laser diodes with visible red light came down so much in price that they were an alternative, we developed a shaft alignment system with this technology, the Digilaser-Combi.
The introduction of a laser shaft alignment tool with visible red laser was a giant step in user-friendliness at that time; our company’s philosophy to put the user in focus was established by this system.
As our focus shifted away from making fixtures for the automotive industry to making measurement systems, the company changed name to A. P. Fixturlaser AB.
Digilaser-Combi was our first standardized laser shaft alignment system. This product, as well as all our future products, was built on the philosophy to base the measurements on traditional methods. Fixturlaser’s shaft alignment products have always been based on the reverse dial method where the dial indicators are replaced by detectors and the brackets with lasers. The Digilaser-Combi became very popular by its customers because of its reliability and ruggedness.
The introduction of Combi-Laser and software for calculations
In 1989, the next big step in product development came with the introduction of the Combi-Laser. This was the very first shaft alignment tool to have software installed that carried out all calculations of the measurement values for the user combined with visible red laser. Additional functionality, such as measurement of straightness, perpendicularity and parallelism came a few years later as well as an intrinsically safe (Ex) system. The ease of use provided by the visible red laser, the lightweight and small TD units, and the display unit with software that made all the required calculations, made it the easiest system to use on the market, and to a very attractive price. The Combi-Laser was the first system from us that reached considerable volumes, and was exported throughout the world.
The introduction of Fixturlaser Shaft platform and touch screen with icon based graphical infterface
In the summer of 1996, we launched the Fixturlaser Shaft100. This was a huge technology leap. The use of a touch screen with icons and graphics for operating an industrial instrument was a total novelty and raised many eyebrows; would this really work? Time proved that the market accepted the new technology and appreciated the benefits of a user interface minimizing confusion and input errors. The unique user interface based on graphical symbols and no text, combined with state of the art sensor technology provided for a success.
Over the years, the Fixturlaser Shaft family was developed to include a wide range of applications, such as roll alignment, turbine measurement, extruder measurement, besides all aspects of shaft alignment. The use of touch screen combined with an icon based graphical interface has become Fixturlaser’s hall mark and has over time resulted in many followers in the field of industrial equipment.
The introduction of Colibri — an entry level shaft alignment tool
Shortly after the launch of the Fixturlaser Shaft100, as the top-of–the-line shaft alignment product, Fixturlaser developed and launched a product for the entry level shaft alignment customer: the Colibri. This system was simplified in all aspects in order to bring down the price to the lowest level on the market satisfying also the smaller industries’ requirement on a user-friendly tool.
The Fixturlaser Shaft product line developed into four different versions for laser shaft alignment through its lifecycle; from the basic to the most advanced. All of them with the same icon driven user interface making it easy for the user to migrate between different models. The strategy for software development was to keep the user interaction recognizable from one application program to another utilizing the user’s previous experience with the product, and as a result minimizing training requirements.
Innovative solution for measurements of dynamic movements
The operation was no more complicated than an ordinary shaft alignment and the application software took all the guess work out of evaluating the result. Best of all was that this addition to a Fixturlaser Shaft system cost only a fraction of what other existing methods for making the same type of measurement would cost. We have always followed very closely the research of components useable in our technology, and by 2004 we realized that there were different alternatives available for us to move the shaft alignment to the next step in evolution.
New technology — the backbone for a new product platform
We found two parts that was more important than others in order to cut down the time needed for doing an alignment:
- Minimize set up time
- An application software that followed and supported the operator in his work
While studying a typical alignment work, we found that adjusting the lasers to hit the target took relatively long time. We have good experience from using line lasers in one of our tools and realized that a line laser in combination with a large detector would more or less eliminate all laser adjustment. The current sensor technology had however several drawbacks when it came to the size of detector.
Usability in focus — a user-centered design and graphical interface
- Effective: How the users can achieve their goals completely and accurately
- Efficient: The speed with which the task can be completed (with required accuracy)
- Engaging: Pleasant and satisfying to use
- Error tolerant: Help the user minimizing operational errors, or the effect thereof
- Easy to learn: Low barrier for entry – powerful enough for long sustained use
Fixturlaser XA — Express Alignment by Fixturlaser
In 2006, it was time to unveil the result of this development work in form of the first product on this new platform, the Fixturlaser XA. We all felt that we had a product that stood out from what was available at that time but we never expected the reception to be so positive. The users just loved the crisp bright color screen with just the necessary information and live, animated graphics; when the laser heads were turned so were they also on the screen. We had expected that a few users would go with the wireless option, but never even thought that almost all systems would be wireless.
Encouraged by the success with the Fixturlaser XA system, the work continued with developing application programs for more advanced functions, such as machine train alignment, OL2R. Again focus was on making application software that was consistent with the already existing programs so that the user easily could move between the different programs.With a solid foundation laid with a state-of-the-art technical platform, and a reinforced position in GUI development, we truly believe that we have a unique product portfolio that can make a difference on the market.
And with our experiences throughout the years, we will continue to develop products – always with the user in focus.