Quality Innovations: Intelligent Testing
Shimadzu (Columbia, MD) aims to match its “top of the line” testing machine, AG-X Autograph, with the right applications.
Product manager Gilbert Vial says that their goal is to fit the machine to the application and create solutions, instead of products. Therefore, they will not try to sell this type of high-precision machine if the customer does not need a deluxe machine.
Vial anticipates that it will fill a need in the automotive testing marketplace and it should be a good fit for those critical test parameters. The product is almost endlessly customizable, as the company offers many different versions and accessories.
The AG-X Autograph can make precision measurements easier. Suitable for a variety of industries-for quality assurance or research and development testing of plastics, metals and other component parts-the AG-X with Trapezium-X software was released in Japan in April 2007, and in June in the United States.
Vial anticipates that the product’s main application will focus on the metals industry, such as automotive, medical devices and precision measurement.
Though other testing machines exist, Vial says the Autograph is noticeably different from its competitors. “If we compare specifications, it should not be an issue,” Vial says, who says the AG-X’s specifications set it apart, including the precision, resolution of movement and rigidity of the frame. “All those specifications make the machine unique.”
While some companies may offer isolated, comparable specifications on their products, the combination of specs is very high for the same machine, says Vial. The Autograph has a broad range of speed, high movement precision, along with the precision of the machine and range of the load cell.
Also, the automatic self-diagnostics function allows the performance of routine inspections on site, ensures proper maintenance based on inspection records and allows accurate, rapid communication with service providers via a log transmission.
High PrecisionBecause of the high demand for high precision instruments, particularly in transportation because of safety issues, Shimadzu saw a need for the product. The machine was in development for about five years in Japan, where Shimadzu is based, though ideas for the product came from the United States, Europe and Japan. The company aimed for a single machine able to do a lot, and also for an easier to use load cell.
“Precision and accuracy is the number one issue for transportation and safety-related tests,” Vial says.
Operators often operate independently of each other; with the AG-X, they have the capability to configure a test to their needs. With the use of a USB memory stick, they can operate the machine, save data and have the freedom to perform their analysis somewhere else.
For example, the machine can be on the floor in the plant, and information can be distributed to the desktop computer in the manager’s office. Operators can prepare the memory stick, run the test and then keep test results confidential.
However, if the application does not require high precision measurement, the customer may not need something so elaborate. For example, Vial says the purchase would be difficult to justify for those doing food analysis or a simple type of test. “When you don’t need high precision, you don’t need it,” Vial says.
“It’s like the people who have high model cars,” Vial says. “This is the top of the line of what you can do.”
Still, the machine is competitively priced, according to Vial, and price depends on accessories and size. Quoting a price on the product takes time, as the company aims to discern what features are needed for each customer’s application. Vial compared it to trucks, which can mean anything from a pickup truck up to an 18-wheeler. If a driver needs a truck, Shimadzu will not necessarily try to sell them a heavy-duty 18-wheeler, for example.
With choices concerning the frame, load cell and software, the combinations make it difficult to quote a price without understanding the customer’s application.
“We ask customers about the application and verify that the machine fits what they need. We don’t force feed the customer the AG-X,” Vial says. “It depends on what they need. If they do a test to check a critical part in the car, we are going to recommend a machine with high precision and accuracy. We would recommend the AG-X.
“We work on applications,” Vial says. “If somebody has a problem, we try to find a solution.”
For more information, contact Shimadzu Scientific Instruments
- 7102 Riverwood Dr.
Columbia, MD 21046