Category Archives: Scopes

Where we are on scopes

So, great new design for the reticle. Whole new set-up fee for the tooling. ($$ ow. $$ really ow.) BUT it’s worth doing! You’ll notice it has BOTH English and metric units – so one scope can measure easily in either!

reticle

My new machinist, Constant, will be making the ten new sets of barrel and optic shells and so on. (Alas, he’s in the middle of a big job so his machines are tied up, so he can’t get my stuff done till Nov!)

The new lens kits for the bottom optics turned out to work perfectly. So, fingers crossed!

At long last, an update on the scopes!

Wow. It has been so very very long since an update!

TL;DR
The local machinist is brilliant! We’ve managed a couple of good prototypes. Got a superb custom reticle (HUGELY expensive, but necessary!) from an American company. This past couple months struggled with and found a solution for what I describe as ‘barrel distortion’ in the view. Got (several different) new lens kits and have re-machined the ‘bottom optic shell’ a couple times. We’ve about got it right! Picking up what we think is the final machined version this afternoon or tomorrow morning!

optic lens in shell

The longer version

So, the new machinist with the fancy machines: Constant, a brilliant guy from South Africa, with not just one but FOUR of the fancy precision lathes and decades of experience! Designer Jon and I met with him (last year!) and went over the drawings. A few tweaks and adjustments, and Constant produced the first prototype body: (it has, like, 14 pieces!). He has since helped (tremendously!) with redesigning suggestions and remaking parts as needed. (We’ve run through 3-4 barrel prototypes, a few other bits and pieces.)

The new reticles (also hugely expensive) came and checked out really well! The eyepiece lens kit came and works beautifully in the new eyepiece shell. The … sticking point … has been the bottom optic. When the whole prototype was put together, there was … distortion on the outer edges. (What I describe as ‘barrel distortion’; there’s a name for it, but I can’t remember it.) The scope focused okay, but the scale (the reticle) sort-of … expaaaaanded to read too long (on both the NIST block and the standard slide). Could get it focused, but then … oops.

Jon the designer came and our one-hour meeting ran five hours – BUT we worked out how to fix it! First, dumped the objective lens kits ($$ ow.) and ordered samples of two new lenses (different size from the first set to provide/allow for an aperture). New bottom optic “shell” from Constant, expanding the ‘space’ for the new top lens in the objective lens shell. New spacer and retaining ring (which I’m calling a “retaining star,” cause it looks kinda like that). Got all the parts in this past week-or-so, and I put the first (bottom) lens (very tiny, barely convex, so make sure it’s right-side-up!) And it fit great. Next, the lens spacer… Oh hell. Won’t go in at all. Juuuuast barely too wide. (It’s OTS, and it’s SUPPOSED to fit.)

optic lens in shell

Discussion with Jon and Constant. Ah, if we expand the ‘bottom well’ in the bottom optic shell, just enough to let the spacer in, NOT enough to let the lenses slide around, it SHOULD work! SO, Constant is redoing the bottom optic shell — probably as I write this! – and I hope to pick three prototypes up tonight. (It is SO wonderful to have both the designer AND the machinist within easy driving distance!! CONVENIENT!)

So, fingers crossed this is the final tweak needed. Plan is: if this IS it; I’ll be ordering ten of everything, assemble ten scopes and ten trial gauges. I have several customers who’ve been helpful (for YEARS!) testing the prototypes in their actual work, and so they and my major distributors will get a chance to whack ‘em around and see how they do. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to find a way to mass produce them that will NOT cost an arm-and-a-leg so I can put them into actual production.

I know, over the past … since April 2012 (so, five years and four months!) I’ve been saying; I’m hopeful, I think maybe THIS time I’ve got it… and then it wasn’t. But — I REALLY think that this time I may have it!!

Wish me luck!!

Latest on the custom-designed enhanced scopes!

Met this past week with my new industrial designer Jon; with Harry, my amazing lead machinist; and an intermediary machinist (also John, who works with both the designer and with Harry, mostly on medical gear). We went over the designer’s drawings in detail. They discussed what machinery would be needed to do the fine/precision lathe and milling work that would be needed to make all the parts. The decision was “a 5-axis precision lathe with precision milling capability.” (!!) Well, ooookay! Harry called his rep for those types of machines (he has some of their machines, but not this one.)

Next day, Harry said the rep had referred him to a guy who is … amazingly … just 11 miles away!! (The intermediary guy said he knew a bunch of folks up in NJ with that machining capability, but we wanted someone we could actually go look over their shop and, as Harry phrased it: “see if they were flakes.” Harry also says his rep has never yet referred him to someone who was not excellent.)

Harry has spoken with the guy, who says his shop can do what Harry was describing, and he has the … push-off bar? I think the intermediary machinist said would be useful for making the retaining rings … that allows the part to be machined on the lathe, then automatically pushed to the edge and sawn off, sequentially – saving massive amounts of hand work!)

So, we’ve emailed the package of drawings for the custom scopes to this guy, and are planning to go up and meet him once he has had a chance to look over all the drawings. the cut-away drawing

Update on the new enhanced scopes.

As you know, getting the new scopes designed and manufactured has been a hellish process. (Now hitting four years and five months!) I’ve run out of patience and ability to keep trying and waiting with the sourcing company I have been working with (yes, it has taken me WAY too long; I should’ve pulled the plug about 2 years ago!). I’ve tried many times to find a company that was willing to take on this project (custom size and shape microscopes and with such a fine reticle — so, not your average OTS item!) and failing. (Got LOTS of replies: “yeah-sure, we’ll be HAPPY to make you scopes…. Oh, well, no, not CUSTOM scopes!” {sigh})

By amazing coincidence, my main machinist (whom I call “the Blessed Harry,” because he has “saved” me multiple times) has a customer who has a customer — who turns out to be an industrial designer with ten-plus years working in medical microscopes!! I’ve met with him twice in the past three weeks; he has prepared a good proposal which I have accepted; and has prepared preliminary drawings and is working on finals. After much discussion about possible sourcing (options and possible problems) and minor design changes (that might be needed or possible) without interfering with the required backward compatibility, he has started on the first prototype; we’re just waiting on delivery of a specific lens kit.

In the meantime, he has done a drawing of the proposed custom reticle. (Of course, we need a custom reticle too; and since it has to be custom; I’ve decided to make it really custom — instead of going back to having two ‘styles’ of Tooke Gage (an ‘English-unit’ version and a metric-unit version), let’s have both scales on one reticle. Et voila:

reticle

(Oh! And the new guy will also be helping me with the camera adapter; the next big project once we get the scopes into production! Whoo hoo!)

Closer and closer … but not here yet

So, it’s mid-April. I started working on the custom-made scopes in April 2012 (that’s not a typo — it was four full years ago!). My sourcing co. prez returned last week from his latest trip to China to check on (among many other things, I’m sure), the second set of samples from the second microscope factory.

He, his engineer, and I just ended our conference call. And, just like always, it seems: some maybe-good news and some definitely mediocre news…

The maybe-good
The second factory has fixed the ‘up-side-down part’ in the eyepiece that caused rejection of the first sample set this past January. Mechanically/physically, everything in this second set of samples seems good.

The pretty darned mediocre
However…. and here we get back to my commitment: “if it’s not right, it’s not acceptable”: The English reticle, at the outer edges, seemed distorted. We have (and always use!) what’s called a ‘standard slide’ — it’s a certified microscope slide marked with exact ‘hashmark placement’ that allows one to look through a scope and verify/validate the hashmarks on a scope’s reticle by matching the hashmarks up. It’s how we make sure the reticle is accurate. (And, if it’s not right, it’s not acceptable. {sigh})

The metric reticle was (what, again: different factory, same problem!?) flat-out wrong. At least (is this a consolation?), the second factory wrongly multiplied a DIFFERENT factor than the first factory. (Hmmm nope, no consolation there!)

My sourcing co. left the standard slide and a metal-bodied and a plastic-bodied Tooke Gage with the factory engineers, after working with them to make sure they knew exactly and precisely and completely what is needed. The factory promises a new set of samples in ten days. (I’ll believe THAT when I hear they’ve done it! But sourcing co. prez will call them on the 28th, and if they say they’re done, he will send in his ‘guys on the ground there’ to go check, before they send the third set of samples over here for review.

So, once again, I must rely on your patience for what I sincerely hope will be only a little bit longer till we finally get the new enhanced scopes actually manufactured.

As always: if it’s not right, it’s not acceptable. And that’s non-negotiable.

January 2016: Happy New Year!

Well-so, more good news and bad news. (Well, bad news followed by hopeful news, followed by putative good news!)

Short version:
I spent Monday driving (6 hr each way!) down to Brunswick GA (out on the South Georgia coast) to meet with the sourcing company president and the engineer I’ve been working with about the benighted new enhanced scopes. The first samples from the second factory arrived last Monday and were not acceptable at all. ({sigh} Just how hard CAN it be to make an exact duplicate of a scope?!)

First face-to-face meeting for us-all, and it was a good meeting. We went over everything. The sourcing co. is going to go back to the second factory to see if they can make the scopes right AND to the first factory (to see if they can fix the mechanical problem that made us drop them).

Loooong drive home, and Tuesday morning, (sourcing co. engineer) Charlie calls and says he was disassembling the (new, second-factory) scopes to make sure he knew everything that needed to be addressed, and he found that one part of the top optics (in the eyepiece) had been **screwed in up-side-down**! When he reversed that piece, the new-new scopes worked perfectly. He is sending me one again to test and, we hope, approve. (Because I won’t accept ANYthing I have not actually had in my hands to test!)

So, I once again have hope we might actually GET there! “There” being actual great working scopes to replace those mostly undesirable “universal” scopes! (Cock-eyed optimist or am I being reasonable? Only time will tell!)

Semi-random entertainment: The first factory made a ‘proof of concept’
version, without tooling up for it. Shown next to their final version.

Longer version:
In our last installment, you may remember that last August we fired the first (and, to that point, only) microscope factory after a continuing “Keystone-cop cascade” (am I the only one old enough to remember who they were?) of mistakes, flaws, and less-than-optimal choices (not ours, theirs!).

The sourcing co. found a new factory that promised great new sample-scopes would be supplied within 30 days of … you know … last AUGUST?! The first samples arrived in late December. Engineer Charlie called and said he was just going to send them straight back to China, because the samples couldn’t even focus on the surface the gauge was standing on. ({sigh} I said: let me come down there and we’ll go over everything.)

I had emailed to the SBDC fellow who referred me (in April 2012!) that I didn’t know if I was going down there to fire the sourcing co. president, or he was going to fire me, or we were going to find a way to make this process work! (Turns out: the third…)

We went over all the previous prototypes and the drawings and the gauges and the problems and the successes. End result: They are going back to both the second and first factories (the first one did the optics perfectly — but there was an insuperable mechanical problem (with their “final production” run!). The disqualifying problem was a mechanical flaw: the bottom collar was not made smooth-and-flush (see previous blog entry for pix), and so the focusing screw would hang up and prevent the scope from focusing without backing-out the focusing screw, raising the scope by hand, and then continuing with the focusing screw. But they had the optics right!

The second factory? Pretty scopes, worked well in the gauge bodies: but could NOT focus on the surface the gauge was standing on.

Tuesday morning, Charlie calls and says he was disassembling the second-factory scopes to make sure he knew everything that needed to be addressed, and he found that one part of the top optics (in the eyepiece) had been **screwed in up-side-down**! When he reversed that piece, the new-new scopes worked perfectly. He is sending me one again to test and, we hope, approve. (Because I won’t accept ANYthing I have not actually had in my hands to test!)

I stressed that I need them to make sure there was some ‘physical’ way for a future-assembler to know which way is up on this piece. Five years down the track, could be some new guy at the factory, maybe new guys at the sourcing co., and I needed to make ABSOLUTELY SURE they wouldn’t be putting the eyepiece components in up-side-down again. I don’t care if it’s a notch or a stamped-on arrow, or they make one side a half-inch longer (it’s inside the barrel — no effect on the focus): there has to be a(s close as possible to a) “sailor-proof” way to assemble these things.

(I described for Charlie the old P-250 pump in the Navy (here’s a version: http://my.firefighternation.com/forum/topics/889755:Topic:2096360) — it has NO moving parts, not one! And yet (granted, rarely), sailors STILL sometimes manage to break it! So I want to make this assembly process as close to “sailor-proof” as we can! “THIS SIDE UP!” eh?)

So, I once again have hope we might actually be on track to finally (three years and at least ten months down the track!) have the new enhanced microscopes.

October 2015: new enhanced scopes status

We’ve had to pull all the scopes from the first factory. They were just unable to meet our specs. One example: Here is the original bottom collar from the old-style scopes:

This was the fix we agreed to back in February 2015 — the metal cap prevents the focusing screw from ‘hanging up’ and binding the scope from extending and retracting.

And then… here are the “final-final” samples they sent. (No cap. And also no “flush and level,” which was “rejected-for-correction” in both August 2013 and January 2014 and for which the metal cap WAS the fix!)

And this one is sort-of flush but not level. (I’m guessing these sorts of lack of quality are WHY no metal-cap fixes were used: the caps couldn’t go on!)

The sourcing company president and I are both ‘keeping after’ the new factory (now that they’re back from their two-week national holiday!) and will let y’all know how it goes.

Sept 2015: new enhanced custom scopes

(This is the “short” version. For all the gory, miserable details, please see here: http://www.micro-metrics.com/scopeupdate.htm)

I feel as if I keep making promises to you and then not delivering on the new enhanced microscopes. I expect that you may also feel as if I keep not delivering – and I know it’s difficult for you to keep waiting for the better scopes. You keep waiting, your business keeps going, and the current universal scopes, no matter how accurate (and they are: I test every single scope against certified NIST gage-blocks before shipping), are less-than-optimal because of the less-fine reticle.

(And I realize some of you may not be able to wait longer and must turn elsewhere for an inspection device: I am more sorry than I can express at putting you in the position of having waited so long and then still not (yet) getting a better scope in a Tooke Gage. I hope you can wait a little longer.)


The short(er) version:

In May, we (Micro-Metrics and the sourcing company managing this process for me) received samples of the final order of “completed” scopes: (we had required yet another/one last review-and-approval step before shipping the whole order). In short: both English and metric scopes were completely unacceptable (despite the prototypes having been approved)! (See what was wrong with both scopes.)

As of August: we have taken the following steps:

  • We pulled all 400 of the unusable metric scopes from the original factory.
  • We have found a new factory that promises working samples of the metric scopes within 30 days (from about 2 weeks ago). We are again requiring approved samples before proceeding.
  • If the new factory’s samples are approved, we will have the new factory do the remainder of the 400 metric scopes.
  • The original factory is “repairing” the 600 English-reticle scopes. The English reticles measure great: clear and accurate! However, the reticle and internal optics were not secured in the barrel during production. (Three of 20 samples were broken on receipt.)
  • (If the metric scopes work out), we will probably pull the English scopes as well and have the new factory finish them too.


Interested in the details on what was wrong with both scopes?


My commitment (has not changed):

The new enhanced microscopes HAVE to be right! There is no place in my world (or yours) for scopes that do not meet the quality and operational standards we (I and you, my customers and distributors) require. Micro-Metrics has always had a reputation for quality and accuracy: this is the fundamental basis for this company, and when I inherited Micro-Metrics in 2011, it became (and remains) the basis for all I do.

I am willing to invest time (and money) to get these scopes right; I am not willing sacrifice quality to get them sooner (or cheaper). Though it has taken an insane amount of time – until the scopes are RIGHT, they aren’t acceptable (and that, alas, means they aren’t available for you). Micro-Metrics and the sourcing company are committed to doing whatever it takes to make the new enhanced scopes right. Finding a reliable maker has turned out to be a lot harder than either of us imagined!

An aside:

My sourcing company president IS good and honorable and working hard on this project (and is nearly as frustrated as I am). This is not something he is doing wrong or not following up on. Most things I’ve turned my hand to have turned out good or better. This upgrade? It will turn out good, because I won’t be done until it is! The original factory did a great job (and was worth the large cost) of designing the custom scopes (a truly esoteric skill), but the actual manufacturing seems to present a challenge to them.

End aside

Once I get the new enhanced scopes, I will be offering a scope-swap program to replace the universal scopes with the enhanced scopes . ( I will be giving a (large) discount on the cost of the scope, and not charging any labor.) If you wish to be on the list of people who want to be notified when I have the new scopes, please email me (elenor2011@micro-metrics.com). Also, I will post an announcement on the company blog, just as soon as the new enhanced scopes arrive (and have been tested and accepted!).

green OG204

The other new program I will begin soon is a “body-transplant”: if you have an old metal or plastic gauge with the old-style scope you can have your gauge rebuilt (with the new metal body) using your current scope. (Please note: if your OG204 Tooke Gage has a green plastic body, I am still replacing those shells under warranty. Email me!)

Thank you for your patience during this oh-so-long process.

Update on the better scopes


final enhanced scope, photo from factory

STILL no good word on the new enhanced scopes: my sourcing co. guy is IN China (again)…

(All the way back in MAY {wince}…) The factory reported that they had ‘gotten the scopes all done and were sending examples for final approval before shipping and here were photos of them.’

I completely freaked out, because what they had built was missing the last step (which we had ‘fixed’ back in, like, October?). Thankfully, that fix is (apparently?) an easy one; they left off the metal cap on the bottom of the scopes. (The prototype without the ‘cap’ hangs up on the focusing screw – totally not acceptable!)

Not-quite-done
final incomplete enhanced scope

Accepted prototype
final incomplete enhanced scope

So, we’re trying to get the English scopes (re-)done and shipped; that will make customers who use English units very happy. (And me, well-nigh delirious!)

The enhanced metric scopes, when the examples arrived at the sourcing co., seem to have something fundamentally wrong (with the reticle? with the focal length? TBD): they’re not measuring correctly. This will further dismay customers who use metric units, as we still have to figure out WHY the metric reticle is not reading correctly, and then fix that problem!

Still, the minute I get the English scopes in my hands, I will make them available in new gauges, and begin the ‘swap program’ for folks who hate the current universal scopes (which are both metric units AND less-fine-measuring: 50 microns per hashmark; the enhanced ones will be 20 microns). ( Have I mentioned the I hate the universal ones?)

Some detail to whet appetites?

Since I am still awaiting word on the actual delivery date for the new scopes, I thought I’d post some info about the various types of reticles that are, and will be, “out there.”

The current universal scope
0.05mm per hashmark:
0.05mm = 50 microns = 0.00197″

the current universal reticle


The old-style English scope
0.001″ per hashmark:
0.001″ = 0.0254mm = 25.4 microns

the old-style English reticle


The old-style metric scope
0.005″ per hashmark:
0.005″ = 0.127 mm = 127 microns

the old-style metric reticle


The enhanced English scope
0.001″ per hashmark:
0.001″ = 0.0254mm = 25.4 microns

new enhanced English reticle

the English reticle drawing


The enhanced metric scope
No photo yet, because I have not gotten a prototype, but it should be pretty similar to the English photo above, since it’s made by the same company.
0.02mm per hashmark:
0.02mm = 20 microns = 0.000787″

new enhanced metric reticle