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Fortress and Renishaw pick up Queen`s Awards

18 May, 2007

The Wolverhampton-based safety specialist Fortress Interlocks has won a Queen’s Award for Innovation for its mGard range of modular safety interlocks, which have cut its delivery times dramatically. Another of this year’s 40 Innovation Awards has gone to Renishaw for a radio-based spindle probe system for use on CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine tools.

Fortress’ mGard range allows complex interlock systems to be assembled quickly from standard parts. It has cut the company’s delivery times from as long as eight weeks to as short as a day. The modular design also means that the interlocks can be disassembled and adapted to new applications, if required.

The mGard range has cut Fortress’ direct labour costs by 60% and allowed it to enter new markets - in particular, North America. The range now accounts for almost 40% of the company’s turnover.

Fortress Golding and Stubbs

"Fortress has been at the forefront of developments in safety interlocking for over 40 years, so we are especially proud to be honoured in the prestigious Queen’s Awards for our innovation," says managing director, Mike Golding (shown above, left, with the company’s engineering manager, Tim Stubbs).

Since launching the mGard range, Fortress has introduced an even more radical range, called eGard, with which it hopes to penetrate the 85% of the market that does not use interlocks yet. The eGard range, which is also modular, combines interlocks and machine controls to provide a complete machinery access and control system. Fortress hopes that the new range will help it to double its earnings over the coming four years.

Fortress - a member of the Halma group - recently received funding from the Advantage West Midlands development agency to expand and modernise by moving to a new factory near its existing Wolverhampton site.

Renishaw’s Queen’s Award - its twelfth since 1979 - is for a system that uses a radio-based probe system to improve the speed, reliability and safety of CNC machines. The RMP60 and RMI system is used to measure workpieces, to provide offset fixtures, to control in-cycle processes, and to inspect work being machined automatically.

Innovations in the system include: the use of a specialised transmission control algorithm; the introduction of frequency hopping to cut interference; and the development of a technique for turning probes on and off using radio signals.

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