LK is the oldest CMM manufacturer in the world. LK Tool Company Limited was founded in Derby, England in 1963 by Norman Key (former Rolls Royce engineer) and Jim Lowther (Norman’s father-in-law). It was a supplier of granite inspection tooling to the engineering industry and then became the innovator of the “Bridge Type” multi-axis coordinate measuring machine. LK started operating in the United States in 1983, capturing a large part of the automotive market for high volume production inspection systems. Since then, LK Metrology has been designing, manufacturing, and deploying CMMs throughout the world.
Founded by Norman Key, a former Rolls-Royce engineer, LK (formerly named as LK Tool) were a supplier of granite inspection tooling and inspection components to the engineering industry.
The name LK was formed by using the initials of Jim Lowther, his father-in-law and owner of Notsa Engineering, and Normans surname, Key.
First Manual CMM
The first LK Maxi-Check manual CMM was supplied to Rolls-Royce Bristol.
LK continued to expand the size of Coordinate Measuring Machines and became the first manufacturer to offer a system complete with mini-computer and in-house written inspection software.
First Touch-Trigger Probe
LK worked in partnership with Rolls-Royce developing the now industry standard Renishaw Touch-Trigger Probe.
Norman Key worked with the Chairman of Renishaw, Dave McMurtry and ordered the first 10 probes to fit to the Maxi-Check CMM replacing the original solid probes. Notice how these first probes carried the LK logo.
Expansion in Derby (UK)
After the move to its current Derby site, LK purchased the company Control Systems from Rolls-Royce.
First Motorised/CNC Maxi Check CMM
The first motorised or CNC Maxi-Check machine was supplied to LK’s first overseas customer in Sweden.
Largest Moving Bridge CMM
LK manufactured the world’s largest moving bridge co-ordinate measuring machine to inspect Mini Metro bodies at Rover Longbridge, England. Interestingly, this machine is still used to inspect car bodies to this day after many upgrades.
First Horizontal Spindled CMM
LK designed and developed the world’s first horizontal spindled CMM named Metre 4. This machine incorporated a granite spindle. The first machine was sold to Rolls-Royce Hucknall in Nottinghamshire, England.
New LK MICRO 4
The ‘little brother’ to the LK Metre 4, the LK Micro 4 was introduced. The first machine was infact manufactured by Leicester based, British United Shoe Machine Co. Ltd.
1st Bridge CMM With Granite Slideways
LK manufactured the world’s first bridge machine incorporating all granite slideways. Replacing the Maxi-Check, the Granite 80 (or G80 as it was called) stayed in manufacture until it was superseded by firstly the ‘G80HA’ and then the ‘Axiom’ range some 12 years later.
Large Granote Bridge CMM
A large all granite bridge style CMM was sold to I.U.G in Romania with a measuring volume of 9m x 3m x 2m.
This granite table was so large, two individual tables had to be mated and epoxy bonded together using a special LK developed process.
First Carbon Fibre Spindled CMM
LK introduced another world’s first, the Carbon Fibre spindled Micro 4. This high accuracy horizontal arm machine was ideal for car body measurement.
The Micro 4 was redesigned incorporating all granite slideways and all air-bearing construction.
LK moved into the American market with the formation of LK Tool USA Inc. initially based in Chicago and then moving on to Phoenix.
A second USA location was opened in 1983 in Flint, Michigan to service the Automotive Industry.
Acquisition by Cincinnati Milacron
Following 21 years as a private company, LK were bought out by the machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Milacron. Cincinnati wanted to incorporate measurement into their FMS along with their machine tools.
Ford purchased Twin Column CMM
The Ford Motor Company ordered two high speed ‘Twin Column’ Micro 4 CMM’s with automated part loading systems.
LK supplies to General Motors
LK were chosen as a preferred supplier of co-ordinate measuring machines for General Motors. Over 50 machines were supplied between 1984 and 1987.
Largest Twin-Bridge CMM for Boeing
Boeing ordered the world’s largest twin-bridge machine for the measurement of 747 wing structures. This machine, being too large for manufacture in-house, was built at the British Rail Engineering workshops in Derby.
Following continuing success in the world market, LK were awarded the Queen’s Award for Export.
Again, LK were leading the world with it’s use of materials technology and the Axiom range of ceramic spindle machines were introduced.
First CF90 CMM with Ceramic, Invar and Carbon Fibre
Another first for LK: the CF90 machine range was introduced. This machine was designed as a truly thermally stable machine utilising Ceramic, Invar and Carbon Fibre in its construction.
The first two machines were sold to GM in Buick City and Hamtrack in the USA. This machine was designed and developed to meet the GM specification for speed, accuracy and shop-floor use.
Ultrasonic NDT Inspection Machines
With the Aerospace Industry using more carbon fibre components, LK introduced the Ultrasonic NDT inspection machines to test for de-lamination.
LK acquired by Transtec
LK were bought by a Birmingham based group of companies, TransTec, led by then local Member of Parliament and businessman, Geoffrey Robinson
The re-designed Micro/Metre 4 horizontal arm machines, re-named the HC90, were introduced with a four column machine installed at Rover Longbridge in Birmingham, England.
In the same year, LK Tool USA Inc were relocated in a new facility in Brighton, Michigan.
Introduction of G-90C Range
The Axiom range of bridge machines were re-designed with ceramic beam and spindle components and introduced as the G-90C range.
LK G90K and G-90C
Another first for LK, the G90K was redesigned using an ‘H’ section ceramic beam and ceramic spindle.
The manufacturing process for the bridge utilised specialist bonding technology for the assembly of the beam.
The first machine was supplied to Argentina (Fric Rot Automotive) and now LK’s global presence covers 37 countries.
FMS CMM and LK HK office
Automation reached new heights with the installation of five fully integrated FMS CMM’s in CDC.
LK world support continued to grow with the opening of the LK Hong Kong office.
CMM programming was revolutionised with the use of CAD data. LK introduced the first release of the now world famous CAMIO software incorporating full DMIS support.
Based upon Spatial Technologies ACIS solid modelling kernel, CAMIO software offered both on-line and off-line programming capability.
Increasing the machine portfolio, LK introduced the Ultra range of high accuracy bridge machines. Competing with Lietz and Zeiss, the Ultra offered standards room accuracy at a reduced cost.
LK LY90S Horizontal Arm CMM
Introducing yet another machine range, the LY90S Layout style of horizontal arm machines was released.
Acquistion By Schroders,
The ownership of LK changed. Schroders, one of the worlds largest investment brokers, bought the company from TransTec.
Machine controllers form an important part of the measuring system. The advent of continuous contact probing led LK to introduce the LK4000 controller. Controlling up to 9 axis, the LK4000 supported a new range of analogue probes from Renishaw.
After 5 years of continuous growth in the CAMIO software, a new product CAMIO Studio-Inspect introduced a new user-friendly interface with enhanced programming capability. This software paved the way for future-proofing the inspection software from LK.
New Evolution & Integra CMM
LK celebrated 40 years of metrology expertise.
Incorporating all this knowledge into the machine design saw the bridge range of machines improved and the Evolution and Integra machines were born, both offering an unprecedented 10 year structural guarantee.
14 machines for Land Rover
Land Rover placed an order for 14 car body machines for the quality control of the new Discovery.
LK G-90C & LK Ascent Production in China
LK form a joint venture with Chinese company SMTC to produce CMM machines in China.
Shanghai Measuring and Cutting Tool Works begin to produce the LK G-90C range and also the new granite based LK Ascent.
LK PT Scan
LK enter the automotive powertrain market to compete against Zeiss and the fixed probe.
Primarily designed for the USA market, the PT Scan machine was an evolution of the Ultra offering high-speed analogue scanning, but with volumetric accuracy as low as 1.4+L/500.
Acquisition by Metris
LK CMM’s were added to the Metris portfolio of non-contact inspection solutions in order to provide a full CMM laser scanning solution, including service and support, to compliment the existing range of Metris scanners.
LK Libero replaces the PT Scan offering improved accuracy, repeatability and speed performance for powertrain measurement
LK Supplies The Widest CMM
LK supply, what is still thought to be at 6m, the widest CMM ever manufactured. With a working volume of 6m x 6m x 3m, this massive CMM still manages to achieve accuracies of less than 5 microns due entirely to the design and ceramic material technology that has been the trademark of LK for over 20 years.
Nikon takeover Metris
Metris is acquired by Japanese giant, Nikon Corporation.
The LK CMM enters into it’s next new era after the acquisition of Metris by Nikon Corporation, Japan.
Nikon wanted to diversify it’s Instruments Division into full 3D measurement with an emphasis on non-contact metrology.
LK CAMIO software enters into its 7th generation of development. With full simulation, collision detection and multi-sensor support, CAMIO is proving to be the forerunner in multi-sensor DMIS programming
LK ALTERA Range
The LK Altera replaces the small volume Integra model. With a major re-design incorporating improved performance, productivity and reliability, the Altera is the first fully Nikon branded CMM.
LK Celebrates 50 Years
The LK brand reaches 50 years of age. After 50 years of development, the LK CMM has come a long way since the early days of fixed probe and solid granite construction.
NMC100 & NMC 300
LK controllers update to the latest electronics with the introduction of the NMC300 and the NMC100
LK ALTERA for Turbine Blade Inspection
LK Altera CMM machines are selected by American aircraft engine manufacturer for turbine blade inspection.
LK design and develop a twin-probe solution for >1.2m deep bore measurement using SP80 and PH10M probe heads for laser/touch probe measurement
LK ALTERA M Replaces Evolution & Libero
The LK Altera M replaces the Evolution and Libero models. The Evolution and Libero also get a re-design incorporating many of the successful innovations from the Altera S, and continue to showcase LK as a world-competing CMM brand.
Acquistion By ASF Metrology
After Nikon decided to concentrate on non-contact technology, ASF Metrology owner Angelo Muscarella seized the opportunity to purchase the CMM division from Nikon and lead the newly created LK Metrology into it’s next exciting chapter…
5-axis Solution: SCANTEK5
LK introduce Scantek5 with Renishaw Revo-2 scanning system and multisensor technology to offer 5-axis solution.
Multisensor Compact CMM: ALTERA C
LK launch its budget CMM, maintaining its unique 10-year accuracy guarantee. LK also introduce a new version of its CAMIO software, 8.5, designed to raise productivity in the inspection department, improve the quality of data collected, reduce measuring cycle times and accelerate time to market for new products.
LK China New Tech Centre
LK China opened its New Tech Centre in Shanghai (China), LK Europe opened its office in Turin (Italy) and LK US relocated to its new premises in New Hudson in Michigan.
Freedom Portable Measuring Arms
LK Metrology has for the first time diversified into the supply of 3D articulating arm metrology systems with the launch of a range of 24 portable measuring arms called “FREEDOM”, offering a 6-axis model for touch probing and a 7-axis version for multi-sensor metrology including laser scanning.
LK Launch Contract CMM Inspection Service
Located in the new North American Technical Center, LK US built a new CMM Measurement Services Department for performing contract dimensional inspection using the latest metrology software with state-of-the-art multi-sensor technology applied to the newest LK Metrology CMM designs.
LK launch a new product to the marketplace – the LK StyliCleaner – an automated stylus tip cleaning system.
LK acquires an Italian CMM manufacturer
VIVID laser scanner
LK launches its first high accuracy, high resolution blue Laser CMM scanner
LK Metrology and Wenzel Technologies enter into a Strategic Partnership
In addition to a joint technological cooperation, Wenzel Technologies will sell LK’s innovative, high-performance coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and other metrological products in southern Germany.