Motion control specialist celebrates 50 years
50 years ago this month, Aerotech was an American garage start-up with Hungarian roots. From its beginnings as a toolmaker, the company is today recognised as a leading positioning systems designer.
Aerotech, manufacturer of high-performance motion control and positioning systems, is celebrating it’s 50th company anniversary. It all began with the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Stephen Botos, an 18 year old trained toolmaker, was on the front line and supplying the insurgents with food. When the uprising was put down with the help of the Russian army, he had to leave his home, and one foggy night he hid in a hay cart and crossed the Austrian border.
From Austria, he came eventually to the US, and a few months later had an American high school diploma in his pocket. He started his professional career at Goerz Optical, a manufacturer of optical lenses and systems. The products in which he participated as a designer included test devices for highly developed inertial control systems in the aerospace industry. Since his previous Hungarian degrees were not recognised, Botos took evening courses in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, while working as a designer. Immediately after completing his mechanical engineering degree in 1969, he and two of his engineering colleagues teamed up and founded Aerotech, in Pittsburgh in 1970.
The new company’s first development was $ 20,000 prototype location system for industrial use. The first positioning system manufactured was a simple two-axis electromechanical application and was available for around $300. Botos asserts that Aerotech was the first company to use closed-loop servo technology for its linear positioning systems. This was four times the performance of conventional stepper systems.
Aerotech saw rapid growth in the first few years. The first patent and the subsequent introduction of a manual optical holder contributed significantly to this. This enabled an extremely high resolution as well as a large range of motion. The initial manual positioners were soon followed by the first electronic controls and driven positioners. As a result, demand in the commercial sector for precision manufacturing and testing technology increased noticeably.
The first subsidiaries in the UK and Germany in the 1980s heralded international expansion. Thanks to the product range of positioning systems that has now been achieved, Aerotech was able to cover a wide range of industries, from medical technology and life science applications, in photonics, automotive, data storage, laser processing, aerospace, as well as verification and testing to assembly.
From it’s early beginnings in a Pittsburgh garage to today, Aerotech has carved out a solid niche in the field of high-precision motion control. “With our wide range of products, we specialise in machining in the nanometre range”, explains Simon Smith, European director Aerotech. The vertical range of manufacture is enormous; almost all components from the positioning system to interferometers and drives to motion control and software are mainly manufactured by Aerotech itself.
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