For the first thirty years that Norbar manufactured torque measuring instruments we were not too concerned about what people did with the data that the instrument produced. Of course, the earliest versions did not even provide a means of electronically transferring the data from the instrument to any other device, so the provision of RS-232 in the 1980s seemed like an advance, but a costly one, because we charged over £200 extra or the privilege. Also, it took so much space in the lid of the instruments (TWA and ETS) that you could not have RS-232 and an internal battery pack. Those were the days!
The real Norbar instrument geeks will remind me that RS-232 was not our first means of data transfer – that was Binary Coded Decimal (BCD) on the ETTA instrument of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but I am going to gloss over that!
Thankfully, RS-232 became standard on instruments from 1994 although there is now a question of whether new generation products should include it because it has been made virtually obsolete by USB and many computers do not have an RS-232 connection.
Having a means of data output is one thing, but being able to do anything with the data is another. Also, our solution did nothing for customers who needed to rove around their workplace gathering data as they went as we had no product with multiple memories.
With this in mind, we put a huge effort behind the launch of Pro-Log in 1999. Finally, we could gather data on internal memory, perform simple analysis of the data and download the data via RS-232 for archiving and more sophisticated analysis – although, at the time, we provided no PC software to assist with this.
With the benefit of hindsight, the Pro-Log was a clever device let down by the user interface technology that was available at an affordable price at the time. Because we were using a fairly small, monochrome display people’s perception was that the instrument was complicated and that was its downfall. The good news is that the Pro-Log developed into the highly successful TTT , TST and “Harsh Environment” instruments, the latest versions of which are still selling strongly today, but by 2004 we were back in the position that none of our instruments had the capability of multiple memories.
As the “noughties” progressed, we saw the price of colour display technology and single board computers drop to the point that they became viable for use in torque measuring instruments and we decided to develop the Pro-Log concept into a modern instrument. We launched the T-Box in 2009 and, for the first time, we made our instrument available with comprehensive PC software (TDMS) that allowed more sophisticated analysis of the data than was possible on the instrument itself and for archiving and tool management, including the production of calibration certificates.
The original T-Box was a massive step forward in terms of torque data management and the colour touch screen was light years ahead of the old Pro-Log display. If we are critical of ourselves, the display looked a little small in the case which lead to accusations of an “etch-a-sketch” appearance (remember those?), but that did not stop the T-Box being a fantastic bit of kit that sold well to the end.
“The end” of the T-Box was brought about somewhat prematurely because some of the parts that we relied on were obsoleted by the manufacturers. However, this gave us a chance to re-visit the product and incorporate some of the great ideas that had been suggested over nearly five years of T-Box production. We also changed the display screen to a high definition 7” type and put in a faster processor to make PC synchronising more rapid. Wow, what a difference. The 7” screen looks so right in the case that you would never guess that they were not designed for each other in the first instance. With the incorporation of so many of the ideas from the market into both T-Box and TDMS there is a genuine coming-of-age feel to T-Box XL. A good product just became great.
Philip Brodey, Sales and Marketing Director, Norbar Torque Tools