Top Menu

Case Studies

Read case studies involving ABTech’s precision gages and our successful research projects and collaborations with companies like NASA.

ABTech Designs Custom Thickness Gage for Engine Bearing Manufacturer

October 2014 – ABTech was approached to develop a custom thickness gage for a major US engine manufacturer. The need was for a gage that could measure thickness variation on engine bearing halves before and after Dyno testing to determine wear patterns and evaluate new materials and coatings. The gage needed to have an accuracy of 0.25 microns or better, and a resolution of .025 microns.

Custom Radial Thickness Gage Model RTG150

Custom Radial Thickness Gage Model RTG150

The MicroForm µFG150 gage platform with a rotary air bearing table was used as the foundation for the gage to precisely rotate the bearing part.

Custom Centering Fixture with Bearing

Custom Centering Fixture with Bearing

ABTech engineers leveraged existing component designs where possible, with modifications made to the adjustable tilt and center worktable assembly and vertical height adjustments. Completely new designs were needed for a quick part holding device; air actuation and controller for the probes; and a manual rotational drive mechanism.

One of the main challenges of this project was to provide the specified accuracy over a large thickness range requiring the development of miniature encoded linear air bearing stages to perform as the sensors. Two of these stages were used to trace the inner and outer surfaces of the bearings, creating a map of the part’s thickness. Multiple traces made at different heights of the bearing are then overlaid and analyzed relative to each bearing’s unique tolerance window as defined by the operator in the custom gage software.

Radial Thickness Gage Software

Radial Thickness Gage Software

Radial Thickness Gage Results

Radial Thickness Gage Results

The project from final scope definition to gage delivery took less than ten months to complete. Installation and training at the manufacturer’s research and development facility was performed in one day with actual parts off the Dyno being tested the same day.


Click to download the press release

New Air Bearing Spindle Designed for Precision Grinding

June 2014 – ABTech designed a new high speed air bearing spindle to address specific requirements for an ultra-precision optical grinding application. Of particular interest to the machine manufacturer was added robustness of the spindle to overcome catastrophic crashes experienced with their primary supplier.

SP138 Air Bearing Spindle.jpg

Model SP138 High Speed Air Bearing Spindle

High accuracy and stiffness at speeds up to 10,000 RPMs, along with low air consumption, liquid cooling and balancing adjustments were required to be packed into a small overall footprint.

The result is the all new model SP138.

Click to download the SP138 Datasheet

ABTech Helps Improve “Fives Giddings and Lewis” Manufacturing Quality

From the Quality Team at Fives Giddings and Lewis in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (October 22, 2013):

“At Fives Giddings and Lewis, we have always prided ourselves in inspecting part pieces and assemblies to an extremely high degree of accuracy. With our high-speed spindle assemblies and precise part pieces, we are able to ensure measurements are of a high degree of accuracy. I personally remember almost 40 years ago how the trace was burned onto the carbon-backed paper and over the years how we have used several different gages. Things have changed just a little!

MicroForm MFG450 LabeledWe purchased the ABTech Model µFG450/600 MicroForm Roundness gage just over a year ago and it has exceeded our expectations. We are continually trying to improve the performance of our products at Fives Giddings and Lewis, so naturally when I used the older form gages through the years I had the same thought process – how could I have made this older model form gage perform better and more efficient. Over the years we have thought of quite a few creative ideas that the older form gage systems did not have. Shortly after purchasing the ABTech system we approached ABTech with some novel ideas on software/hardware changes, and they were not only willing, but able and successful at implementing our ideas for enhancement, which I personally thought was especially noteworthy.

We believe that a relationship like this will be a win-win and will provide continued success for ABTech and keep Fives Giddings and Lewis on the leading edge in quality.

Thanks again for a job well done.”

Princeton University takes ABTech Air Bearing to the South Pole

Researchers at Princeton University needed a large diameter ultra-precision rotational axis with a motor drive, so they contacted ABTech to provide a solution.

What made this request unusual?

  • First, they needed to install their ENTIRE research project on TOP of the rotary table.
  • Second, their tests had to be run continuously over a period of several weeks.
  • Third, their sensitivity level was so high that the system had to be installed at the South Pole to eliminate the effects of the earth’s rotation!
AT400DD with Controller

ABTech’s Model AT400DD with Single Axis Motion Controller

ABTech supplied an AT400 series rotary air bearing table capable of holding 2,000 lbs with certified rotational accuracies of better than 5µ” (millionths of an inch). An integrated direct drive was added along with a single axis programmable controller to move this mass in a repetitive oscillation pattern for several weeks at a time.

The research project with was installed at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station early in 2013. This marked the first time an ABTech product had been “exported” to Antarctica, making it the 7th (and final!) continent where our products are being used!

As Marc Smiciklas, the post doctoral research associate at Princeton reported: “I just got back from the South Pole last week. Everything there went well. The experiment is now up and running, and the air table is working flawlessly!”

For the truly technical, here is an excerpt of the article published online by The Antarctic Sun:

SPLIT Experiment Installation

South Pole research associate Andrew Vernaza, left, and scientist Marc Smiciklas install the SPLIT experiment in the former Cryogenics Lab.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Donenfeld

New experiments installed at the South Pole in January
By Jeffrey Donenfeld, South Pole correspondent
Posted February 8, 2013

The installation of the South Pole Lorentz Invariance Test (SPLIT) is being overseen by Princeton University  post-doc Marc Smiciklas for principal investigator Michael Romalis.

A violation in this symmetry would suggest that there’s a new element to physics which falls outside of what the current standard model can predict.

The SPLIT apparatus arrived in January. One of the main tasks involved alignment of the sensitive laser optics. Smiciklas will work with research associate Andrew Vernaza on developing comprehensive maintenance, testing and operating procedures for the winter.

The full article can be read at: Antarctic Sun South Pole Lorentz Invariance Test (SPLIT) Project.

NASA Chooses ABTech for Precision Telescope Optics Machines

NASA scientists challenged ABTech to develop a multifunctional machine that would act as a grinding lathe, an indexing tool for raster grinding and an assembly station—all in one. The machine would safely and quickly produce optics for their long-delayed NuSTAR X-ray telescope. ABTech met the challenge and delivered the machines to Columbia University’s Nevis Astrophysics Lab to help put the project back on schedule.

Custom NuSTAR 5-Axis Air Bearing LatheThe two turn-key, air bearing based, optics assembly machines grind the graphite mounting surfaces for 4,680 optical glass segments and assemble the cylindrical optics modules for NASA’s NuSTAR telescope, scheduled for launch in 2011. Each multi-function machine incorporates ultra-precision ABTech manufactured air bearings with direct drive motors and high-resolution encoders. Each machine has an extended travel Y-axis stacked onto dual parallel linear air bearings set with a wide stance to serve as the X-axis. An ABTech high-speed air bearing spindle is mounted on a unique custom-designed indexing turret. Coaxial head stock and tailstock air bearing spindles make up the precision lathe, which required ABTech to customize the CNC controller to operate in dual functioning lathe and indexing modes.

The contract was awarded to ABTech based on the technical merits of our proposal and our proven ability to deliver custom systems within critical time frames.


  • LAB-R series linear stacked air bearing stages straight and flat to less than 20 micro-inches (0.5 micron) over the full 24 inch (600mm) travel
  • Air bearing work holding and tailstock spindles (model WHS-180) for lathe operation or holding position of the optic during assembly and grinding
  • SP-125 high-speed air bearing spindle for grinding graphite mounting surfaces
  • Indexing turret assembly to quickly and easily transition between diamond turning, grinding and LVDT measurements
  • Granite surface plate and air bag style vibration isolation base frame
  • Ergonomic and multi-functional platform with both front and rear access
  • Customized Delta Tau CNC controller and electrical control cabinet

NuSTAR System Back ViewNuSTAR System Spindle CloseupNuSTAR System Lathe ViewNuSTAR First Finished Optic

See results of the telescope following the successful satellite launch in 2012 on the NuSTAR CalTech website:

ABTech Designs Optical Metrology Station with 5 Axes of Motion

OptiPro Systems, a well-respected optical machine manufacturer, came to ABTech with a concept and left with a complete motion system.

Download Renishaw’s case study on ABTech’s 5-axis system for OptiPro Systems

They first approached ABTech to supply just air bearing stages for their prototype metrology station. Using their concept as the framework, we applied our expertise in multi-axis motion and our understanding of geometric measurement principles to propose the design, manufacture and certification of a complete motion platform. The company was delighted with the result.

5-axis Metrology StationSix ultra-precision designed prototype metrology station. Each axes has a direct drive motor and high-resolution encoder to help achieve rotary error motion of ±1 arc second over a 360° move, and linear accuracy of ±1 micron over 8 inches of travel in the X, Y and Z directions.

The 10 inch (250mm) rotary air bearing table with dual read heads is mounted on stacked X-Y linear air bearing stages. The vertical Z-axis linear air bearing with ceramic rail supports a face-mounted 4 inch (100mm) rotary air bearing and is counterbalanced over an air bearing roller sleeve. The bi-level precision granite base is suspended on air bags on a vibration isolation stand to reduce outside interference.


  • Compact and uncluttered design with 5-axis motion
  • Granite, ceramic and steel materials and Invar linear scales for thermal stability
  • X-Y linear stages with vertical stiffness greater than 1 million pounds/inch
  • Rotary error motion: ±1 arc second total over 360° move
  • Accuracy: ±1 micron (±40 micro-inches) over 8 inch (200mm) linear travel in X, Y and Z directions
  • Renishaw encoders and dual Signum 5 nm resolution read heads to eliminate odd error harmonics

ABTech 5-Axis System for OptiPro - Left viewABTech's 5-Axis System for OptiPro - Right view

“OptiPro interviewed three potential candidate companies for our 5-axis UltraSurf non-contact metrology system. Although ABTech was the smallest of the three, we felt that their experience, engineering team and product knowledge was at the top of the list. Just as important to us was having a partner willing to work with us from our beginning concepts and design to the final product. By combining our ideas with their existing high precision air bearing slides and rotary axes, we worked together to develop what we believe is the best possible solution for non-contact measurement of optical components in the world today. Communication is key and they understand it. Great people to work with!” – Mike Bechtold, President, OptiPro Systems