Herzan Interviews John Sandercock of Table Stable
Table Stable builds Herzan’s advanced active vibration isolation systems. Herzan partners with Table Stable to exclusively provide its active vibration isolation systems (AVI and TS series) to customers in North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Herzan posed questions to Table Stable’s founder John Sandercock about the technological motivations for the AVI and TS Series.
1) What is the origin story of Table Stable and how has the company changed over time?
JS – Table Stable Ltd. is the sales outlet for the vibration isolation systems developed and manufactured by JRS Scientific Instruments. The story began when the director of JRS, John Sandercock, was working in the RCA research laboratories in Zürich and developed for his own research purposes the first successful isolation platform using active feedback. Several of these systems found applications within RCA and later appeared on the market as EVIS, promptly winning an IR100 award for one of the best novel products in the US in 1987.
John Sandercock left RCA in 1987 to set up JRS Scientific Instruments with the main purpose of developing active isolation systems for the growing precision research market. A modular system, MOD-2, was introduced in 1991 and soon showed that the extra cost of active over passive isolation was outweighed in many cases by the better performance. The MOD-2 system found many applications such as for Langmuir-Blodgett measurements, interferometry and microscopy. This was followed in 1995 by a self-contained unit, MOD-1, which was suited for many small AFM applications. These products were sold world wide and made known initially by the sales efforts of Herzan and Halcyonics.
Table Stable was formed in 2001 to coordinate the sales efforts of its active isolation systems and at the same time develop a new range of automated low-profile isolation systems (i.e. the TS Series). These systems combine technical excellence with elegant and user-friendly design and will set the standards for the years to come. Table Stable is represented worldwide by Herzan in California, HWL Scientific Instruments in Germany, Herz Co. in Japan, and Octalab in Singapore.
2) Originating from a country known for its high standard of quality (Switzerland), how has the local culture influenced your approach to product quality, research, and design?
JS – Arising from its watchmaking home industry, Switzerland today still has many small specialised family concerns. Table Stable draws nearly all its precision mechanical parts and electronics from companies in the immediately neighbouring villages. Close friendly contact with these businesses means that problems can be solved quickly and effectively.
3) What inspired you to develop the active isolation technology within the AVI and TS Series?
JS – The AVI Series was developed as a building block for larger systems for supporting electron microscopes, etc. The introduction of small AFMs and similar instruments meant that a low-profile desktop version would be useful, hence the development of the TS Series.
4) How has the technology within the AVI and TS Series evolved over time?
JS – Originally the isolation systems were based on voice call motors. The continuous motion with time led to broken connections and generally poor reliability. Power consumption was also relatively high and could lead to problems where delicate temperature control was required. In 2008 we introduced the piezoelectric spring to replace the voice coils. These have proved to be remarkably reliable and in addition have extremely low-power consumption. We have produced about 40,000 piezo springs without a single failure.
5) What are the inherent challenges in developing an effective low-frequency active vibration isolation system?
JS – Low-frequency sensors need a large inertial mass in order to achieve a good signal-to-noise. There is no problem to make such sensors, but the system then becomes very heavy and bulky. The current AVI and TS systems are a compromise between compact design and sufficient low frequency response for most purposes.
6) What would you say is unique about the technology found within the AVI and TS Series that cannot be found in competing technologies?
JS – We are the only suppliers (so far) of low-power piezoelectric active vibration isolation systems.
7) How do you see vibration isolation technology advancing over the next decade?
JS – Increasing competition will put pressure on the pricing. Current systems are not happy when stepping motors are used in the supported instrument. We are working on a new generation of systems with extended isolation and also immunity to the effects of stepper motors. We hope to introduce this new generation later this year.
8) What role do you see Table Stable having in the advancement of vibration isolation technology over the next decade?
JS – Table Stable will continue to be aggressively in the forefront of new developments. Better isolation at lower prices is the aim.
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