November 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of our flagship Titan Universal Strength Tester. To honour this machine and people involved in its creation, we sat down with James Heal technical specialist Peter Goodwin, to reflect on the past two decades of Titan, and what the future holds for this instrument and our customers.
Peter Goodwin is one of our technical specialists and longest-standing member of the Technical Team. One of the roles of this team is to share their expertise in the development of all James Heal’s products, acting as the ‘voice of the customer’ to ensure that user needs are always at the forefront of any instrument design.
Having been involved in the development of the Titan instrument, Peter has seen many changes over the past 20 years, as he reflects:
“I was previously a customer of James Heal before I started working here. In my previous role within a factory laboratory at Alexander Drew, I was involved in software development, although my background was in physical testing and chemical testing. I specialised in how to transfer information and improve processes, to help the factory make better decisions from the data.
When I joined James Heal as Technical Manager in 2005, the Titan1 Universal Strength Tester was already established in the market; the Titan2 and Titan3 with compression had just been launched, and it was at this point that I became heavily involved in developing a newer model, the Titan4.”
The benefit of being a previous customer was that I could use my knowledge and experience as a user, to make impartial decisions and reflect the best interests of customers in the market.
“One of the most positive changes I have seen to the development of the Titan instrument range has to be the evolution of the ‘TestWise’ software. Over the years, it has become better and better for users, especially those with limited testing knowledge and experience. TestWise software is so easy to use, that minimal training is needed, so lab technicians can start work straight away.”
This says Peter, is a huge value add of the machine, as training takes time, so if users can start testing quickly it means less downtime, and more productivity for the laboratory – and more throughput of testing.
We had big ambitions for its newer model, Titan4. Amid significant competition in the market, where other brands that specialised in tensile testing were more established, it was Peter’s role to be the voice of the customer, and ensure that Titan4 did more for the user, within the area of Textile Testing.
As an ex-James Heal customer, one of the main positive benefits Peter says he had experienced using the original Titan1, was the TestWise software, so he was in a strong position to help develop and evolve the software even further.
“As a user, I loved how easy the James Heal software was, because the competitor machine I had used before was based on MSDOS software - it was clunky and difficult to use. So when I started using James Heal’s Titan, to see the software working so easily in a Windows operating system was incredible!”
Interestingly, the evolution of the Titan3 to the Titan4 came about by accident: “The supplier of one of the major parts in the drive for the Titan3 machine contacted us to say they would no longer be making this part, and had no equivalent to offer. We decided to make the part ourselves, but we needed new software for the drive, which led to the development of the next generation of TestWise software. It was at this point I became heavily involved in the project to develop the software for the new Titan4 model.”
So Titan4 and TestWise were conceived from this point, but it took another two years to develop, and in late 2010, the finishing touches were coming together. “We launched Titan4 with the new TestWise software at ITMA Barcelona 2011. The feedback from the market was outstanding and we were immensely proud”.
L – Titan 3 Universal Strength Tester at ITMA Asia in 2010, R – Titan 4 Universal Strength Tester at ITMA Barcelona 2011
Over the last decade, each release of an instrument happens faster, largely because customers want (and expect) more, as Peter explains “We have many requests week to week, with suggestions and adaptations. As demand has risen, our product development time has shortened. We now release a software upgrade for TestWise every 18-24 months. This is to ensure that we include customer feedback, cleanse the software of any bugs, add new standards, and make necessary tweaks to improve speed and usability – such as languages. The software now has over 14 languages to choose from to make testing even easier,” adds Peter.
“Our range has also grown – we now offer a 5kN instrument, an extended 5kN with extensometer and a 10kN dual-column instrument. By extending the range, we have extended the number of applications and materials that our customers can test on Titan.”
When asked what Peter would like to see in future developments for Titan and TestWise software, Peter emphasises that moving into relevant verticals will be crucial: I’d like to see a move into industries like foam (upholstery, home textiles), leather, footwear, and see Titan being used for more technical applications such as PPE or agricultural textiles and materials.”
Other core developments include utilising the internet for fast software downloads, upgrades and bug fixes. “A big value add will be to make our TestWise software available to download over a secure internet connection. To date, this has been tricky as some of our customers don’t have a reliable connection. But the markets we serve are becoming more and more technologically advanced, and many labs now have a reliable internet connection.”
Peter also hints that TestWise 2020 will be very different, “We have some exciting developments for our software, based on feedback from customers, to take the best elements for the current version and add new and exciting functionality. The aim is to enable customers to create their own custom standards, a feature our software engineers are working on right now.”
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