Unison Ltd, the UK-based inventors of all-electric tube manipulation, celebrate their 50th anniversary on 3rd April 2023. To mark reaching a half century, the business is planning a special birthday party at its Scarborough HQ on 24th May 2023, when several of its latest tube bending technologies will be on display, alongside fibre laser metal cutting machines from its sister company, Nukon Lasers UK.
Customers, colleagues, friends and neighbours of Unison Ltd will all be invited to the event, as will members of Made in Yorkshire, a trade group of which Unison Ltd is a council member. For an invitation to the 50th party, email: [email protected].
Unison Ltd was established in 1973 as a control systems specialist and provided its expertise to a number of tube bending machinery firms, including Addison Machine Tools. Convinced there was a better way of bending tube than by noisy, messy hydraulic operation, where accuracy and repeatability were often affected by fluctuating oil temperature, Unison Ltd set out to create the world’s first all-electric tube bending machine. Prototypes were built, a patent was taken out, and in 1994, the company unveiled the world’s first all-electric 3-axis tube bender.
Operated by electronic linear actuators and, therefore, unaffected by changing hydraulic oil temperature, this pioneering machine redefined the world of tube manipulation. By 1998, Unison Ltd had launched the first all-electric robot benders. Twin-head, multi-stack and 5-axis machines followed, along with the world’s largest all-electric tube bender for the shipbuilding industry.
Bringing a crazy idea to life
Reflecting on those early days when the world’s first all-electric tube bending machine was in development, Unison’s joint managing director, Alan Pickering says: “I remember my dad giving me the challenge of bringing his crazy idea to life! We were pushing the servo technology of the day to the limits. But we succeeded, and right-first-time tube bending was born.
“It took a number of forward-thinking customers to put their faith in our technology,” adds Alan Pickering. “However, the big breakthrough came when Airbus ordered their first all-electric tube bender from us. The machine paid for itself in 16 weeks, in reduced scrap alone. Competition from the bigger players was inevitable, but we kept our heads down and kept on pushing forward.”
Today, Unison Ltd is the UK’s leading manufacturer of tube bending machines, has facilities in the UK and USA, and offers the world’s largest range of ultra-precise, all-electric tube and pipe bending technologies for diameters ranging from 4 mm to 275 mm. Available in single-stack, multi-stack and right/left versions, Unison ‘Breeze’ machines are delivered to more than 20 countries globally, and to sectors as wide-ranging as motorsport, marine, oil & gas, aerospace and architecture. The Unison family of companies includes automation specialists, Ingenium Integration Ltd and Nukon Lasers UK.
Precise, repeatable and robust
“From the outset, our goal was clear: to make achieving accurate, repeatable tube bending simple and straightforward, all supported by outstanding levels of customer care,” continues Alan Pickering. “That’s why every Unison Breeze machine offers fast, intuitive setup, rapid tooling changes, exceptional power, rigid mechanical design, and all-electric control for right-first-time results, or immediately after bending a trial part – and why we are renowned for the quality of our aftersales support.”
That same ethos is also why all Unison Breeze machines are equipped with the company’s own dedicated Unibend CNC control, and why Unison continually invests in developing leading-edge support software – such as its Opt2Sim tube bending simulation suite and its recently updated, free-to-use tube bending application app. Available for desktop, tablet or mobile, the app is so sophisticated it will even show users the tooling type, mandrel style, size and material, as well as bend torque and machine size required for a particular bend or a series of bends.
“All in all, it’s been an incredible journey,” adds Alan Pickering. “One made possible by having fantastic people on our team, and amazing customers around the world who, every day, put their trust in our uncompromising technologies. Moreover, having invented all-electric tube bending, we intend to stay at the top of our game. This is why, each year, we recruit and nurture a number of technical apprentices, and why we offer extensive development opportunities for our employees – all to ensure they’re the best they can be. Here’s to the next 50 years!”