Inside SME Ltd.–A Pictorial Factory Tour of the Analog Legend; Part 2

Posted by: Neil Gader at 4:04 pm, August 13th, 2009

Before turning to the next batch of images a little background on SME Ltd is in order. The company was originally formed in 1946 by Alastair Robertston-Aikman and was known as the Scale Model Equipment Company Limited. Specifically they manufactured scale models and parts for the model engineering trade¬–not to be confused with the toy industry or perish the thought Mattel's Hot Wheels. In the 1950s they segued from models to precision engineering including parts for aircraft instruments and business machines. At the behest of Robetson-Aikman, a life-long audio enthusiast, a tonearm was designed and constructed for his own private use and ultimately received such a glowing reception that by 1959 it went into low volume producion, roughly 25 units per week. It was at that time that the company name officially shifted to SME, connoting the expanding nature of the company. Even today audio remains an almost side-hobby for SME. They number automotive, aircraft sectors among their biggest clients and have worked on projects as diverse as a solid gold  Parker Pen, vacuum cleaner prototypes as well as a secret array of specialist projects for some of the biggest audiophile companies in the business. Today’s SME has the facility for both in-house design and toolmaking and virtually all aspects of manufacturing including CNC maching, pressure die-casting, injection moulding, metal finishing, electro-plating, anodizing among many others too lengthy to include here. Currently the company maufactures four turntables and nine standard tonearms as well as special models for distinct applications.

Putting a bit of muscle into polishing a stainless steel armtube for the M2-9 tonearm
 

 
Putting a slight angle on the tonearm counterweight-this move is almost imperceptible to the eye. Too much pressure for a second too long means the trash heap.

If you look closely at the counterweights in the lower right corner, the delicate angle that was being sanded is plainly visible.
 

the machine that inks in gold the lettering for the Model 30/12 control panel. This operation is performed twice almost instantly without any ghosting
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Still wet, ready for the oven to bake dry. Perfect. Last batch of images in Part 3 coming soon.

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