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November 2010

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Custom Instruments

At ramé-hart we attempt to provide the widest array of tools to fit every requirement and budget. Our simplest instrument, for example, Model 190, measures contact angles precisely and quickly. Our Model 590, by contrast, sells for nearly 3.5 times as much but, in addition to measuring contact angle, can also measure surface energy, surface tension, interfacial tension, advancing and receding contact angles, contact angle hysteresis, roll-off angle, and can perform myriad types of dynamic and time-dependent studies.

Despite the wide range of tools and modular accessories to choose from, we find that about one in ten of our customers have an application that requires an apparatus beyond what we can build with a standard instrument and standard modular accessories. For these unusual applications, we offer a custom build service. Consider the following three applications:

Figure 1: Contact Angle Goniometer with Large Substrate Support

A customer with a need for a contact angle goniometer to test wetting at various locations on a large 14.5" x 20" glass sample requires the various locations to be tested without handling the substrate - that is, the instrument must allow for all locations to be measured without removing the sample from the support. With our standard equipment, we can accommodate a sample up to 13.625" diameter. In order to accommodate this large sample, we designed a custom support frame with guide fingers which allow the sample to be repositioned as required along the y-axis. See Figure 1 above. We also built an optical bench longer than standard in order to move the light source, stage, and camera to their requisite locations on the x-axis. Lastly, we redesigned the microsyringe fixture with a long arm so it could reach out over the sample to all required locations. This custom order was designed, approved by the customer, and delivered within 10 weeks of receipt of the original purchase order. 

Figure 2: Environmental Chamber with Rotating Support

A customer with a circular disk substrate approximately 1" in diameter has the need to test the contact angle along the edge of their sample by rotating it 10° between measurements. They also need to take these measurements at temperatures between ambient and 240° C. Our standard Environmental Chamber (p/n 100-07) is the ideal solution for this application - except to rotate the sample, the cover would need to be removed and the sample would then need to be relocated manually. Not only is the position inaccurate, but the environmental conditions in the chamber are disturbed and the time it takes for the temperature to stabilize makes for very slow data collection. To overcome these issues, we designed a small rotating support which we mounted inside of our standard Environmental Chamber (100-07). See Figure 2 above. The materials selected are rated to handle temperatures up to 300° C. The goniometer and custom chamber were delivered 8 weeks after receipt of the purchase order. Standard delivery without customization is 4 weeks for most systems.

Figure 3: Model 500 with Custom Heavy-Duty Support

A customer needs to measure large heavy metal samples. Our standard leveling stage proved to be too small. We designed and built not only an oversize stage but also a heavy-duty leveling base to support the weight of the samples. Delivery for this instrument was 9 weeks including engineering, design review and approval by the customer and fabrication. Each part in addition to being machined, must be checked, finished, and then sent out for plating.

Aluminum parts are anodized which makes them hard and strong and in some cases black. Stainless steel parts are sometimes chrome-plated and other times passivated. Our instruments are made primarily of aluminum and stainless steel parts. We also use PTFE, Frelon and ceramic coatings on the shafts and bushings, copper, and bronze alloys such as Oilite.

For more pictures of various custom instruments we've built, please visit the newest page on our website here: http://www.ramehart.com/custom.htm

If you have a unique application, let us know how we can build a new system or modify an existing instrument to meet your requirements.


Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding our custom build service:

Q: What do I need to provide ramé-hart with in order to get a quotation for a custom instrument.
A: Unlike our standard products, custom solutions require some engineering work. In order to provide an estimate or quotation, please let us know the specifics of your application: what are the dimensions and weights of your samples, what types of measurements do you require, do you need any special environmental conditions. Sketches and photos can help, too. Once we have the necessary information, we can do some preliminary engineering in order to provide you with price and delivery information.

Q: How long will it take you to build my custom tool?
A: This depends on the complexity and requirements. As you can see from the (3) examples above, 8 to 10 weeks may be necessary. Simpler modifications can be done quicker and more involved projects may take longer. We can give you a time estimate when we quote the work. Note that the delivery time for most off-the-shelf instruments is 4 weeks.

Q: How will I know that you will provide what we need?
A: After we receive a purchase order or deposit, we conclude all engineering work and provide you with a final layout or drawing so you can see exactly what work we will be doing. We ask for your review and approval before we begin production.

Q: How are you able to make custom instruments so quickly?
A: Due to our talented in-house design and engineering team, we are able to do preliminary and final design work quickly and accurately. All of our standard components and parts are already in a sophisticated CAD library which enables our design team to quickly pull parts that can be modified and design new parts which can be integrated into the design. Once the design is complete and approved, our production team has access to state-of-the-art CNC milling and lathe machines to modify existing or fabricate new parts.

Q: Why should we choose ramé-hart to build a custom instrument for us?
A: We've been around since 1961 and have a lot of experience designing and building instruments - especially contact angle measuring tools. We have an in-house design and engineering team as well as fabrication facilities that allow us to design and build in short order a custom solution that is professional and will work as precisely as our standard products. We also have the largest array of parts and subassemblies from which to build - thus lowering cost and improving delivery time.

Don't hesitate to let us know how we can work with you on a custom solution that will meet your requirements and be within budget.


Carl Clegg
Director of Sales
Phone 973-448-0305
Contact us


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