Welcome to this website which I hope will help give friends, colleagues and general browsers some greater understanding of the amazing developments made in High precision Engineering and now, "Ultra-precision Engineering" over the last 50 years! I have been very fortunate and privileged to work in this field of scientific and technological advancement which has made possible so many new world-changing products and services…. from smaller, faster, less energy consuming integrated circuits for computer systems to very large earth and space based telescope systems to achieve better understanding of the universe and human origins... all demanding the ability to design and build computer controlled machines for manufacture and dimensional measurement of artifacts to nanometre accuracy. This is well into the realm of nanotechnology or what I prefer to call Nano-Engineering. Metrology, the science and technology of dimensional measurement to this accuracy is a fundamental part of this and a pre-requisite to success in this challenging field.

I have included personal details about myself to help establish the substance and time scale of some of the reported developments…..and have added names of some of the world-wide contributors to many outstanding achievements.

This information is contained in a number of illustrated presentations given by me and friends / colleagues especially since I retired from full time work at Cranfield University in 1995. I aim to include how to access other relevant websites notably that of euspen, the European Society for Precision Engineering and Nanotechnology of which I was one of the founders in 1998. From time to time, I will add references to a small list of key publications for those who might want to delve further into this fascinating field of endeavour.

Clearly, this site cannot be nearly as comprehensive as those of organizations specializing in engineering nanotechnology but I hope that it can provide some highlights and a way-in to the subject for those who find it interesting …and those who feel they should try to understand one of the front cutting edges of advanced engineering.

When I first joined the Swiss company, Societe Genevoise d'Instruments de Physique [GSIP], in 1956, it took some 24 hours to engrave lines every millimetre on the polished nickel surface of a 1 metre steel "standard scale" to a peak-to-peak accuracy of 2 micrometres.(2 µm) This was a relative accuracy of 2 parts in 106. Today, in 2010, the most accurate large production machines in the world, the step and scan EUV** lithography machines designed and made by ASML in the Netherlands [see presentations no.3 and no.6] can put the images of complex circuits containing perhaps 5,000,000 transistors onto a 300 mm diameter silicon wafer with an accuracy in the order of 2 nanometres (2nm) ...in less than one hour. This represents a relative accuracy advance in just over 50 years, of about 300 times but at 60 silicon wafers per hour this is over 24 times faster per complete artefact.

Of course, life is much more than being fortunate enough to enjoy one's work experiences including helping (and admiring) the achievements of colleagues and many international friends made through extensive foreign travel and interaction.

Above all, there is the joy of family, so I include photos and some words about how very fortunate I have been in this aspect of life, too. I hope some will learn from and even enjoy what is a mere scratching of the surface in "A Life in High Precision Engineering"

** EUV…"Extreme Ultra Violet" , in effect soft X-rays.


September 2010

Pat McKeown in front of the Nanocentre designed and built by the Cranfield Unit for Precision Engineering, Cranfield University, under the UK’s National Initiative on Nanotechnology, (1987).

In 1992 it was the most accurate machine tool in the world for ultra-precision diamond turning and grinding of ultra-precision optics, working to nanometre resolution and sub-micrometre size and profile accuracy.

It is still in use today and was used recently by Professor Paul Shore FREng and his team to produce the complex optical components for the Mid-Infra-Red Spectrometer for the James Webb Space Telescope (Hubble replacement) now due to be launched in 2014, see slides 25 and 26 of Presentation 3

What is Precision Engineering? .... a working definition:

It is a multi-disciplinary range of technologies, based heavily on the application of metrology (dimensional and thermal) to manufacturing and covers materials, machining and fabrication processes, design and build of high-precision machines, micro-sensors, actuators, displacement measuring devices and control systems, etc.

Precision Engineering means “working to a relative accuracy of tolerance to size in the order of 1 part in 104 / 105 “(McKeown, PA 1979), but now approaching 1 part in 108 ... "Ultra-precision Engineering"

Precision Engineering involves "working at the forefront of current technology" (Jones, RV 1979)

Precision Engineering has led to the high precision technologies of "micro-engineering" and "engineering nanotechnology"