Datron Fell Into the Machine Tool Business by Accident

How did we find our way into the machine tool industry was dictated by our need as an electronics company to produce electro-mechanical parts

As the President of DATRON Dynamics, I often get asked how DATRON got started. A company’s history or origin defines a company’s character and is key information when deciding to invest in their products. The short answer is DATRON fell into the machine tool business by accident.

In 1969, DATRON AG (or Datron Electronic back then) was incepted as a manufacturer of electronic sensor and measurement systems. They produced a line of automotive non-contact optical speed and acceleration devices in conjunction with flow measurement of fuel consumption. As well, they produced printed circuit board designs, control systems and axis movement devices.

By the late 1980’s they realized they needed the ability to machine small electromechanical devices such as front panels, electronic housings, heat sinks, etc. for their completed assemblies. Looking for a machine tool to produce these types of parts became quite an undertaking.

Machine tool parts like these needed by DATRON Electronic back in the 80's led them to design and build their own CNC machine tool.
Machine tool parts like the ones required by DATRON Electronic in the early days … leading to the development of their own CNC machine tool.

They quickly learned they needed a machine tool with a high speed spindle because most of the machined components were quite small and intricate. They also had a lab type environment and really did not have the type of facility to accommodate a large, heavy conventional machine tool. Therefore they had no choice at the time but to purchase a small, lighter weight router style machine tool and install their own high-speed spindle.

Over the years they made many modifications to the router to work more efficiently for their needs. Some of these modifications included a mechanical probe that could measure and map the surface of a large plate for precise engraving depths. Pneumatic clamping systems that allows for quick part turn-over compared to traditional vices. Additionally, they rewrote the control software to have the ability to program sophisticated electronic type parts right at the machine console. That is when the revelation struck them; there must be a lot of other electronic based manufacturers that could use a piece of equipment like this reconfigured, router-style machining center.

By the early 1990’s, as a test they started to produce a small line of router-style machine tools for the electronics industry. They did this in addition to their sensor and measurement system production. By the mid 90’s, the majority of their electronic production was just for internal components of the machine tools. Today they are no longer in the electronics industry and are a world leader in machine tools for electronic based and other high-tech manufacturing applications.

DATRON CNC machine tools for high speed milling - then and now.
DATRON CNC machine tools for high speed milling – then and now.

Datron’s original roots in understanding the requirements of electronic industry allowed them to cater the machine specific to the industry’s needs. Coming from an engineering and manufacturing background for high-tech products gave them a very unconventional approach in the design of a very conventional machining world. This history and foundation is a big reason for the tremendous success DATRON has achieved in selling machine tools in these high-tech industries. Now we have expanded our machine tool line in many other applications and industries, while still keeping the unique approach and fundamentals of knowing what high-tech manufacturers need today in machining.

Bill King
President DATRON Dynamics, Inc.