Measuring Instruments Technology (MIT) was established in 1993 and initially, its core business was the manufacture and sale of the CSIR’s Goldilux range of products. In terms of the agreement with CSIR a royalty is payable, and MIT’s business plan makes use of distributors located throughout the country.
The Goldilux products included basic lightmeters, transmissometers, UV-A, UV-B and UV-C meters. A programmable Smartmeter was later added to the range which will read using any of a range of special light and UV probes, calibration data and identification being obtained from the probe itself. The measuring range of the lightmeters is dependent on the product selected but is typically 0,1 to 20 000 lux (full sunlight even in South Africa is less than 100 000 lux). The V(l) correction (as defined by the CIE) which is the response of the average human eye, is excellent and is based on a special filter combination developed by the CSIR. For the simple light meters, there is a 0 to 2 V analog output, the Smartmeters will provide both analog (0 to 5 V) and an RS232 output. While the lightmeters make use of a simple silicon detector, the UV meters make use of special highly stable UV-enhanced silicon. The filtering for the UV devices is very complex but they respond accurately to the defined UV-A, UV-B and UV-C spectral bands.
While there is a lightmeter available with a built in detector, most systems sold use probes as this avoids shadowing by the user. This is required by the relevant safety bodies. The lightmeters have been tested by SABS and meet the requirements of being intrinsically safe, allowing for their use in coal and other mining activities. The systems have also been tested in Europe and comply with the requirements of the CE Mark. While basic calibration data is provided free of charge by MIT and is traceable, being derived using calibrated spectral lamps traceable to the CSIR, companies for legal purposes may still need a calibration certificate provided by an accredited laboratory. For years this was only the CSIR but a new private company InterCal Natal (Pretoria branch) has now been accredited by SANAS for light measurement, and should offer more competitive pricing. All the UV probes are still calibrated by CSIR which has a laboratory that has safety measures regarding exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation.
Other developments have taken place over the years and a bilirubin meter is now available that can be used by hospitals to ensure that children infected with jaundice can be exposed to the correct dose of ultraviolet radiation which is the current method of treatment. The babies must be exposed to the correct amount of therapeutically-effective blue light (peak wavelength 450 nm) in incubators and it is here that the meters are used and are essential. Ultraviolet is also used in TB wards and again, these meters can perform a useful function here.
A special waterproof UV probe was also developed for CT Labs, for use in their remote electrical monitoring equipment (where weather data is critical). In response to a new law gazetted many years ago, the CSIR developed a transmissometer for MIT to market. This device can be used to measure the transmission through any car window, from windscreen to side glasses. There are strict limits to the darkness of these windows and although the law was ignored for a considerable time, police are now encountering problems with vehicles stopped, where they cannot see into the car to determine whether the occupants are holding weapons. There is expected to be a new demand for 'tint' meters for test centre and roadside use, and MIT intends to develop a simpler product for the latter application. A significant number of the original transmissometers were sold to the testing stations and are still in use.
The manufacture of all of the MIT products is contracted out to TA Electronics and in-house activities include quality control, system programming where appropriate, and calibration of certain products.
After a period of time where MIT consolidated its other business in terms of supplying electro-optical, defence and security products to the local market, the company is again focusing its resources on the development of new and innovative measurement products. The first of these is a simple system for measurement of the moisture content of coffee beans (and other commodities). The moisture content of the beans is a critical indicator of quality. While such systems are currently available, MIT hopes to capture a large share of a growing market with more competitively priced devices.
The other possible new development is a new instrument to measure the diameter of natural and synthetic fibre hairs. This diameter provides a very good indication of the quality of locally-produced natural fibres such as cotton, wool, mohair and silk. If the diameter is correct then the farmer can get paid a significant premium for his product. A very old instrument, the Mikronmeter, developed by CSIR more than 30 years ago is currently used, but farmers need a cost-effective automated instrument. A consortium of companies which include MIT, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, CSIR and the ational Wool Growers Association have submitted a proposal for a laser-based portable system to the National Research Foundation and it is hoped that funding for the development will be made available shortly.
MIT is a privately-owned company with most of the equity being held by directors and staff. At present, a high percentage of turnover comes from overseas distributorships and through acting as a sales and technical consultant for many leading companies in the defence industry. In the future, significant growth is expected to come from new and innovative local measuring devices.