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I looked around for something more challenging and found this at KeyMed. A medical organisation that wanted me to set up its industrial division. It sold fibrescopes and rigid endoscopes to look into various parts of the human body. These looked in through the existing orifices, top (bronchoscopy…) and bottom (colonoscopy), but also through incisions in stomachs (laparoscopy), knees (arthroscopy) and so on. I was taken on to expand its potential applications in industry.


KeyMed scopes and light source

It was a wonderful ‘blank sheet of paper’ opportunity. I started by looking at applications as simple as inspecting motor cylinder blocks for faults in the casting process, to looking into airframe and aero-engines in what was known as NDT (non-destructive testing) or ‘on-condition’ monitoring – the RAF called the rigid devices ‘shufti-scopes’.

I soon got close to the RAF, the Army Air Corps and perhaps most intriguing was that I worked with the Met Police’s C7 technical support team and even the SAS on surveillance. Our scopes were used in the Spaghetti House and Balcombe Street sieges, making holes into the siege sites with an acid and then inserting a scope to see if the hostages were alive and to gain insight into the hostage-takers.

ASIDE: The pharmaceutical companies have always been smart at promoting their products and one item stands out across more than forty years. At KeyMed we shared out promo stuff and I chose a small cardboard cube calendar. It sat on a Perspex base to tilt the active side. Each side showed a two month calendar of the year. The key thing was that it was intended to sit on a doctor’s desk for a whole year. At the bottom of each side was a simple sales message that seared itself into your brain. I still remember it, ‘Bisolvon, wherever sputum is a problem’. It had no relevance for me but it’s still there forty years on. It was darned effective.

I later encountered a mailer that added to the impact. The cube mailer was flat-packed with an elastic band internally attached, so that when you pulled it out of its sleeve it popped up to form the cube. Perhaps this one in the medical application should say ‘Aspirin, whenever your heart is a problem’. Because it startled as you took it out. But I commend a cube calendar as a very effective long-lasting promo tool.

Flawed cast

One significant demo I did for the scopes was at Midland Motor Cylinder in Smethwick. Foundries like MMC created castings using sand moulds that defined the inner dimensions of a cylinder block to carry the cooling water around the hot block and head, the sand is then purged to complete the fabrication. Occasionally the mould had flaws that allowed the metal of the block to bridge what should have been a water-filled void, then of course the heat would be radiated via this to the outer shell – not desirable!

Midland Motor Cylinder Co

They previously resolved this by cutting up sample blocks to see if there was any slag. More often than not, the chopped block proved perfect but the casting had been destroyed in this process, a loss to the foundry. What KeyMed scopes did was to offer a non-destructive alternative. We could look into these internal areas and provide visual reassurance that the casting was a ‘good-un’. The MMC senior manager had an office beside the foundry and displayed proudly on his side cabinet a sand-mould that was one of the most complicated they had ever produced using multiple moulds and layers. It was perfectly natural for me to get out a scope and show him the view we could offer, albeit of the mould rather than the casting. He took a look and was stunned when he saw a big claggy lump of adhesive inside the mould that would have meant the casting would need to be scrapped. He admitted, on a subsequent appointment, this had so upset him that he had junked this flawed example of their work.

ASIDE: I spent quite a lot of time going into foundries and factories and my main memory is that as a young guy the foul suggestions and catcalls I received from the female operatives made me scoot through the plant.

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