John Firth
Testing Systems


This web site is dedicated to users of materials testing instruments manufactured by Nene Instruments, Davenport-Nene, Deltalab-Nene and Plint & Partners (DN).

History of DN

Nene Instruments

Nene Instruments was founded in around 1980 by Ned Mustapha and Ramish Patel, to make tensile test machines; Ned handled the engineering and Ramish the accounts. Our first factory was in the back yard of a house in Park Road, Wellingborough. The machines were used to measure such things as Young's Modulus and Tensile Strength of materials such as steel, reinforced glass fibre and plastics.

Control of the machine was carried out entirely by electronics. A computer could be added as an optional extra, for data acquisition. This was before the IBM PC, and the best available computer was the Commodore Pet. I visited Nene to sell Ned the NEC computer (now long gone), and he agreed provided I would convert their existing program to run on it. This proved a more complex job than I had thought, and I stayed with them for the next 20 years or so.

A continual headache was the production of the control electronics, which was difficult to manufacture and unreliable. We came up with the idea of replacing the control box with a computer and give it the job of controlling the machine. Chris Moller was given the job of designing an interface card to go in the just released PC, and I was to write the software. Much to everyone's surprise, the idea worked a treat, and we embarked on the design philosophy of keeping the electronics to the minimum and doing the clever bits in software.

First Hydraulic Machines

Our German agent in those days was a genius. He managed to persuade a large German manufacturer to order several hydraulic test machines to monitor the build quality of their products. We had never made anything like this before, but Cranfield University promised to design the actuator for us. We learnt how to build hydraulic test machines on the back of these orders.

The software was pretty basic in those days, being written specifically for each application. I swore that the next version would be versatile enough to be able to cope with any job it was called on to do. It was some time before we could truthfully say this had been achieved, but it has always been the goal.


Nene Instruments was having its usual financial problems, and a merger was arranged with Davenport, makers of laboratory equipment for the chemical industry. We said goodbye to Ned and Ramish, and the company was governed by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (don't ask!).


The Davenport relationship did not last long, and once more we were up for sale. This time it looked like the end, but we were rescued at the last minute by Deltalab in France.

To start off, we worked in awful premises in Leicester, in a corner of a shed used to make a variety of products including oil rigs and remote control golf trolleys. With considerable relief we moved into our own premises in Kettering.

This proved a profitable and fruitful period, thanks largely to the competence and enthusiasm of our French partners. We continued the philosophy of eliminating everything possible electronic whose function could be done in software. In screw machines, the Moller Board electronics was replaced by the "Low Cost Board", in which everything electronic was mounted on a card fitted inside the computer. For hydraulic machines, the Moller Board was replace by the "Compact Controller". Again, as much as possible was fitted inside the computer. This gave enormous savings in cost, but we soon realized it opened a whole new ball game in what we could make the machine do. In particular, we found that the ram could be made to follow profiles that could not be readily generated by function generators, such as simulated road fatigue tests.

The end of this period was triggered by a double whammy. Deltalab made some disastrous marketing decisions, and DN made a thumping loss on a large order in Germany.

Plint & Partners

Ownership of DN now passed to Plint & Partners of Wokingham, makers of tribology machines.

Development of Windows-based software began in ernest, and the link to the computer moved from the ISA bus (now becoming obsolete) to the USB port. At this point I left the company after a disagreement with the management.

Once again, Plint ran into financial problems and ceased trading.

Lloyd Instruments

DN was taken over by Lloyd Instruments (who already owned the Davenport branch of Davenport-Nene), and progress continued apace. Sadly, it was not to last. Lloyd have ceased to develop the design philosophy of DN.

Alpha Testing Systems

Some of the old D-N personnell are believed to be still operating under this name. We believe that they are able to undertake servicing, repair and rejuvenation of old materials testing equipment. See the Support page for contact details.