Machine building, special-purpose machines, system integration

Step Design Ltd (SDL) is promoting its capability for designing and building control systems for special-purpose machinery, having 20+ years' accumulated knowledge and experience, spread across a wide variety of industries and applications.

The company, whose motto could be We are in the business of making things move!, focuses on reliability, durability and safety, full compliance with all applicable national, international and industry standards, and a long-term commitment to clients' confidentiality, profitability and success.

'Special-purpose machinery' can have different meanings, depending the industry, but in general the term can be applied to any bespoke piece of equipment, from a small benchtop fixture to a fully automated assembly and/or inspection process. The majority of SDL's projects tend to be toward the former. If the control solution does not exist as a standard product, SDL can build it and supply the appropriate documentation; the aim is to provide 'a complete solution.'

SDL says its strength is in the diversity of industries and applications in which operates or has been involved. Each industry has its own specific requirements and SDL prides itself on its ability to assess and understand the needs of each project. The company then offers a 'Best Solution' that balances cost with quality.

By its nature, the business is very diverse, but usually with motion control at its heart. SDL therefore takes a flexible approach to each new application and enquiry.


SDL's often innovative design concepts are developed at the early project stages, mainly using Autocad 2014 but also other drafting packages such as DS Solidworks (3D modelling software). Using these tools, GA design models can be produced as email-ready e-drawings for sharing with the customer.

From there, SDL progresses to detail design, so bespoke components can be manufactured in the workshop. The key to the success of the design process is communication, and SDL actively encourages client involvement from the earliest stage.

Although SDL maintains a flexible approach to each new application and enquiry, there are a number of fields in which the company has gained very specialist knowledge and experience.

Specialist knowledge

Step Design is primarily a system integrator with expertise in the following areas.


tdata{Subject area|Skill level}

tdata{Stepper motors and drives|*****}

tdata{Servo motors and drives|*****}

tdata{AC synchronous motors and inverters|***}

tdata{DC motors and drives|****}

tdata{PLC programming and specification|*****}

tdata{Control system design|****}

tdata{Installation and test of equipment|****}

tdata{Panel assembly|*****}

tdata{Machine wiring|****}

tdata{Test and commissioning|*****}

tdata{CNC retrofit|*****}


SDL says it is particularly interested in promoting the use of the latest technologies to enable remote communications with the systems it provides. The company has experience of working with various different forms of networking, using industry-standard protocols - for example, Ethernet, Profibus, Modbus and DH+ - over wired or wireless networks.

Panel build

One are of expertise for SDL is panel building, with the ability to design and build control panels that are robust and meet varying requirements across a range of industries. Standard off-the-shelf enclosures can be used, or custom cabinets and enclosures can be built to customers' required specifications.

PLC software development

SDL's in-house expertise enables it to design and code control software; the capabilities cover all types of interfaces, including operator panels, human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and graphical user interfaces (GUI). All software and PLC code developed is 'in-house tested' prior to delivery, ensuring smooth and trouble-free start-ups.

Installation, commissioning and support

Over the last 20 years or so, SDL has built up an enviable bank of experience that puts it in a strong position for advising on, modifying and implementing mechanical and electrical installations. On the mechanical side of things, SDL will install conveyors, machinery and steelwork. For electrical installation, the company can install electrical and control system and provide all the required test certificates such as IEE and NICEIC.

SDL believes strongly in supplying quality, robust control systems that are designed and built to customer requirements and expectations. The overall success of the complete system is only made possible by developing partnerships and working relationships with all suppliers and providers of the equipment within the cell. By creating strong relationships with both customers and suppliers, including ancillary equipment providers, SDL can ensure complete seamless integration of the entire production cell. Strategic partnerships with Trio and JVL give SDL access to the very best stepper and servo motor control systems.

Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering, sometimes called back engineering, is a process that often involves SDL disassembling something - either a mechanical machine, an electronic component or computer program - then analysing it and its components in detail, then re-producing it. A common requirement, for example, is conversions from Siemens S5 PLC software/hardware (now obsolete) to Siemens S7-300/400 platforms. In some cases, the reverse engineering process can simply be a re-documentation of a legacy system.


Something is deemed confidential if it is of a personal nature (be it about a client, a member of staff or any other individual), commercially sensitive, been provided in confidence, or information where the inappropriate disclosure would be problematic to the client.

All information, whether it be confidential or otherwise, provided by customers and suppliers, is only be used for the purposes for which it was provided.

For more information about the services offered by Step Design Ltd, go to or email (please mention

Step Design Ltd

46 Grousemoor Drive
NE63 8LU

+44 (0)1670 857906

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