Parliamentary Review Healthcare Edition 2016 / 2017

Solfeggio Tuning Forks

Adriaan Posthuma, Managing Director

Uniplex UK Ltd is a family run Medical Device business with a finely tuned ambition. We make and repair surgical instruments for hospitals, and we’re also one of the world’s leading makers of tuning forks following the purchase of Ragg Tuning Forks in 2012.


» Manufactures over 25,000 tuning forks & surgical instruments p.a.

» Makes another 35,000 disposable medical devices annually

» Over 40,000 surgical instruments repaired every year

» Distributor of cost effective single use Medical Devices such as Sutures
and Haemostats

» 15 FTE’s and £1.25m turnover.

The finest surgical instruments and the finest tuning forks.

The past 40 years have been quite a journey for owner and MD Adriaan Posthuma. He moved from forming the business in Northampton in 1978 to the present factory in Sheffield, the steel city. In 1985 Adriaan faced a skill shortage, and he failed to persuade a fine artisan, Brian Kimpton, to move south. Brian was accomplished in the repair of surgical instruments and persuaded Adriaan to take on his friend, Neville Wild. That was a stroke of genius because there really wasn’t much that Nev couldn’t make. He had started by making surgical instruments as an apprentice and developed his skills working for various ‘Mesters’ as the highly skilled craftsmen of Sheffield are known. Uniplex still designs and makes instruments for a wide-ranging customer base of critical surgeons and trade customers like Astra Zeneca, for which they create complex instruments used in the manufacture of specialist drugs. Young Neville still works today at the age of 83! They were fortunate to gain the services of the present factory manager, Robert Holmes, from 3M many years ago and he helped to integrate the Ragg Tuning Fork business, and its’ long serving operatives. They had never worked for a progressive organisation like Uniplex before. One of them, Norman, declared on his retirement day, that if he had known what was going to happen to him and his colleagues Dave and Richard, he would never have agreed to retire!

“The tuning fork was invented 300 years ago by a trumpeter who couldn’t work with musicians whose instruments were out of tune”

Ragg branded tuning forks are manufactured in a very traditional fashion and their quality is such that they are world renowned. All the products are hand crafted by very highly skilled artisans. Orders flow in from as far away as Hong Kong, USA, Australia, South Africa and many more countries besides. Brexit isn’t likely to hit their sales, although it might have a bearing on the cost. The raw materials used are of the highest quality and can be hard to find. They come from as far away as Russia, one of the
only sources left for the aluminium specification Uniplex demands. Steel is becoming a problem too as there are fewer mills prepared to manufacture the top-quality metal for the musical and scientific forks used in schools and colleges, and by piano tuners and musicians everywhere

The story of the tuning fork as shown on television

The company has been featured on several television programmes. The BBC One Show told the story of the tuning fork, right back to John Shore who had invented it in 1711, when as a trumpeter he found it impossible to work with musicians whose instruments were out of tune. Ragg started to make forks in 1841 and the methodology hasn’t changed any more than the pattern has.

For the One Show a group of musicians from Sheffield went to a church in Ranmoor, close to the company’s factory, to give a rendition of Pachelbel’s canon in D major played exclusively on the John Walker™ branded musical forks created especially for use by this ‘Forkestra.’ Sky TV also interviewed Adriaan around the same time. Another highlight was when last year Uniplex were the subject of a film made for the Discovery channel called ‘How Stuff Is Made’. That show, repeated regularly to this day, highlights the manufacture of their trademark John Walker™ fork, the archetypal British standard tuning fork. The programme shows in detail the processes a single fork must go through before being used in opera houses, concert halls, recording studios and musicians’ homes all over the world.

Uniplex has exported the RTF brand to over 100 different organisations in more than 60 countries of the world. Most recently, with government support, a new distributor was appointed in Japan. Many of the company’s forks have medical applications, from simply testing hearing to identifying even more challenging conditions. The Japanese were keen to introduce them to their doctors after examining the quality and finding it more than satisfactory.

Attention to detail in the manufacturing process

Gardiner Browns, stamped and machined awaiting a polish

John Walkers drying off after blueing process

Many of the company’s forks have medical applications, from simply testing hearing to identifying even more challenging conditions. However, speed cameras are also calibrated with a tuning fork

Uniplex does have another Japanese distributor, but for their range of Healing Therapy Forks, primarily the range created by Alan Sales. Uniplex also make bespoke forks of different frequencies for other specialist uses. Therapists use tuning forks of various frequencies to help heal their patients.

Musical, Medical and Healing Therapy forks

Musical, Medical and Healing Therapy forks form a significant part of the company’s turnover. Others have some unusual uses — many speed cameras and radar guns are calibrated with a tuning fork. At Uniplex they pride ourselves on the accuracy of their manufacture!

From operating theatres to closing the cornflakes Uniplex has developed several single use medical devices used in decontamination, endoscopy suites and operating theatres. Its’ Klyp is a multi-purpose closure device with more than a dozen applications, ‘we all use it to seal our cornflake bags’ for instance. The Versablok bite block protects gastroscopes from being damaged by a patient clamping down on it, and there is the Beepo Diathermy Quiver, a single use device developed to address the needs of sterile service departments around the UK.

Machining blanks for Gardiner Brown medical tuning forks

The future

Uniplex has an apprentice programme and is proud to be working with the University of Sheffield and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in nearby Catcliffe. ‘We’re delighted to be able to share our knowledge and believe our future will be in safe hands as we look forward to welcoming young men and women who can develop their skills, with guidance from some of Sheffield’s finest.’

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