Log in

2010 - David McMurtry - UK

Sir David McMurtry

Virtually all high value mechanical engineering products built today have component shapes and sizes that have been “touched and verified” by one of Sir David McMurtry’s metrology inventions, the “touch-trigger-probe”. His inventions have revolutionised the manufacture of precision products since late 1970s and improved product quality and reliability significantly.

Sir David was born in Ireland in 1940. He became interested in model aeroplanes as a boy, particularly the miniature diesel engines that powered them. Modifying these engines to increase performance convinced him that he had much to offer the emerging aero engine industry.

In 1958 he joined Bristol Aero Engines (now Rolls-Royce) as a craft apprentice specialising in machining and fitting. He did well at college and after 2 years was promoted to student apprentice. As a student apprentice he studied for a Higher National Diploma at the Ashley Down College of Advanced Technology in Bristol; this was prior to it becoming the University of Bath.

Sir David’s career in engineering design had finally started and his first role was as a junior designer in rocket design. His undoubted talents rapidly became recognised and within four years he had become head of the Final Nozzle and Thrust Reverse group.
In 1971 as part of the new Rolls-Royce, he was promoted to assistant chief engineer (special design problems) and in 1974 he became deputy chief designer for the RB401 and assistant chief engineer for all engine design. It was during this period that he was asked to solve the problem of making and validating fuel pipes, that was causing significant engine assembly problems. The answer was to measure the pipes in free space and Sir David invented the first touch trigger probe that was patented by Rolls-Royce. The device worked so well that several other companies wanted it and a new cottage or shed industry was born.
The “touch-trigger-probe” had taken off, and the only way to meet demand was to set up a new company “Renishaw”, with Rolls-Royce, after negotiation, receiving 10% royalties. To do this Sir David teamed up with John Deer who concentrated on marketing and the business of getting the probe properly manufactured. John is now Deputy Chairman of Renishaw and the partnership of McMurtry and Deer has been one of the great industrial partnerships in recent years. Renishaw is now a major multi-national company with a turnover of £180M.

His engineering and business achievements have been widely acclaimed internationally. In 1994 he was awarded a CBE “for services to Science and Technology” and he was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) in 1989. In the 2001 New Years Honour List he was appointed a Knight Bachelor “for services to Design and Innovation”. He was a visiting Professor of Huddersfield University and has been awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering of the University of Birmingham, plus three honorary degrees of Doctor of Engineering from Heriot-Watt University, Bristol University and the University of Bath. He is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, a Fellow of the American Society of Manufacturing Engineers and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He also sits on the US Standards Committee for Co-ordinate Measuring Machines and was for ten years a member of the UK Patents Office Steering Board.

Sir David is a highly acclaimed engineer at the helm of one of the UK’s leading companies, who still finds engineering the most exciting career to be in and who is an inspirational role model for young engineers. In his career he has played a fundamental role in the design and manufacture of a family of products that have revolutionised precision measurements and made Renishaw the Internationally leading company it is today. He is a Corporate Member of CIRP and many CIRP colleagues are actively involved in research projects with Renishaw.