When item Industries was established in 1976 in Solingen, its initial areas of operation were the design and construction of customized machines and assembly equipment. From the very outset, item set itself a prime goal – to reduce the cost of building machines in our own company by rationalizing machining and assembly operations, and by standardizing components. This resulted directly in the item MB Building Kit System, a machine-building kit for labor-saving and cost cutting constructions of various kinds, from assembly work benches and facilities to automated production equipment.
In 2007 the American headquarters, item America LLC, was established when item decided to expand their distribution system in the United States and focus on gaining more distribution partners. Today item’s goal of expanding it’s distribution system in America has been realized, with distribution partners established throughout the country.
Over the years, item has been leading the market for modular building kit systems. The standard values which item defined, for example modular dimensions and system grooves, are now accepted worldwide and used as an industry standard. By constantly developing the MB Building Kit System and its range of products, we are ensuring that item will maintain its technological lead in the years ahead.
The values item defined are now accepted worldwide as an industry standard.
The mid 1970s was when things first began to take shape. item was established in 1976 by two young and ambitious engineers, Gerrit Pies and Wolfgang Rixen. To begin with, the startup company focused on designing, building and marketing specialist machinery. The highly specialized, cost-effective, and high-performance machinery from item offered ingenious solutions for complex requirements. One year later, the two founders expanded their team and were joined in their one-room office in Solingen, West Germany, by a drafter. The construction work took place at the back of the premises in a tool shop that offered shared use of rooms in the evenings – item was born.
In 1978, item relocated to a new site with its own factory, technical office and electronics workshop. The company continued to manufacture specialist machinery, using a “container-style” modular approach based on standard basic elements in the form of rectangular tubes. Marketing for the machinery was handled in-house. At the start of the 1980s, while developing and manufacturing a bicycle carrier for a car, the company founders experimented with aluminum for the first time.
The fact that machine bases made from square steel profiles require complex manufacturing processes led to the initial idea and drawings for an aluminum profile designed for mechanical engineering applications – Profile 40×40, which is still around today in the same form, and its sister profile the 80×40. Both these profiles featured all-round 8 mm grooves and formed the template for the MB Building Kit System that would follow. The chosen tolerances for dimensional stability posed a real challenge for the extrusion technologies of the time and so it took quite a while before the first aluminium profiles finally arrived in Solingen. The few accessory elements that were available were still made by hand, as were the t-slot nuts. No time was lost in lodging a patent application for the system.
The first machine bases made from the new aluminum material were delivered in 1982. Although initially skeptical about their strength and durability, companies were quick to adopt the new approach – a new era dawned in the manufacture of customized production machinery. At first, item continued to pursue the same “container-style” modular approach, which was now really starting to come into its own, thanks to the universal profile grooves. More daring structural designs followed later on.
How can machinery be built faster, more cost-efficiently and with improved flexibility? item used a “container-style” modular approach based on standard components. The company set benchmarks with designs for additional components, which now started to attract the attention of other mechanical engineering firms. As a result, products originally developed only for in-house use quickly grew into an entire building kit system and so the idea for a new sales channel was born. In 1984, item moved again, into the first purpose-built facility on Friedenstrasse in Solingen-Aufderhöhe.
It was around 1986 that innovative ideas “Made in Germany” took shape. For a product to really stand out it has to be highly functional and feature an exemplary design. At item, both come as standard. The young company chose to focus on outstanding design from the start. Due consideration is given to both the individual element and how it will interact with existing components. Functional, timeless and aesthetic from the outset.
All the work paid off when item won the “if 86 – Excellent industrial design” award for the MB Building Kit System.
Until now, the aluminum profiles had been used in stationary designs, but it was at this point that linear slide elements were added to the product portfolio. Instead of being screwed into place, the steel shafts of these elements were pressed into the standard grooves of the profile. That was a brand new and low-cost solution – for guides of virtually any length. It also saved a great deal of assembly time.
This modular linear guide system based on the Line 8 profiles of the MB System became the first in a long line of dynamic applications.
The “lightweights” of the MB Building Kit System. Customers want weight and volume-optimised structures – and Line 5 enables users to build smaller-scale structures that have been tried and tested in designs twice the size. It is ideal for use in handling systems for small parts, such as in laboratory applications etc. With the launch of the newly developed Line 8 E profiles, item ushered in new advances in extrusion technology. Despite slender wall thicknesses, the profile retains the full external contour and functionality of Line 8. The slimline design boosts cost-efficiency and lowers material consumption.
item continued to expand – including to different cities. Customers in strong economic regions across Germany also wanted a local service. A small base near Stuttgart developed into a fully-fledged sales branch, making item Ulm the first item subsidiary to offer a full-service portfolio for the MB Building Kit System.
When item distributed the first catalogue for the MB Building Kit System in 1984, the new products from Solingen quickly travelled beyond Germany. A partner company in Switzerland incorporated the still relatively new building kit system into its sales range. Soon, more companies in western and central Europe followed suit. In 1992, item set up its first wholly owned subsidiary outside Germany – item Italia s.r.l. in Bergamo.
The Ball Screw Unit and Bevel Gearbox were the next dynamic elements that item brought to the market. Exceptional precision, simple modular assembly processes and full compatibility with the MB Building Kit System were the key features of the new components. The products were well received – by customers and by judges for the iF design awards.
It wasn’t long after the MB Building Kit System was first released that the universal aluminum profiles were put to use in the construction of versatile work benches. The item tradition of combining form and function resulted in the TRIGO system work bench. Independent height adjustability for up to three levels kept everything in easy reach for users, regardless of their size. item engineering know-how makes all the difference at the work bench.
Every new addition to a product has to work around the world, every new component in the range has to come with clear documentation and fit seamlessly with the other modules. That is how item made the grade in the USA in 1997 – the metric components even succeeded in winning over users in the home of imperial measurements.
Having secured sales partners in Africa and Australia, item was now able to deliver the item MB Building Kit System to every populated continent on the planet. Countries that do not have a dedicated item partner can be supplied with products via a neighboring country or directly.
The launch of the new Line 12 took the MB Building Kit System to new dimensions – quite literally. The new extra-strong grooves can accommodate twice the load that Line 8 can, making them suitable for a whole range of application options that previously had to be handled with steel constructions. Line 12 also offers all the benefits of the system, features the same high precision as other item profiles, is fully integrated into the overall building kit system, and even serves as a basis for the linear technology used in automation solutions.
Having already reached its 25th anniversary in 2001, item marked the occasion with silver jubilee celebrations attended by more than 200 employees and 25 sales partners. The company also held in-house exhibitions at all its locations to showcase its full service portfolio and celebrate with customers.
In 2002, item made a fresh start in Switzerland, a country in the heart of Europe that merits the company’s full attention. The new subsidiary was established close to the Rhine Falls and has been offering a faultless service to all Swiss cantons since it opened.
The countries of central and eastern Europe make up a fast-growing economic region in the EU. item took on the challenge of entering this market, first with a simple sales office, then with a service portfolio provided by the wholly owned subsidiary item Polska.
It didn’t take long for elements of the MB Building Kit System to make their way to the USA. The modular system was originally supplied to local customers and international companies through sales partners. In 2007, a dedicated US headquarters was established to expand sales considerably. Thanks to item America LLC, local dealers have much faster and simpler access to the full range of products, while a large-scale in-house warehouse facility optimizes logistics, even over long distances. As a result, item can attract new partners and expand into regions that were previously out of reach.
The independent Line X within the modular MB Building Kit System has proved very popular with customers and won prestigious design awards such as the red dot Design Award.
The impressive features of Line X include clean lines, a practical design throughout, smooth surfaces and flush profile joins, which are perfect in machine enclosures and clean-room areas. No other profile system in the world had ever before offered such continuous, unbroken surfaces.
The new specialists for demanding tasks – the item Linear Units KLE – are used when cleanliness and shock protection come first. Their aluminum housings with stylish, clean lines accommodate heavy-duty roller guides and powerful drive units, while their closed and compact design keeps dirt out and lowers particle emissions.
Click-Fastening Set 8 is an item innovation par excellence – the simplest, fastest and most versatile way to connect two profiles. It can be removed and reused as required – and is fastened to two profiles using just a single screw. Have you gone “CLICK” yet?
The new Work Bench System – manual production concepts to the highest ergonomic standards. A completely new range based on the MB Building Kit System brought a breath of fresh air to workshops. Tools and work materials can be positioned much closer to hand and in easy reach – even in the smallest of spaces. The working height of every work bench can be varied – using an electrical height-adjustment system, if required.
The ability to customize workstations for each user and any task results in the ultimate ergonomic and cost-effective solutions.
item goes round – the D30 profile tube system supports lean production (LP). According to the principle of continuous improvement in production processes, companies should be able to put their ideas directly into practice. A forgiving design principle, simple joining techniques and machining-free fastenings ensure maximum versatility. Because everything can be extended or modified with very little effort, the Lean Production Building Kit System is the cost-effective answer to the challenges of modern production.
item is there for its customers – no matter where ‘there’ is. A dedicated subsidiary in China leads the way in supplying the Building Kit System to customers in the “Middle Kingdom” and delivering a full service portfolio and maximum availability. The modular concept makes a big impression when it comes to handling industrial automation projects with maximum efficiency.
Closed surfaces and clean lines on the outside, ingenious details on the inside – Line XMS meets all the requirements of modular series production for machine enclosures. XMS can be used to build self-supporting constructions with separate functional sections that are modular and make servicing and maintenance work much easier.
Cables and lines can be accessed with ease but are hidden from view and protected in integrated cable conduits in the structure. With continuous, unbroken outer surfaces on the profiles and all-round seals, Line XMS keeps production areas clean and ensures that doors shut perfectly. The process always comes first, not the installation. The machine frame and its functional sections feature a striking design.
Things are on the up – industrial stairways and machine platforms can now be built in kit form. Line TPS combines special profiles and fastening technologies with the standards of the MB Building Kit System. The end results are customized solutions for machine constructions that satisfy worldwide safety standards. item can take care of the stairway design if required – our engineers use calculation tools that have been developed in-house.
item has won more than 30 awards for exemplary design with its products and solutions. That is down to our engineers and designers, who strive for much more than just functional solutions. They want item products to be easy to use, highly practical in day-to-day usage and exceptional when it comes to design and styling. The item building kit systems have to withstand industrial environments where nobody is delicate with machinery and factory equipment. And yet they are also designed to ensure users understand how they work and enjoy using them. That takes a bit more effort during development work, but saves our customers time, money and stress. Experts from prestigious institutions such as the German Design Council, red dot and the iF product design awards agree.
item West is the exclusive representative of item products and services in 10 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
From the Golden Gate Bridge to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Seattle Space Needle to the Painted Desert, we are the west. In the west we have the best. The best skiing, biking, mountain climbing, surfing, boarding, hiking, boating, and star gazing!
Our customers build cars, airplanes, semi-conductors, Hollywood sets, medical devices, agriculture products, robotics, and a whole spectrum of manufacturing concerns.
Like our customers, we too are born and raised in the territory we serve. We know the territory.
Our team of item professionals span ten states. That means there is always a qualified and knowledgeable item West team member in your area to help you quickly and efficiently. From our energetic sales team, our skillful engineers, to our experienced installers — we pride ourself on our attention to detail and ability to help our partners every step of the way.