The beauty of industrial design is limitations, and what talented designers can do within those limitations. This is most apparent when you have a monomaniacal company that offers a surprisingly wide variety of designs to accomplish their mission, whereas other companies might just crank out three or four solutions and call it a day.
The company in question is BMI, and their sole purpose is to create measuring tools. We've already showed you some of their funky tape measures that we saw at Holz-Handwerk. Here we look at another of their product categories, a utilitarian object that often gets no design love: The spirit level. A vial, a bubble and a straightedge are all that's required, right?
Wrong. BMI's designers have looked at every possible situation where a human being might need to level something, then created a product range to answer very specific needs—and budgets. Consider the following situations:
The homeowner trying to hang a painting in the foyer doesn't need to same level of precision—nor to spend as much money—as a technician trying to perfectly level an industrial machine. A white-gloved surveyor might only need to use a small device that will live most of its life inside a cushy shirt pocket, whereas the tradesperson on the job needs a robust piece of metal that can survive a fall off of an extension ladder. For someone installing drainage plumbing, having a means of quickly determining that a pipe is not perfectly level, but is instead on a two-degree slant to let gravity do its thing, is handy. And for a tradesperson installing something in a customer's home, they need a level they can set down on a delicate surface without marring the finish.
So let's look at some of their stuff:
The Ecoline is designed for "cost aware users." It's made from powder-coated aluminum, and to keep the price down the wall thickness is 1.3mm and the accuracy is +/- 1mm/meter.
Moving up the scale, the Robust models are decidedly beefier, with a 2mm wall thickness and a four-chamber cross-section for rigidity. Shock-absorbing rubber end caps protect against drops. The accuracy has been bumped up to 0.5mm/meter.
For those seeking a heavyweight level for rough framing, where a 1mm/meter tolerance is acceptable, their Christian-rankling 666 model is made from die-cast aluminum with a devilish red powder-coating. The shape offers improved torsion resistance.
The HighPrecision line has the same beefy construction as the Robust, but the tolerance on the HP line has been bumped up to 0.3mm/meter.
Also, the HPs have had their vials engineered so that the freaking bubbles move faster, "5x faster than those of ordinary levels," the company reckons. I believe that using the term "faster" is a translation error from German; as demonstrated to me in the show booth, it seemed that what they meant is that BMI's HP bubbles readily travel further outside of the demarcations when things are out of whack, providing better visual feedback. See the image below for a comparison:
As sexy as these are, perhaps the one that most caught my eye in their booth at Holz-Handwerk was this Wooden Spirit Level Super:
This is for when you're in a fancy customer's house and you don't want to mar whatever surface you're setting the level down on. But there is a trade-off: This being wood, they simply can't get the tolerances they could in plastic or metal, so the accuracy is 1mm/meter, which is more in line with a pocket level.
Speaking of pocket levels, BMI makes an abundance, all handsome and well-thought-out:
The company has paid a lot of attention to the vials, which they guarantee for 30 years. They're ultrasonically welded into place, and the magnifying Plexiglas used for the vials are non-reflective, ensuring the user can see a nice, fat bubble without glare. At the factory, a CNC laser is used to etch the lines in once the level has been calibrated. In the photo below left, you can see the outlying marks that are meant to indicate a two-degree grade, for the aforementioned plumbing application.
As long as this entry is, we've literally only shown you a fraction of BMI's levels. To see the rest, click here.
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As nice as my Stabila