A new home for Gilbert Platon and his VA flowmeters

VA (Variable Area) flowmeters are often known as Rotameters, although this is a trade name. The flowmeter design uses a vertical glass tube, and has a rotating ‘float’ in the tube. Flow of a liquid or gas up the tube makes the float rise, and its position against a scale gives the flow rate. These meters are most commonly seen in anaesthetic trolleys, giving the anaesthetist a fairly foolproof view of the gas/air flow to a patient. But they are also used industrially, on chromatographs, in welding equipment, on moisture analysers and gas mixers. Stainless steel versions and those with electronic read-outs and alarms also exist.

The GEC Rotameter was developed, maybe in the 1920s, in Kent, and then the factory moved to Crawley. A parallel company developed in Germany which produced a ‘Rotamesser’. Chief engineer or similar at GEC was Gilbert Platon, who decided not to move to Crawley and took Government incentive grants to move to the other new town of Basingstoke. There he set up his own company known as G A Platon, to produce VA flowmeters, which was eventually located on the Viables Industrial Estate. His company prospered, mainly through the use of an A5 size catalogue known as the Flowbits catalogue, which became indispensable for laboratory technicians. His flowmeters were called GAPmeters, rather than Rotameters, after GAPlaton, and the crucial gap between the float and the side of the glass tube.

At the end of the 1980s Gilbert sold his business to the first of several industrial investor companies, and retired to a flat in Ellingham Close in Alresford. His daughter(s) had also settled around Alresford, one had a dress shop in the town. The subsequent owners of his business progressively ratcheted up the expansion expectations they had, particularly for the Flowbits catalogue. But by the end of the 90s the Internet had arrived, and the catalogue did not make the transition, and the business folded, mainly being absorbed into a factory in Sheffield.

Several of the key employees in Basingstoke at that time, including the Technical Director, Mark Towner, with some of the key Platon development personnel and Flowbits sales staff, formed a new company in around 2000 to manufacture and sell similar VA flowmeters to the Platon flowmeters. After a few years working from a factory base in Wimborne, the factory moved to Alresford, and is located in a unit in the Dean. It is now called Influx Measurements.

Gilbert Platon almost made 100 years old, not too far from where his products were still manufactured, living in a flat in Ellingham Close.

Written by Nick Denbow, of Alresford, who worked for Platon Instrumentation and Platon Flowbits as Marketing Manager from 1991 until the crash of 1999. See http://www.flowbits.com 

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