History of GDS Instruments

GDS Instruments (A division of Global Digital Systems Ltd) was founded in 1979 but its history go back much further. Dr Bruce Menzies began his career as a professor at the University of Surrey and taught two of our current directors, before branching of to form GDS . The timeline below includes an overview of key dates in our history.

  • GDS was launched by Dr Bruce Menzies.
  • During the 1980's GDS launched their first product, a digital pressure volume controller which, was followed soon after by the first ever PC controlled stress path system. The stress path system was an instant success and led to a network of international agents being established to export the system worldwide, some of whom we still work with today.
  • Following the success of the stress path systems, GDS launched a range of dynamic testing systems during the 1990's and introduced more test specific systems such as the Hollow cylinder apparatus. GDS also launched a software package called GDSLAB. The software, which is still used today (After many updates), allowed the user more control and analysis of the test data.
  • During the 2000's GDS moved to larger offices in Hook, Hampshire (Their current location) and continued to expand their product range. A Shear testing range was launched, alongside a Resonant Column testing system and a new enterprise range of dynamic systems. Existing products were upgraded as technologies advanced and GDS undertook the first of many customer collaborations, including the HKUST Unsaturated testing system, which was designed in conjunction with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
  • GDS were awarded the Queens Award for 'Enterprise in International Trade' in 2011 after increasing overseas earnings by 190% over six years of continuous sustained growth, and for selling over 85% of their products overseas. 
  • Alongside the award, GDS launched a range of Virtual Infinite Stiffness load frames and further expanded their shear testing portfolio.

  • In 2012 GDS was purchased by Judges Scientific plc (Judges). Judges is an AIM-quoted group specialising in the acquisition and development of a portfolio of scientific instrument businesses.
  • During the same year GDS launched a range of 10-50kN Load frames, which have been used on hundreds of subsequent triaxial systems. 
  • It was also in this year that GDS launched one of their most technically advanced systems to date, the Variable Direction (Also known as Bi-directional) Dynamic Cyclic Simple Shear. The system can be used to investigate offshore foundations structures such as wind farms and oil rigs.
  • GDS held an agents conference in 2012. The conference invited agents from around the world to our offices in Hook, to share their knowledge and experiences in the geotechnical field whilst networking and spending time learning about the the latest GDS apparatus. 

  • Advanced systems continued in 2013, with the launch of a GDS' True Triaxial Apparatus. Unlike conventional triaxial apparatus, all three principal of the True Triaxial apparatus can be controlled independently, rather than just two in a conventional triaxial system. This allows a wider range of complex stress paths to be performed. 

  • During 2014, GDS launched a temperature upgrade option for multiple systems. The upgrade allows existing or new systems to perform either "heating only" or" heating & cooling" of a sample. The temperature upgrade allowed users to tests a variety of applications such as Frozen Soil, Gas Hydrate and High & Low Temperature Testing. Demand for these systems grew exponentially over the subsequent years.

  • 2015 was focused on new rock apparatus. GDS launched their new 100 & 250kN Hydraulic Load frames, a 1.5MN Active Cell, and Acoustic Emission & Acoustic Velocity analysis systems. The new hydraulic load frames showcased a new red and grey colour scheme which, was very well received.

  • With the success of the red/grey colour scheme, GDS embarked on updating the colour scheme of their existing products. The brown and beige that had become synonymous with GDS, was gradually replaced with a modern white and grey colour scheme which, is still used to this day.
  • Two new shear machines were launched in 2016, a Large Automated Direct Shear System that had an option for rock testing or soil samples up to 300mm; and a Electro-Mechanical Dynamic Cyclic Simple Shear apparatus which, has since become one of our most sought after pieces of apparatus, due to its testing accuracy and use in growing industries such as offshore windfarm foundation design.
  • GDS' launched the world's first Instrumented Hoek Cell, a highly sophisticated, research focused, version of the traditional Hoek cell that can be fully instrumented.

  • To complement and expand the rock mechanics range and expand the range further, GDS launched a syringe pump in 2017. Based on the design of an advanced controller the syringe pump was made from hastelloy allowing corrosive material to be used in a test as opposed to water from a traditional controller. 

  • 13 Employees from GDS completed a 100 mile mountain bike ride along the South Downs Way raising over £2,700 for Cancer Research UK.
  • GDS held another agents conference in 2018. 19 representatives from 15 countries attended the three day conference, which comprised of presentations, focus groups, product demonstrations, customer visits as well as time to socialise with staff and enjoy some english hospitality.

  • GDS turned 40 in 2019. The company celebrated with a party for staff and families at a local hotel followed by catered lunch at the office the following week. During the lunch a cake was presented in the shape of a triaxial cell. The design and cutting of the cake caused quite stir on LinkedIn amongst our followers, in fact you could argue it went viral for us.
  • A difficult year on so many levels, for so many people. With GDS being a manufacturer, our workshop remained open throughout the year, whilst those who could worked from home. In spite of the uncertainty and change GDS had a successful year and even expanded the team during this period. Our hard work was further rewarded when Judges named us company of the year within their group of 17 companies for 2020.
  • Having taken the keys to a 5th business unit in January, the company decided to continue with the planned renovation, this not only increased their floor space by over 20% but it allowed GDS to spread out the production and office space, allowing for a safer work environment for the staff.

  • So far this year GDS launched a new confined Electromechanical Dynamic Cyclic Simple Shear and two new load frames (128 and 256kN).