History of Industrial Electronics

Industrial electronics is the use of electron-tube devices in the control and operation of machines employed in manufacturing. It involves a variety of basic applications including photoelectric relays, railway signaling, and motor control.

It was said to have begun during World War I when there was a request for new types of radio tubes for use in the emerging industry of broadcasting. At the time, there were only a few non-transmission uses for tubes. These include Tungar battery-charging bulbs and high-voltage kenotrons for cable testing and dust precipitation.

On New Year’s Day, 1930, the future and the business outlook for industrial tubes began to change. This was due to the depression, RCA taking over the tubing industry, and development, design, engineering and manufacture of vacuum tubes had outgrown the laboratory. Therefore, high-speed spot and seam welding, motor control that used dc motors with an AC supply line and railway signaling, as well as elevator control and the electrocardiograph were introduced as ways to sell new tubes.

One of the new tubes that they were trying to sell was the photoelectric tube that is the basis for what is now used in projectors to make, among other things, movies and television shows.  On January 1, 1930, RCA got full rights to its US production. That left General Electric and Westinghouse, the other big names in electronics at the time, to concentrate on industrial electronics. One year later, they found that tubing of this sort could be used to sort beans and remove the discolored ones automatically. However, a small market, high prices, and World War II made it difficult to sell.

Fast forward nearly 40 years to the 1970s and the Aloha Network. This was the first “wireless” network and is said to be the basis for the creation of the Ethernet switches that are used today for personal, business, and industrial computer functions. It involved the retransmission of information if a message of receipt was not transmitted when the information is received. All devices worked on the same wavelength.

A man by the name of Robert Metcalfe was given the job of finding a way to network the computers at Xerox. He used the ideas behind the Aloha Network and further advanced them by giving them a way to “predict” when transmission would fail. Today, less than 40 years from that discovery, these switches help to transmit data at unbelievable speeds.

These switches come in several varieties including unmanaged for homes and small businesses, smart for small to medium businesses, and managed for large businesses and manufacturing. Unmanaged can be used right out of the box. Smart switches need some layman programming and managed switches require professional installation and programming.

These switches are not only for homes and offices. Through additional advancements, they can be used for manufacturing, as well. Today, these industrial Ethernet switches are able to withstand extreme changes in temperature, electrical currents, and other adverse conditions that can be seen in a plant. In addition, they can also be programmed to avoid disasters through timing protocols.