Created By: James Mosley
Edison's electric pen was the first electric motor driven appliance produced and sold in the United States, developed as an offshoot of Edison's telegraphy research.
Edison and Batchelor noticed that as the stylus of their printing telegraph punctured the paper, the chemical solution left a mark underneath. This led them to conceive of using a perforated sheet of paper as a stencil for making multiple copies, and to develop the electric pen as a perforating device. US patent 180,857 for "autographic printing" was issued to Edison on 8 August 1876.
Electric pen outfit at Greenfield Village
The electric pen was sold as part of a complete duplicating outfit, which included the pen, a cast-iron holder with a wooden insert, a wet-cell battery on a cast-iron stand, and a cast-iron flatbed duplicating press with ink roller. All the cast-iron parts were black japanned, with gold striping or decoration. The hand-held electric pen was powered by the wet-cell battery, which was wired to an electric motor mounted on top of a pen-like shaft. The motor drove a reciprocating needle which, according to the manual, could make 50 punctures per second, or 3,000 per minute. The user was instructed to place the stencil on firm blotting paper on a flat surface, then use the pen to write or draw naturally to form words and designs as a series of minute perforations in the stencil.
Later duplicating processes used a wax stencil, but the instruction manuals for Edison's Electric(al) Pen and Duplicating Press variously call for a stencil of "common writing paper" (in Charles Batchelor's manual), and "Crane's Bank Folio" paper (in George Bliss' later manual). Once the stencil was prepared it was placed in the flatbed duplicating press with a blank sheet of paper below. An inked roller was passed over the stencil, leaving an impression of the image on the paper. Edison boasted that over 5,000 copies could be made from one stencil.
The electric pen proved ultimately unsuccessful, other simpler methods (and eventually the typewriter) succeeding it for cutting stencils. But Edison's duplicating technology was licensed to A.B. Dick, who sold it as "Edison's Mimeograph" with considerable success. The company is still in business today as an office products and equipment manufacturer.
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