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Die Story über Ampex (11) von 12
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In the early 1960s digital computer technology began to revolutionize American industry. Although the full impact of this revolution on petroleum exploration was still some five years in the future, its effects were to be far reaching. Typically, detection of geologic structures favorable to the accumulation of oil has been accomplished by generating a seismic signal and recording the reflection of this signal from the earth's substrata. From the timing and continuity of these data, the experienced geophysicist can "map" the subsurface structure, and hence recommend suitable drilling sites.
As equipment and techniques became increasingly sophisticated, the geophysicist was able to obtain vastly larger quantities of data for a given area of interest. By the early 1950s, analog magnetic recorders provided a means of conveniently storing these data for subsequent processing with highly specialized analog computers. It is interesting to note, that Ampex made a contribution to this advance in geophysics, having provided one of the first practical geophysical analog recorders to Magnolia Petroleum Company's Field Research Group in 1950.
Although analog processing was a definite advance in geophysical data handling, the analog computer was severely limited in the volume of work it could handle and in the variety of analytic techniques it could economically apply to the data. Thus, in the first half of the 1960s, the geophysical exploration industry began the conversion to digital recording equipment and the development of computer programs for digitally analyzing and processing geophysical data.
It was during this transition period that Mandrel was seeking technological assistance to prepare for the digital era in geophysics. Mandrel's major competitors in this field already were wedded to high-technology companies - Litton and Texas Instruments. To remain competitive, Mandrel required a similar technological base. From the Ampex point of view, Mandrel represented a substantial foothold in and diversification into two fields foreign to the company's operations - the earth sciences, and automated photoelectric sorting equipment. On October 18, 1963, Mandrel and Ampex agreed to an exchange of Ampex stock for Mandrel stock, with the Houston based company becoming a subsidiary of Ampex.
The name "Mandrel" had been adopted in 1956 to symbolize the diversity already built into the company. According to Webster, the word means a core around which other material may be cast, molded or shaped, an appropriate expression for describing what the company was and might become. Today, Mandrel is a blend of several prior mergers which are represented in its four divisions:
the Electric Sorting Machine Division (1931),
the oldest; the Ray Geophysical Division (1962),
the largest; the Electro-Technical Labs Division (1959),
and the Cable & Sensor Division (1968), the newest.
From the point of historical record, the story of Mandrel begins in 1931 in the bean fields of Michigan.
Electric Sorting Machines
The goal of the Electric Sorting Machine Company was to take some of the human effort error and accompanying expense out of the judgement of the quality of Michigan white beaihs. The company founders, Dave Cox and Alonzo Curtis, saw great potential in applying electro-optical techniques to sorting foods automatically. The first sorting machine developed by the company was put to use in 1936 and used a version of the pinhole camera to scan each bean. The beans passed in front of a tube-like device with a tiny hole on its tip through which light entered. Each bean was viewed by the camera and according to preset levels of acceptable light reflection, it was accepted or rejected from the stream of beans which passed in the camera viewing path.
One early problem in this first version of the automatic food sorter was that beans were often rejected for the shadow the camera cast rather than their own surface reflection. This was eliminated by shortening the viewing tube and adding a simple lens to the camera. This increased the efficiency of the bean "reading" by more than 200 times and made it possible for the machine to match a human's sorting speed - approximately 60 pounds of beans an hour.
The beans were first fed into a hopper where an upright spoked wheel picked them up in small vacuum openings at the end of each spoke. The bean was carried to the 12 o'clock position of the wheel and drawn into the viewing chamber. Once the beans were placed into the supply hopper, the sorting process became automatic. Depending on the amount of light the bean reflected it was accepted and went on into a preparation or packing area or was rejected from the stream of moving beans into a cull hopper.This first machine could detect only those beans that were too dark in color. Soon advances in the system allowed objects that were too light to be identified and rejected. This optical scanning method is technically known as "monochromatic reflectivity" or more commonly, "brightness selection."
The basic concepts in the first ESM machines are used today. Refinements in the methods through which foodstuffs are carried to and from the viewing area and in the viewing process itself have increased the
speed of the sorting machines until today, a bean sorter processes 700 pounds per hour compared to the 1936 rate of only one pound of beans a minute.
The Electric Sorting Machine Company continued with its basic machine applying it to foods such as nuts and other varieties of beans until 1942. It was at this time that the brightness barrier was broken. ESM's initial bean sorter and subsequent machines were limited to determining the brightness of the objects processed and could not distinguish hue. This confined the machine to limited use in the food industry. It was in 1942 that ESM began production of an electro-mechanical sorter which could read the color of foodstuffs. The food product was inspected by four phototubes, two with red filters, two with blue. Using oscilloscopes, the phototubes register the color of the product as a two-axis resultant on the oscilloscope screen. Special color masks fitted to the scopes prevent registration of acceptable standards but allow a dot to appear when a product that does not meet color acceptability passes the phototubes. An ejection signal is then relayed to the phototube telling it to "get rid of that one." Because of the oscilloscope masks, new criteria for judging can be established simply by changing the mask, allowing different kinds of products to be handled by the same sorter.
The sorter remained limited to small food items like beans, peas, nuts, etc. until 1952 when a larger sorter was developed to allow the handling of lemons and other similar size foodstuffs. In 1959, further advances resulted in the introduction by Mandrel of a sorter which, for the first time, made possible the sorting of wet food products and fresh fruits and vegetables. This equipment added efficiency and speed to the handling of potato cubes, cherries, olives, cocktail onions and diced apples. Products could be washed, peeled and diced, then sorted to eliminate cubes with blemishes or remaining skins. By this time, Mandrel had formed a company, ELEXSO Corporation, to handle sales abroad, and had established manufacturing sales and service activities in Canada and France.
At the time Ampex acquired Mandrel Industries, Inc. in 1963, the Electric Sorting Machine Division of the company had refined its products in size and capability, offering machines that could distinguish color and could handle foodstuffs ranging in size from grains to lemons. Improvements in conveyance methods, which occurred shortly after the acquisition, allowed Mandrel to introduce a system capable of handling large products such as whole peeled potatoes. This sophisticated equipment uses nine scanning eyes to view whole potatoes. Another machine under development at this time perfected the handling of cylindrical objects such as cans. By premarking the cans with black bands at given heights, a mixed batch of canned goods such as fruits and vegetables which require similar cooking time can go into cookers at the same time and then be sorted after cooking.
This can sorter offers food processors efficient utilization of their cookers. Previously, only like products could be cooked together since there was no efficient method of separating canned goods for labeling. Now canners can operate full cookers at all times. Food processors have turned to automatic sorters and food processing equipment out of economic necessity. Labor in the food industry grows scarcer each year, and turnover in manpower has long been a processor's plague.
Mandrel continually searches for new applications for photo-optical sorting machines. A counter developed by the division guarantees the number of cherry halves and pineapple tidbits which will go into fruit cocktail.
Mandrel's sorting products have recently moved into the field with a tomato sorter used during harvesting to handle up to ten tons of mechanically harvested tomatoes per hour. The sorter distinguishes rapidly between red and green tomatoes and also rejects clods of earth which are lifted by the harvester.
As sorting equipment has become more sophisticated, Mandrel has investigated areas outside the food industry for new applications for its equipment. Today, colored plastic pellets, pharmaceutical capsules, trout eggs and, in Japan, even precious pearls go under the scrutiny of the ESM photoelectric eyes. Productivity and quality control have been greatly improved in many industries in handling operations which rely on color as the sorting determinant. As the world's population becomes more highly educated and skilled, fewer and fewer people will be attracted to the manual and routine tasks which are necessary to bring food and many other products to market. Mandrel constantly examines all industries in which its sorting equipment can be of value now or in the future. Economics and lack of manpower to service many industries indicate that Mandrel sorting equipment will find its way into many new applications in the years to come.
Electro-Technical Labs Division
In 1956, the first of a series of acquisitions was consummated by Mandrel which helped shape the multi-faceted organization which joined Ampex in 1963. The first major product diversification occurred when Electro-Technical Labs, Inc., of Houston, Texas, was taken into the Mandrel fold. Electro-Technical Labs began business in 1942 as a manufacturer of miniature seismic detectors called geophones. The detectors, small electromechanical transducers used in seismic study, particularly in oil exploration, are placed on the surface of the earth near the site of detonation or non-explosive seismic energy. The energy, after having been reflected from one or more subsurface physical discontinuities, is picked up by the geophones, amplified and recorded by an oscilligraph.
Electro-Technical Labs' geophones are among the most widely used seismic detectors in the world. Since joining Mandrel, the Electro-Technical Labs Division has developed many other types of geophones for use in oil exploration. After becoming a division of Mandrel, Eletro-Tech expanded its product line to include equipment for a number of applications in earth sciences. Today, Electro-Tech supplies all the technical tools used by geophysicists, including seismic amplifiers, blasters, magnetic tape recorders, playback systems, analog computers and oscillographs. Many of the highly specialized instruments available now from the Electro-Technical Labs Division can be obtained only from Mandrel.
Ray Geophysical Division
In 1925, a young mechanical engineer, just graduated from Rice University, joined the Humble Oil and Refining Company and was assigned to work on a refraction seismograph crew. With this introduction to oil prospecting, Robert Hillyer Ray soon became deeply interested in the potential of the infant industry. Just three years later, in 1928, Ray and a friend, Jack Pollard, left Humble to form Coastal Oil Finding Company. Coastal specialized in torsion balance surveys, a geophysical method by which inferences as to the earth's subsurface structure were drawn from measurements of small variations in the earth's gravimetric field.
The economic pressures of the great depression tolled the end of the fledgling Coastal Oil Finding Company in 1933. After completing Coastal's final assignments, Ray joined Standolind Oil and Gas Company, where he headed the gravity and magnetometer department for the next six years.
In 1939, Robert H. Ray Co. was formed, the first in a long line of geophysical exploration companies to bear the Ray name. By that time, Ray had been involved in petroleum exploration and related research for more than fifteen years. In the next few years, Ray's friends and professional associates, Jack C. Pollard, Norman P. Teague, and Robert S. Duty, Jr., joined the Robert H. Ray organization to add scientific, engineering, and management strength to the new venture. This combination of geophysical talent and experience was the foundation for the formation of the world-renowned Ray Group.
During its early years, the Ray company became one of the largest operators of gravity meter crews, with as many as fifty teams working throughout the world simultaneously. In 1942, Ray added seismic exploration methods to its list of services. Soon, more than a dozen Ray seismic crews were in the field, primarily in countries outside the United States. In 1958, Ray purchased the McCollum Exploration Company and the rights to the now-famous McCollum Geograph or Thumper* geophysical exploration equipment. The Thumper equipment was the first practical application of a non-explosive surface source for generating seismic energy. The original Thumper equipment vehicles carried and dropped three-ton weights which literally thumped the ground to create energy waves which would be reflected from the earth's subsurface layers.
Through the use of the Thumper equipment, Ray was able to collect economically useful seismic information in so-called difficult seismic data areas such as Libya. Algeria. West Texas and New Mexico. As the Thumper was developed to a high degree of efficiency, the technical and economic advantages of the system became widely recognized. The basic principle of generating seismic energy by using a non-dynamite source at the earth's surface began to be imitated through the development of other types of energy generators. Between 1958 and 1962, Ray expanded its scope of services to the oil industry with land and marine crews at work in all oil provinces of the United States and Canada, and throughout most of the oil rich areas of the world.
At the time Mandrel joined Ampex, two leading U.S. geophysical contracting companies were merged into the Mandrel Ray Geophysical Division. Seismic Explorations, Inc. (SEI) and General Geophysical Company. The two new arms of the Ray Geophysical Division had already established excellent reputations in the geophysical industry.
SEI was founded in 1932 by F. F. Reynolds, who became Manager of Research and Development at the time of the Mandrel merger. When the organization was melded into Mandrel, SEI was operating 22 seismic crews in the United States and Canada and had introduced the use of multiple geophone shot arrays in 1934 and maintained leadership in the use of this technique.
General Geophysical Company was founded in 1935 by Earle W. Johnson and specialized in foreign exploration using seismic methods. General Geophysical pioneered the use Of unusual vehicles to service seismic exploration. Airplanes, helicopters, boat barges, trucks, tractors and swamp buggies were put to use by General's innovative crews.
General also developed unique techniques in the use of special seismometer arrays and new methods for measuring seismic pressure waves. A number of innovations valuable to the petroleum industry came out of General's research and development laboratory: the first one-way automatic gain controlled seismic reflection amplifier; the first complete seismic system with linear phase response, an advanced seismic data processing system, GEOPAC*; the first precision-programmed gain control for a seismic amplifier; and the first seismic field instrumentation with complete modular construction for easy trouble shooting and servicing.
Following the Ampex-Mandrel merger, in 1966, Geoscience Incorporated of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an organization of research and application .scientists active in digital seismic technology became a subsidiary of Ampex working with Mandrel. Founded in 1961, Geoscience specialized in several areas of geophysical data acquisition and analysis. In addition to developing digital seismic techniques for the petroleum industry, the company is active in electrical and electromagnetic exploration for oil and metallic minerals. Geoscience manufactures induced polarization equipment and provides geological and geophysical contract survey crews for the mining industry. It also carries out research and development projects in the earth sciences for industry and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Thomas Cantwell, president of Geoscience, became a vice president of Mandrel at the time of the merger and succeeded Mandrel President and Chief Operations officer Fred E. Stapleton when Stapleton moved to the Chairmanship of the Board of Directors of Mandrel in July, 1969.
Throughout the Ampex-Mandrel relationship, continuing emphasis has been placed on the development of new products to serve geophysical research, food processing and other sorting applications. In October, 1965, little more than 18 months after Mandrel became a part of Ampex, construction was completed on a 245,000 square feet facility which allowed all Mandrel activities in Houston to be housed under one roof. Expansion and upgrading of Mandrel facilities has been continued. In 1969, the latest addition to the Mandrel Houston building was the expansion of the main computer center which provides the petroleum and gas industries with digital seismic data processing services.
A new division of the Ampex subsidiary was established in 1968 to provide geophysical exploration crews with special multiconductor cables required in their work. The Cable & Sensor Division which manufactures and markets the cables in a wide range of sizes and specialized windings, proved profitable in its first months of operations and increases in sales are expected in this and future years.
In 1969, geophone manufacture was transferred from Mandrel's Electro-Technical Labs Division to the new Cable & Sensor Division. This move allowed the market single-source purchase of these closely related indispensable geophysical tools.
Overall, Mandrel provided approximately 13 percent of Ampex sales in fiscal year 1969 and dramatic contribution to Ampex products and services as it searches the world for new sources of natural resources and automates food processing to offer the consumer new economy and quality.