Top 10 Industrial Age Inventions & Innovations
The industrial age was a time of experimentation when people were constantly developing new machines, techniques and devices that they thought could contribute to the progress of industrialization. While many industrial age inventions were discarded as soon as they were built, others proved to be extremely useful and have become an integral part of our modern lives. Here are the most important industrial age inventions that we now take for granted but which were considered revolutionary at the time of their development:
History of Printing Machines
Before the invention of printing machines, books were either written by hand or published using the manual, time consuming process of woodblock printing. An improved technique known as the movable type printing was later introduced in the 11th century. It involved the use of printing blocks that were embedded with movable metal pieces with alphabets or characters. However, even with this significant advancement, large scale printing was still expensive and impractical for most purposes. A major break through came with the invention of mechanized printing in the 15th century, which led to the founding of a number of printing presses throughout Europe. But the process remained slow and hand-operated till 1843 with Richard March Hoe designed and developed the rotary printing press. It was a momentous step in the history of printing and is considered among the greatest industrial age inventions. Printing at an industrial scale, for reading material such as newspapers, could not have been accomplished without this innovation.
History of Steam Engines
The first steam engine was designed and developed by Thomas Savery in the 17th century but it was far from practical. James Watt took up the initiative to overhaul the previous design during the industrial revolution and built a refined version of the steam engine that could be used for various industrial tasks. It was initially used for mining purposes but soon became the heart of many later industrial age inventions. In addition to being extensively used in motorized vehicles, these steam engines also powered machines at various sorts of factories. Even the steam turbines we use today to generate electrical energy at thermal power plants are inspired by the steam engines designed during the industrial age.
History of Spinning and Sewing Machines
The invention of the Spinning Jenny in the 18th century revolutionized the textile industry. By enabling workers to spin multiple lengths of wool simultaneously, it made it possible for people to produce yarn at an industrial scale. Samuel Crompton brought further innovation to the process by adding Richard Arkwright's water frame to it and developed a machine called the Spinning Mule. Cotton and textile mills were soon established throughout Europe and the US.
Many inventors attempted to mechanize the sewing process at the start of the industrial revolution. However, it was Barthelemy Thimonnier who invented he first practical sewing machine. A mob of angry tailors almost killed him out of fear of unemployment.
History of Railways
Railroads may not seem as brilliant and amazing as some of the other industrial age inventions, but they certainly played an extremely important role in giving the industrial revolution a momentum. Before the advent of railway systems, land transportation was usually accomplished by vehicles that were pulled by animals. As this was a slow means of transportation for goods and raw materials, the only efficient option was to transport cargo on ships. In many cases, especially in landlocked areas, it was simply impractical. Following he invention of the steam engine, railway steam locomotives (trains) were constructed to carry our cargo transportation. It also enabled people to travel at a much faster speed over land and improved the communication between distant regions.
History of the Electric Motor
The first electric motor was invented in 1832 by William Sturgeon and it went on to become an integral part of many industrial and commonly used machines soon after it came into production. It is counted among the earliest devices that could efficiently convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. It is one of the few industrial age inventions that have remained mostly the same as they were at the time of their invention. From fans to DVD players, electric motors are extensively used in all sorts of commercial and homes appliances.
History of the Electric Telegraph
Prior to the invention of the telegraph machine, communication was carried out either by the slow process of land travel or through ships. Pigeons were also used in many regions of the world, but it was a highly non-reliable method of communication.Many professional and amateur scientists attempted telegraphy buy transmitting electricity over long wires. But it was Samuel Morse who transmitted electrical signals over a long distance successfully. In 1843, with funding from the Congress, he was able to construct a telegraph system that enabled him to send a message from Washington to Baltimore. Thus an important milestone in the history of the industrial age inventions was achieved with the invention of the first electronic communication system.
History of the Telephone
The telegraph remained unchallenged till 1877 as it was the most reliable, efficient, and widely used communication system at that time. However, during the 1870s two scientists, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, had both invented electronic devices that could transmit human speech. They had developed this technology at roughly the same time but Alexander Graham Bell was successful in patenting the telephone after going through a legal battle with Elisha Gray. While the telegraph was one of the greatest industrial age inventions, the telephone surpassed it in many respects.
History of Machine Shops
Machine tools are among the most under-appreciated industrial age inventions, which is ironic because the industrial revolution could not have taken place without the establishment of machine shops. Machine shops are workshops were machine tools are used to work on metal to produce other machines. For example, guns could easily be assembled as all of their parts were standardized, which meant that each gun required minimum manual labor. It was machine shops that enabled workers to standardize tools and produce them at a large scale. This enabled artisans to create machines and mechanisms in large batches and at a faster pace. Machine shops also made the process of building machines more economical and less manual. Machine tools were at the forefront of the automation process during the industrial revolution.
History of the Light BulbIt was Humphry Davy who first brought electric light to the industrial age in 1803 by passing electrical current through a string of platinum. However, it only lasted for a short while and was not useful for practical purposes. Several inventors and scientists improved the design of the incandescent light bulb during the following decades, but Thomas Edison made a major breakthrough by inventing a light bulb that was long lasting and could by manufactured commercially at an affordable cost. Soon light bulbs replaced candles lamps, and lanterns in almost every urban household with access to electricity. William D. Coolidge achieved a major milestone by introducing the tungsten filament, which made it even more long lasting and efficient.
Ford's Assembly Line
After the invention of machine shops, the next major innovation that accelerated the industrial revolution was a manufacturing process called assembly line. It was developed by Henry Ford to make the production of automobiles more efficient. It involved the assembly of interchangeable parts in a certain sequence using both automated and manual labor. Each worker or machine in the line performs a particular step rather than undertaking the entire assembly of a machine. This approach helped him cut down the time to manufacture a chassis from 728 to 93 minutes. Ford's assembly line became an essential ingredient in the large scale production of many industrial age inventions.