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Automation

"An early example of automation was the flour mill designed by the American inventor Oliver Evans (1755–1819) in 1782. In Evans's mill, grain was transported to the second floor of the building by an elevator, a series of buckets mounted on an endless belt that ran inside a closed shaft. The grain was then dumped into a hopper directly above the millstones that ground the grain into flour, which was then deposited in the mill's basement. From here, the flour was carried by another elevator to a third-floor "hopper-boy," a device that stirred the flour with long, toothed arms. Gravity then took the flour to the boulter, a revolving cylinder that separated the flour from the bran. Very little human intervention was required during the mill's operation.

Oliver Evans' mill: continuous production line.

Although Evans had a patent on the automated mill, like many patent holders he gained few financial rewards from it. The complete mill or its major components were freely copied, often by millwrights who simply followed the diagrams presented in an illustrated book that Evans had authored, The Young Miller and Millwright's Guide."

"Evans's mill was designed to do a single task in the same way, over and over again. A more versatile apparatus was the Jacquard loom and its predecessors. From the 18th century onwards, looms of this sort were used to weave cloth in a variety of patterns. Their significance lay in the fact that their operation was automatic; the mechanical actions of the looms were guided by punch cards. These cards introduced the idea of programming into machine operation, and were later to be a key means of data storage in early computer systems."

Automation, Facts On File, inc.

 
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