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The History of Kollmorgen

Founded in 1916 by the holder of the first U.S. periscope patent, the company’s rich history of pioneering solutions has diversified through the century to include over 70 years in motion expertise. This relentless drive for innovation remains today.

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  • Friedrich Kollmorgen

    October 4, 1905

    Friedrich Kollmorgen arrived in New York City.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1911

    Friedrich Kollmorgen introduced the design of two telescopes into a periscope, instead of a series of lenses or prisms, which resulted in his first U.S. periscope patent.
  • Kollmorgen Periscope 1917

    1916

    Kollmorgen Optical Corp. was founded and received its first contract from the U.S. Navy for two periscopes.

    The USS K-8 (photo taken approximately 1917) was a 392-ton K-1 class submarine with a Kollmorgen periscope.

    These long and short 2½ to 5-inch diameter Kollmorgen Type C periscopes were obtained under a contract dated 23 October 1916 and subsequently installed at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard.
  • Kollmorgen powered projection lenses

    1920s

    After WWI ended, Kollmorgen found success making projection lenses for the film industry.

    During the roaring twenties, everyone was going to the movies. Historians estimate that, by the end of the twenties three-quarters of the American population visited a movie theater every week.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1933

    During the Great Depression, Kollmorgen took rejected lenses and turned them into ashtrays to keep his machines running and a handful of people employed.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1940

    Kollmorgen designed a modified Type 1 periscope, dubbed the Type 2, which featured a tube tapered at its head to reduce the surface wake. The Type 2 periscope remained in use through the 1990s.
  • Frederick Kollmorgen Contact Lens Patent

    1941

    The engagement of the U.S. in WWII Kollmorgen ramps up orders for driftmeters, bombsights, and sophisticated navigation instruments, as well as submarine periscopes.

    Kollmorgen introduced the first optical instruments using anti-reflective coating on lenses and was the first to make contact lenses in the U.S.

    The company grew rapidly from just over 60 employees to more than 600 in a span of just five years. Kollmorgen collaborated on the optical systems for the Norden bombsight and also designed and built remote viewing devices for the “Manhattan Project.”
  • Otto Kollmorgen

    1946

    Friedrich’s son, Otto, took over as President of the company in 1946.

    Photo: Otto Kollmorgen, 1960
  • Inland founder Hugo Unruh

    1948

    Inland Motor was formed in the basements and garages of German immigrant, Hugo Unruh, and Lewis Renaldi. The team turned a previous defunct motor company into an innovative designer of frameless torque motors.
  • Inland Motors

    1949

    Inland Motor moved to an expanded garage in Pearl River, New York.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1949

    Robert “Bob” Swiggett created a prototype of a printed circuit board and exhibited it at the Institute of Radio Engineers annual convention.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1951

    Sales of Swiggett’s printed circuit boards reached $50,000 in 1951 and Photocircuits Corporation was officially formed with John D. Maxwell as President, Bob Swiggett as Executive Vice President, and a support staff of five.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1951

    In 1951, Kollmorgen moved from Brooklyn, NY to North Hampton, MA.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1952

    Photocircuits developed the basic building blocks of the printed circuit process – epoxy-glass laminates and plated-through holes.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1953

    The U.S. Air Force arranged a shotgun marriage between IBM and Photocircuits, the only company with plated-through hole technology.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1956

    Hugo designed the first “frameless torquers”, which were used by Dr. Charles Stark Draper to develop the first stellar inertial navigation system. This system can be seen on display at the Smithsonian today.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    November 1, 1958

    Six employees, including Hugo, set up shop on 501 First Street, in Radford, VA.
  • Eisenhower & Kollmorgen-powered periscope

    1958

    Otto Kollmorgen received patent for inventing mechanism for eliminating parallax from telescopic sights.

    Kollmorgen’s periscope and Inland Motor's torque motor improved periscopes and the way submarines were being used.

    In the late 1950s, Kollmorgen needed to enhance periscopes so that submarines could go deeper and faster.

    Kollmorgen had design contracts for enhanced photographs, navigation and aiding the operator in turning the periscope. An idea was proposed to use a torque motor and the collaboration with Inland Motor was formed.
  • JFK & Kollmorgen-powered periscope

    1960

    Inland Motor celebrated its first million-dollar year. In May, Kollmorgen Optical Company and Inland Motor Corporation merged and became a publicly owned company: Kollmorgen Corporation. Sales volume totalled $8.5 million. By the end of 1960, all of Inland Motor relocated to Radford.

    Photo: President John F. Kennedy with Kollmorgen powered periscope.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1961

    Kollmorgen acquired Instrument Development Laboratories, a manufacturer of motor driven high-speed rotary switches, colormeters, and spectrophotometers.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1962

    Solid State Instruments Corporation, a manufacturer of precision rate tables, power supplies, and electronic drives for dc servo motors was purchased.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1966

    NASA Gemini Titan programs with Kollmorgen providing inertial guidance systems.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1967

    A 13-foot diameter motor, built in segments and assembled on site, is installed at Sun Spot, New Mexico to power a new observatory drive system.
  • Photocircuits Building

    1967

    Photocircuits approached $10 million in sales, but the company was staggering under the weight of its own growth.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    September 1967

    Kollmorgen acquired Macbeth Corp., which was founded by the father of renowned innovator, Norman Macbeth, inventor of artificial daylight.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1968

    Photo Research Corporation, a manufacturer of photometers, was acquired.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1969

    Goerz Optical Company, a manufacturer of precision lenses, rate table and cinetheodolites; Laboratoire LERES S.A., a French manufacturer of reflectance spectrophotometers; and Artus, S.A., another French company that made precision servo motors, primarily for aircraft and military applications were purchased.
  • Robert Swiggett

    Early 1970

    Kollmorgen began to focus on new and innovative ideas including the purchase of Photocircuits printed motor business.

    Moreover, both companies were involved with high-technology products, so Kollmorgen and the Swiggett brothers joined forces to grow the newly expanding market for printed circuit boards.

    Kollmorgen merges with Photocircuits in February 1970.

    Photo: Robert Swiggett, 1980s. He became Kollmorgen’s President and CEO in 1976.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1971

    Kollmorgen diversified further with the acquisition of the Munsell Color Company, an internationally recognized manufacturer of precise color standards, in 1971.
  • Inland Motors Week

    1972

    Inland Motors was the first to propose a flux forcing concept in motor design; the first to use samarium cobalt and neodymium boron rare earth magnets to enhance motor performance and reduce size; and one of the first to design brushless motors.

    Photo: Mayor proclaims "Inland Motors Week" in Radford, VA
  • Viking Mars Lander

    1976

    The Viking Spacecraft Mars Lander contained electromechanical throttle valve comprising of a drive unit, consisting basically of gearless DC torque motors.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1976

    Kollmorgen AGV Systems (NDC at the time) installed the first global application of AGVs at Tetra Pak’s factories.
  • Production in 1979

    1979

    Kollmorgen Inland Motor recognized as worldwide core motor design company and leader of magnet designs.

    Pioneered rare earth magnet motors and servo-controlled bearings that used the force of a magnetic field to levitate a rotor and eliminate mechanical contact.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1980s

    Kollmorgen was the sole source supplier of auxiliary sights for the M-1 tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicles throughout the 1980s.
  • Kollmorgen - MICRO-FLIR

    Early 1980s

    The Electro-Optical division (EOD) introduced a modern periscope, an infrared night vision system, MICRO-FLIR, and a non-penetrating mast system designed for the U.S. Navy’s submarines. EOD was also the only U.S. supplier of high performance, wire-heated pressure windows for deep submergence sensor applications.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1986

    Sold the Photocircuits division.
  • Artificial Heart from Newsweek 2001

    1986

    Clinical trials for a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) were initiated in and proven capable of successfully supporting individuals in end-stage heart disease for extended periods of time (longer than 14 days).
  • Jason Jr. Robot & Titanic

    July 26, 1986

    The specially designed robot, Jason Jr., explored and transported images of the Titanic wreckage.

    In collaboration with a team of engineers and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Kollmorgen combined a brushless dc motor with an integral six-step amplifier built in an oil-filled, pressure-compensated housing that was capable of operating at pressures approaching 10,000 psi.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    Late 1980s

    Combined viewing sensors and electro-magnetic sensors in a single, non-penetrating mast for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1988

    Kollmorgen was approached by Vernitron Corporation, a Long Island-based industrial electronics company, to merge the two firms and Kollmorgen declines the offer.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    April, 1989

    Kollmorgen reconsidered Vernitron’s proposal and offered to negotiate a merger of the two companies. Vernitron stayed with its initial $23 per share offer, and the companies agreed to merge at that price.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    September 1989

    Kollmorgen posts a third-quarter loss of nearly $10 million. In response to Kollmorgen's mounting losses, Vernitron broke off its merger.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1989

    Macbeth acquired a German-based manufacturer of spectrophotometer systems.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    May 1990

    Vernitron renewed its bid for Kollmorgen, organizing a proxy fight to replace Kollmorgen's board of directors and offering to purchase Kollmorgen for $15 per share.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1995

    The Electro-Optical division received a $35 million contract to build the U.S. Navy's "photonic" mast system, a type of periscope system that does not penetrate a submarine's hull, Kollmorgen's revenues began to climb again, reaching $228 million.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    1997

    The Gretag Color Control System Division of Gretag AG, producers of the first portable spectrophotometer, merged with the Macbeth division of Kollmorgen Instruments Corporation.
  • Kollmorgen - AGV System

    1997

    Laser navigation for AGVs debuted in Singapore and was adopted in Asian and global markets.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    December 15, 1997

    Kollmorgen made an offer to buy Pacific Scientific Co. for about $20.50 a share in cash, or $258 million. Pacific Scientific declined the offer.
  • Kollmorgen & European market

    July, 1997

    July 1997, acquired Fritz A. Seidel Elektro-Automatik GmbH of Dusseldorf, Germany.

    The acquisition gave Kollmorgen immediate access to the European market and its line of electronic motion-control products through Seidel's well-established organization of nearly 50 sales representatives and application engineers.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    January 31, 1998

    Kollmorgen increased its offer for Pacific Scientific by $3.25 a share, to $23.75. However, on February 3, the Los Angeles Times reported that an “outgunned” Kollmorgen withdrew from pursuing Pacific Scientific to top bidder Danaher. “Danaher emerged as the best solution to Pacific Scientific's frantic attempts to avoid a shotgun marriage with Kollmorgen,” the paper reported. Danaher's offer, valued at $460 million, included an assumption of debt as well as the cash payment of $30.25 a share to shareholders.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    February 3, 1998

    Kollmorgen withdrew from pursuing Pacific Scientific to top bidder Danaher.
  • The da Vinci Surgery System

    2000

    The da Vinci Surgery System became the first robotic surgery system approved by the FDA for general laparoscopic surgery. This was the first time the FDA approved an all-encompassing system of surgical instruments and camera/scopic utensils.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    May 4, 2000

    Danaher acquires Kollmorgen on May 4.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2001

    Kollmorgen helped build the world’s first successful self-contained artificial heart and Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD).
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2001

    Kollmorgen launched SynqNet®, a fast, interoperable motion and I/O network that enabled a synchronous real-time connection between the motion controller, servo drives, I/O modules, and custom nodes. SynqNet was the first platform to use industry and consumer proven 100 BaseT CAT 5 cabling with standard connectors and a wide array of custom and other robust industrial connector types to drive the world’s most demanding motion applications.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2002

    The first Segway models, powered by a Kollmorgen electric motor that delivered 40% more torque per unit of volume than comparably sized motors, were sold to the public.
  • Kollmorgen acquires MEI and G&L

    2004

    Motion Engineering (MEI) was acquired, which included powerful integrated motion control solutions with industry-leading, multi-axis motion platforms and SynqNet™ communications network for ultra-reliable machine performance.
  • Kollmorgen acquires MEI and G&L

    2005

    G&L Motion Control, a premier supplier of CNC Controls was acquired. The G&L PLC focused on motion-centric control and PiCPro became one of the leading control software in applications focusing on precision motion. From 1995 to 2005, over 750,000 controls were shipped.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2007

    CT Series Step Motors introduced, using less power to provide more torque than comparable standard hybrid step motors.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2007

    SynqNet® motion and I/O network exceeded 225,000 installed axes. The milestone and the aggressive adoption rate indicated broad market acceptance for SynqNet’s high performance fault-tolerant digital architecture
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2007

    Introduced the world’s first Pick-n-Go concept in Marktkauf, Germany, automating standard forklifts in order picking processes.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2009

    The LS5 Navigator was the first sensor designed not only for indoor use but also for outdoor environments and cold storage, paving the way for new applications with automated guided vehicles.
  • Kollmorgen AKD Servo Drive

    2009

    The AKD® Servo Drive Introduced.

    2010 Design News Golden Mousetrap Award Finalist in the Motion Control/Automation category.

    The Ethernet-based AKD delivers best-in-class performance with industry-leading flexibility, scalability and power range to meet the unique performance requirements of nearly any application; from basic torque and velocity applications, to indexing, to multi-axis programmable motion via the company’s powerful new complete machine automation solution - Kollmorgen Automation Suite™

  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2010

    Kollmorgen introduces the Power Generation System - a complete, robust power platform that can be optimized to meet virtually any military vehicle’s energy demands, with the flexibility to fit in applications where space is at a premium.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    February 2012

    Company completed the sale of its Kollmorgen Electro-Optical business for a sale price of approximately $205M in cash.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    June 2012

    Kollmorgen is the only U.S. supplier recognized by Toyota Industries Corporation in FY 2011 for operational excellence.
  • Kollmorgen, Elsim, MCS

    2013

    April: Kollmorgen Expands Global Sales, Engineering and Manufacturing Footprint by Acquiring Elsim Electrotechnical Systems A.S.

    June: acquired MCS Engenharia Ltda in São Paulo, Brazil.

    The acquisition combined both companies’ industry-leading expertise, technology and products, making Kollmorgen resources readily available to Brazilian machine builders and making MCS resources available to Kollmorgen customers around the world.
  • Kollmorgen and CHIMP robot

    2013

    Kollmorgen was a contributing partner to the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC)/Carnegie Mellon University team’s entry in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) competition Chimp robot.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2014

    Stainless Steel AKMH Series Motor designed for strict aseptic machine applications.
  • Kollmorgen - Celebrating 100 Years

    2015

    Produced an energy efficient motor stator, reducing the power consumption of the HeartAssist5® Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) by 50%.
  • Fortive Corporation

    July, 2016

    Danaher, parent of Kollmorgen, executes a spin-off transaction of several businesses within their portfolio forming a new $6B public entity, Fortive Corporation. Kollmorgen is one of those businesses and now is pleased to become part of Fortive.
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  • 1905

    • Friedrich Kollmorgen
  • 1910-1915

    • Two-telescope periscope
  • 1915-1920

    • Kollmorgen Optical Corp. founded
  • 1920-1925

    • Kollmorgen Projection lenses
  • 1925-1930

  • 1930-1935

    • Kollmorgen during Great Depression
  • 1935-1940

  • 1940-1945

    • The Type 2 periscope
    • First contact lenses & Norden Bombsight and Manhattan Project
  • 1945-1950

    • Friedrich Retired
    • Inland Motor formed
    • Inland Motor & Pearl River
    • Prototype of printed circuit board
  • 1950-1955

    • Photocircuits Corporation formed
    • Photocircuits moves to North Hampton
    • Photocircuits & epoxy-glass laminates
    • US Airforce & Photocircuits
  • 1955-1960

    • First frameless torquers
    • First location in Radford, VA
    • Parallax eliminated from telescopes
  • 1960-1965

    • Inland Motor & Kollmorgen merge
    • Kollmorgen acquires IDL
    • Solid State Instruments purchased
  • 1965-1970

    • Kollmorgen and NASA
    • Kollmorgen and National Solar Observatory
    • Photocircuits staggers under growth
    • Kollmorgen acquired Macbeth Corp.
    • Kollmorgen acquired Photo Research Corp.
    • Kollmorgen acquired Goerz Optical Company
  • 1970-1975

    • Photocircuits and Kollmorgen merge
    • Kollmorgen acquires Munsell Color Company
    • Numerous firsts from Inland Motors
  • 1975-1980

    • Viking Spacecraft Mars Lander
    • First global application of AGVs
    • Magnetic field levitates rotor
  • 1980-1985

    • Kollmorgen & M-1, Bradleys
    • Electro-Optical Division & US Military
  • 1985-1990

    • Photocircuit division sold
    • Clinical trials for LVAD for heart disease
    • Kollmorgen & wreck of the Titanic
    • Kollmorgen & DARPA
    • Kollmorgen declines Vernitron merger
    • Vernitron merger reconsidered
    • Losses prompt breaking off of merger
    • Kollmorgen acquires spectrophotometer system
  • 1990-1995

    • Vernitron attempts hostile bid
    • Electro-Optical division & "photonic" mast
  • 1995-2000

    • Greteg AG division merges with Macbeth division
    • AGV laser navigation debuts
    • Kollmorgen & Pacific Scientific Co.
    • Fritz A. Seidel Elektro-Automatik GmbH
    • Kollmorgen, Pacific, and Danaher bidding
    • Kollmorgen ends pursuit of Pacific Scientific
  • 2000-2005

    • The da Vinci Surgery System
    • Danaher acquires Kollmorgen
    • Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)
    • Launched SynqNet®
    • Segway, powered by Kollmorgen motors, made available to public
    • Kollmorgen acquired Motion Engineering (MEI)
  • 2005-2010

    • Kollmorgen acquired G&L Motion Control
    • CT Series Step Motors introduced
    • SynqNet® installation milestone
    • World's first Pick-n-Go concept
    • LS5 Navigator introduced
    • The AKD® Servo Drive Introduced.
  • 2010-Present

    • Kollmorgen introduced the Power Generation System
    • Kollmorgen Electro-Optical sold
    • Kollmorgen recognized by Toyota
    • Kollmorgen expanded global footprint
    • Contributing partner in DARPA competition
    • AKMH Series Motor introduced
    • Energy efficient motor stator integrated into LVAD
    • Fortive Corporation
  • Early 1900s
  • 1930-1950
  • 1950-1970
  • 1970-1990
  • 1990-2010
  • Present
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