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.
October 4, 1905Friedrich Kollmorgen arrived in New York City.
1911Friedrich 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.
1916Kollmorgen 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.
1920sAfter 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.
1933During the Great Depression, Kollmorgen took rejected lenses and turned them into ashtrays to keep his machines running and a handful of people employed.
1940Kollmorgen 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.
1941The 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.”
1946Friedrich’s son, Otto, took over as President of the company in 1946.
Photo: Otto Kollmorgen, 1960
1948Inland 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.
1949Inland Motor moved to an expanded garage in Pearl River, New York.
1949Robert “Bob” Swiggett created a prototype of a printed circuit board and exhibited it at the Institute of Radio Engineers annual convention.
1951Sales 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.
1951In 1951, Kollmorgen moved from Brooklyn, NY to North Hampton, MA.
1952Photocircuits developed the basic building blocks of the printed circuit process – epoxy-glass laminates and plated-through holes.
1953The U.S. Air Force arranged a shotgun marriage between IBM and Photocircuits, the only company with plated-through hole technology.
1956Hugo 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.
November 1, 1958Six employees, including Hugo, set up shop on 501 First Street, in Radford, VA.
1958Otto 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.
1960Inland 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.
1961Kollmorgen acquired Instrument Development Laboratories, a manufacturer of motor driven high-speed rotary switches, colormeters, and spectrophotometers.
1962Solid State Instruments Corporation, a manufacturer of precision rate tables, power supplies, and electronic drives for dc servo motors was purchased.
1966NASA Gemini Titan programs with Kollmorgen providing inertial guidance systems.
1967A 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.
1967Photocircuits approached $10 million in sales, but the company was staggering under the weight of its own growth.
September 1967Kollmorgen acquired Macbeth Corp., which was founded by the father of renowned innovator, Norman Macbeth, inventor of artificial daylight.
1968Photo Research Corporation, a manufacturer of photometers, was acquired.
1969Goerz 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.
Early 1970Kollmorgen 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.
1971Kollmorgen diversified further with the acquisition of the Munsell Color Company, an internationally recognized manufacturer of precise color standards, in 1971.
1972Inland 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
1976The Viking Spacecraft Mars Lander contained electromechanical throttle valve comprising of a drive unit, consisting basically of gearless DC torque motors.
1976Kollmorgen AGV Systems (NDC at the time) installed the first global application of AGVs at Tetra Pak’s factories.
1979Kollmorgen 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.
1980sKollmorgen was the sole source supplier of auxiliary sights for the M-1 tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicles throughout the 1980s.
Early 1980sThe 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.
1986Sold the Photocircuits division.
1986Clinical 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).
July 26, 1986The 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.
Late 1980sCombined viewing sensors and electro-magnetic sensors in a single, non-penetrating mast for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
1988Kollmorgen was approached by Vernitron Corporation, a Long Island-based industrial electronics company, to merge the two firms and Kollmorgen declines the offer.
April, 1989Kollmorgen 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.
September 1989Kollmorgen posts a third-quarter loss of nearly $10 million. In response to Kollmorgen's mounting losses, Vernitron broke off its merger.
1989Macbeth acquired a German-based manufacturer of spectrophotometer systems.
May 1990Vernitron 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.
1995The 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.
1997The Gretag Color Control System Division of Gretag AG, producers of the first portable spectrophotometer, merged with the Macbeth division of Kollmorgen Instruments Corporation.
1997Laser navigation for AGVs debuted in Singapore and was adopted in Asian and global markets.
December 15, 1997Kollmorgen made an offer to buy Pacific Scientific Co. for about $20.50 a share in cash, or $258 million. Pacific Scientific declined the offer.
July, 1997July 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.
January 31, 1998Kollmorgen 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.
February 3, 1998Kollmorgen withdrew from pursuing Pacific Scientific to top bidder Danaher.
2000The 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.
May 4, 2000Danaher acquires Kollmorgen on May 4.
2001Kollmorgen helped build the world’s first successful self-contained artificial heart and Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD).
2001Kollmorgen 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.
2002The 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.
2004Motion 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.
2005G&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.
2007CT Series Step Motors introduced, using less power to provide more torque than comparable standard hybrid step motors.
2007SynqNet® 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
2007Introduced the world’s first Pick-n-Go concept in Marktkauf, Germany, automating standard forklifts in order picking processes.
2009The 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.
2009The 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™
2010Kollmorgen 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.
February 2012Company completed the sale of its Kollmorgen Electro-Optical business for a sale price of approximately $205M in cash.
June 2012Kollmorgen is the only U.S. supplier recognized by Toyota Industries Corporation in FY 2011 for operational excellence.
2013April: 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.
2013Kollmorgen 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.
2014Stainless Steel AKMH Series Motor designed for strict aseptic machine applications.
2015Produced an energy efficient motor stator, reducing the power consumption of the HeartAssist5® Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) by 50%.
July, 2016Danaher, 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.
- Friedrich Kollmorgen
- Two-telescope periscope
- Kollmorgen Optical Corp. founded
- Kollmorgen Projection lenses
- Kollmorgen during Great Depression
- The Type 2 periscope
- First contact lenses & Norden Bombsight and Manhattan Project
- Friedrich Retired
- Inland Motor formed
- Inland Motor & Pearl River
- Prototype of printed circuit board
- Photocircuits Corporation formed
- Photocircuits moves to North Hampton
- Photocircuits & epoxy-glass laminates
- US Airforce & Photocircuits
- First frameless torquers
- First location in Radford, VA
- Parallax eliminated from telescopes
- Inland Motor & Kollmorgen merge
- Kollmorgen acquires IDL
- Solid State Instruments purchased
- 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
- Photocircuits and Kollmorgen merge
- Kollmorgen acquires Munsell Color Company
- Numerous firsts from Inland Motors
- Viking Spacecraft Mars Lander
- First global application of AGVs
- Magnetic field levitates rotor
- Kollmorgen & M-1, Bradleys
- Electro-Optical Division & US Military
- 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
- Vernitron attempts hostile bid
- Electro-Optical division & "photonic" mast
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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