|Died||August 8, 1996 (aged 72)|
Hartford, Connecticut, US
|Education||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute|
|Occupation||Manufacturing automation systems|
|Spouse(s)||Sonia Kanciper Gerber (1929-2003) (m. 1954-1996)|
|Awards||National Medal of Technology (1994)|
Heinz Joseph Gerber (April 17, 1924 – August 8, 1996) was an American inventor and businessman. An Austrian-born Jewish Holocaust survivor who immigrated in 1940, he pioneered computer-automated manufacturing systems for an array of industries. Described as the "Thomas Edison of manufacturing," he was one of the first to recognize and develop the productivity-enhancing potential for computer automation in skill-intensive industrial sectors.
His work in this field grew from his early developments of graphical-numerical computing devices, data-reduction tools, and plotters.
He was awarded America's National Medal of Technology, the country's highest recognition in technology and innovation, in 1994, for his "technical leadership in the invention, development and commercialization of manufacturing automation systems for a wide variety of industries." These industries ranged from automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, clothing, and consumer electronics, to printing, sign making, cobbling, cartography, and lens crafting, among others.
Gerber was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria, and showed an early fascination with technology. By age eight, he had built radios and developed magnetic circuit breakers to preserve his batteries. Following Germany's 1938 Anschluss, he was imprisoned in a Nazi labor camp, eventually to be released. In 1940, he fled with his mother, immigrating as a destitute to New York City and soon thereafter Hartford, Conn. to work in the tobacco fields. His father would not survive the Holocaust in Europe.
In Hartford, Gerber completed high school in just two years while learning English and holding down full-time and part-time jobs. He entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Troy, NY on scholarship, and graduated two and one-half years later with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. In his junior year, he invented the Gerber Variable Scale, a graphical-numerical computing device that he conceived from the elastic waistband of his pajamas.
Receiving a $3,000 investment, Gerber patented his Variable Scale and founded the Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in Hartford, Conn., to produce and market the device. Before the widespread use of digital computers, performing computations based on graphically recorded data and curves was extremely time-consuming and complex. The Gerber Variable Scale—which used a triangular calibrated spring as a computing element to eliminate all scaling and conversions between numerics and graphics—provided means for quick, efficient calculations, and became known as the greatest engineering tool since the slide rule.
Gerber's early life and accomplishments in America were the subject of the 1950 Broadway play Young Man in a Hurry, written by Morton Wishengrad and starring Cornel Wilde. In 1953, J. Robert Oppenheimer and other judges selected Gerber as one of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "Ten Most Outstanding Young Men in America." Reflecting on his immigrant experience, Gerber would observe that he
learned that in USA it was true you could accomplish things if you were willing to work because then people, recognizing not only your abilities but your earnestness, will give you of themselves beyond belief to help you.
Engineering, data reduction, and plotting
Through the 1950s, as the Gerber Variable Scale became "the standard tool" that engineers worldwide used for myriad applications, such as stress-strain analysis and architectural design, Gerber invented additional computation devices. These devices include: the Gerber GraphAnalogue, which directly performs computations on graphical data based on almost any linear or nonlinear function; the Gerber Derivimeter, which gives the derivative of a curve; and the Gerber Equameter, which provides the equation of a curve based on mathematical series such as Fourier Series and polynomial expansions rapidly and without requiring knowledge of mathematics except for addition.
Gerber also introduced a line of data reduction products for scanning and digitizing, including the Gerber Analogue Data Reduction System and the Gerber Digital Data Reduction System to read x,y coordinate positions and convert the information into machine-readable punched tape. Gerber also introduced the first digital plotter, initially used for precisely plotting enemy battleship positions on maps, the first digital motion-controlled machine to create graphics. NASA's Johnson Space Center later relied on Gerber's plotters for communications analysis and graphical data display for the first lunar landing, in 1969.
Drafting, electronics, and CAD
During the 1960s and '70s, Gerber pioneered developments in computer-assisted design and tooling manufacture both for complex mechanical products, such as airplanes, cars, and ships, and for the fabrication of circuit boards for consumer, industrial, and military electronics products.
Automated drafting and digitizing
In the early 1960s, Gerber introduced the first automated machines for drafting. By allowing engineers and designers to interact with the design process graphically, automated drafting represented a seminal application of computers to enhance creativity. Gerber's automated drafting technologies enabled the design of complex design products, such as the first "jumbo" military and commercial aircraft, the U.S. Air Force C-5 Transport by Lockheed Martin and the Boeing 747. This technology was credited with integrating the engineering design function with the numerically controlled machine tools in the aircraft, automotive, and shipbuilding industries, dramatically improving cost and manufacture time. Gerber's automated systems would capture three quarters of the automated drafting system market during the following two decades. Gerber also introduced the Automatic Line Follower, the first automated digitizer for vector graphics.
Electronics fabrication: photoplotting systems
Gerber also invented and introduced a novel form of plotter that used a controlled beam of light instead of an ink-pen, to draw digital graphics directly on photographic film. The world's most accurate printing technology, the "photoplotter" reduced the cost and time of fabricating circuit boards and enabled production of more sophisticated, miniaturized, and multi-layered printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. The photoplotter "revolutionized the production of printed circuit board artwork." Ultimately, the company would provide a suite of numerically controlled and computer-based tools for design through inspection of circuit boards. Gerber's computerized manufacturing process played a leading role in the consumer electronics revolution, from pocket radios to computers. The photoplotter was also used to manufacture over 75% of the CRT color television screens and the masters for the original Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes.
Computer-aided design functionality and workstations
Gerber's early automated drafting and photoplotting systems evolved to include the seminal design functionality to digitize, interactively edit, and generate mechanical design data and electronic circuit-board artwork. With the growing power of digital computers during the late 1970s and '80s, Gerber introduced the Interactive Design System IDS in 1974 and was a top tier supplier of software-and-hardware computer graphics workstations for Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Using Gerber workstations, Boeing designed the first "paperless aircraft," the Boeing 767, and General Motors reduced its time to bring new cars to market by more than half. Gerber introduced turnkey systems for electronics manufacture, including the PC-800 circuit design system in 1982. The industry's communications protocol remains the "Gerber Language." The Gerber companies also introduced CAD systems for the apparel, shoe, furniture, and sign and related display industries.
Apparel, footwear, and textile manufacture
In the late 1960s, American apparel manufacturing was labor-intensive, completely without automation, and rapidly leaving the country for cheap foreign labor. Gerber developed a numerically controlled machine (the GERBERcutter S-70) for cutting large quantities of tall stacks of cloth accurately—3,500 pieces for 50 men's suits in less than three minutes. The GERBERcutter itself, which Gerber introduced in 1969, has been widely cited as the most important technological advance of the century, because it offered apparel factories significant savings in wasted cloth, which was the greatest cost factor in producing a garment, and because it enabled a computer-automated manufacturing system. Total sales of machines for cutting cloth based on Gerber's patented inventions are in the multiple billions of dollars.
|To automate cloth-cutting for apparel production, Gerber placed the stacked cloth on a bed of bristles that allowed a plunging knife to penetrate, compressed the stacked cloth using a vacuum, and sensed side forces on the knife and rotated the blade to balance the side forces and keep the blade from bending.|
Within two years, Gerber introduced the first numerically controlled machines for sewing (the GSM-70) and producing pattern layouts, known as "markers" (the MP-26). Ultimately, his company would develop computer-controlled systems for the designing, digitizing, grading, and prototyping of apparel patterns, and an integrated system that included fabric spreaders, parts-moving systems, concept design, and product data management. As this system slowed the departure of the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry by more than a generation, leaders in the industry from manufacturing, labor, and other quarters hailed Gerber as its "father of apparel automation" and "the savior of the [American apparel] industry."
Gerber's automated cutting, layout, and sewing technologies were used as well in shoemaking to cut and embroider material for shoes. Gerber's impact included the development of the first 3D computer aided design workstations for making shoes. The Gerber ShoeMaker, introduced in 1989, reduced the time from twenty-eight days to two days to make shoes.
Based on Gerber apparel-making technologies, the company went on to develop a line of computer integrated manufacturing systems to automate the production of furniture. In addition, among the company's introductions in the textile industry was the first direct-to-screen screen-setter, the first system to make screens for screen-printing directly from digital design data.
Printing, sign making, and outdoor graphics
Gerber's impact on the modern history of printing ranged from the technologies in plotting, photoplotting, computer graphics, and pattern-making to additional novel innovations in sign-making, engraving, billboard-printing, stripping, silkscreen mask-cutting, screen-setting, and plate-setting.
Gerber's photoplotter was the first computerized product used to automate printing prepress and was the first imagesetter. In 1981, Gerber introduced the Autoprep, the first computerized system specifically for production printing, and the beginning of automated prepress. This system managed the whole digital workflow of a printing operation and addressed all aspects of prepress production, from pre-flight, trapping, and imposition to RIPing and archiving. In 1984, Gerber began developing Computer-To-Plate (CTP) technology. Gerber's Crescent was the first commercially viable CTP Platesetter and was introduced in 1991. Observed Frank Romano, president of the Museum of Printing, "Gerber pioneered computer-to-plate; and, today almost all printers and newspapers use CTP."
The technologies first invented by Gerber for the drafting and electronics industries have now changed signmaking forever from a skill-driven craft to a mass production industry. No longer are letters and designs sketched, then painted or carved by hand. Under Gerber's guidance in the early 1980s, [the company] invented and developed Gerber Signmakers and related technologies, the most widely used computer controlled systems in the world for sign making and graphic arts. Workstations and software, plotters and routers take the sign making process automatically from the design and layout through production and cutting.
The company's innovations extended outdoor advertising by developing the first grand format digital printer in 1978. John W. Kluge, chairman of the Metromedia Company, which transformed billboard production, recalled: "His company created the process and equipment that my company, , Inc., uses to paint outdoor advertising graphics. The product is of such quality of color and fidelity to underlying artwork that a universal demand for our company to produce advertising displays throughout the world was created." The company developed digital thermal-transfer printers for outdoor signage. Among related industries, the company developed numerically controlled router technology as early as the 1950s, and the early computerized routing machines for trophy or nameplate engraving in the 1970s.
Impact in additional industries
The impact of Gerber's technologies for drafting, electronics, and apparel production also reached the manufacturing processes in adjacent fields.
The Gerber companies improved the manufacture of prescription eyewear by also applying computer integrated manufacturing to ophthalmic surface generation, edging, polishing, and coating. These automation products eliminated manual, skilled tasks for making prescription lenses in favor of an automation system that requires little training and resulted in higher quality lenses produced, at shopping mall stores as well as ophthalmic labs, in "about an hour" and at reduced cost.
Packaging and labeling
In the packaging and labeling industry, Gerber's prepress technologies impacted the printing and structural aspects, as printed packaging and labels relied largely on printing plates and screens. The Gerber EDGE digital printer enabled short run durable printing and cutting of labels. Additional products and technologies enabled cutting of specialty bags, and the production of coating blankets for spot UV coatings on cartons and for printing on aluminum beverage cans. For the structural aspects of packaging such as folding cartons and corrugated boxes, the industry's "sample maker" tables for prototyping and short run production, and "die vinyl plotters" used to print layout guides, and routers for making steel rule die, are based in significant part on the technologies originally developed by Gerber in plotting, drafting, and other fields.
Gerber's plotters and photoplotters brought transformative computer-automation to the labor-intensive field of cartography, once the province of labor-intensive and highly skilled tasks and of cumbersome photographic processes. In addition, under Gerber's leadership, the company fostered the development of innovations in machine tools and medical, cryogenic, defense, and anti-terrorism products through its partially owned subsidiaries.
Joe Gerber presided over Gerber Scientific's evolution from a one-product company to a global supplier of intelligent manufacturing systems. From the company's 1947 founding as a partnership, through his death in 1996, Gerber was its chief executive and principal inventor. Gerber called the company an outlet for the "spirit of invention," he told Business Week.
With the expansion of its product lines, Gerber restructured the company in 1979, creating the holding company Gerber Scientific, Inc., with wholly owned and partly owned subsidiaries, each focused on its own markets:
- Gerber Scientific, Inc. (NYSE GRB) (holding company)
- Gerber Scientific Instrument Co. (GSI) (data reduction, drafting especially aircraft and automotive, electronics)
- Gerber Garment Technology (GGT) (apparel, footwear, textile, and industrial such as aircraft and automotive)
- Gerber Systems Technology (GST) (CAD especially aircraft and automotive, footwear)
- Boston Digital (machine tools)
- Beta Electronics of Beersheba, Israel (medical, cryogenics, defense)
- Gerber Optical (ophthalmic lens processing)
- Gerber Scientific Products (GSP) (sign-making, specialty graphics such as vehicle wraps)
- Gerber Systems Corporation (GSC) (printing prepress)
- Gerber Innovations (packaging and die-making)
In 1980, Gerber Scientific, Inc. was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1996, consolidated sales were $350 million. Considering the company's systems for made to measure clothing, and its flexible manufacturing technologies for producing signs, graphics, prescription lenses, and other individualized products, B. Joseph Pine II, the author of ''Mass Customization'', observed in 2000 that Gerber Scientific, Inc. was the only company that had enabled mass customization in multiple industries.
Selected awards and recognition
1950: Accomplishments lauded in Young Man in a Hurry, broadcast on WNBC
1980: Patent Lawyers' Association Eli Whitney Award for Invention
1982: Induction into the National Academy of Engineering
1983: Holden Medal of the Textile Institute
1988: ORT Science and Technology Award
1989: Lifetime Achievement Award in Entrepreneurial Management
1993: Companion Membership Award of the Textile Institute
1993: International Signmaking Association Distinguished Service Award
1994: Smithsonian National Museum of American History inclusion of the Gerber Variable Scale, GraphAnalogue, Equameter (permanently displayed in "Information Age" exhibit) and S-70 GERBERcutter, in the museum's collection
1998: Induction into Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Hall of Fame
Quotes by Joseph Gerber
"Quicker done than said."
"Education is the wings on creativity."
"The essence of good management is the ability to make wise decisions without full knowledge of all the facts."
"Rain puts a hole in stone because of its constancy, not its force. I just kept knocking on doors until one opened."
"We believe in going back to fundamentals. It was always the information given by the graphs which was important, not the calculations needed to learn it."
Statements about Joseph Gerber
"Joe had a profound impact on our nation during his rich life. His brilliant and innovative ideas helped prepare our nation for the technological advances of the next century."—President William J. Clinton
"Those who know his achievements quite rightly consider him one of the greatest American inventors and businessmen of the 20th century."—MIT Lemelson Center for Invention at the Smithsonian Institution
"H. Joseph Gerber pioneered the marriage between computation and manufacturing, transforming so many industries that it is difficult to imagine what the world would look like without him."—Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
"[Gerber] has become one of American's most prolific and successful inventors."—National Academy of Engineering
"Gerber's inventions ... pioneered industrial automation and revolutionized the production of almost every product we use."—Barry Nalebuff, Milton Steinbach Professor, Yale School of Management
"Mr. Gerber was one of the first to recognize the potential for productivity through automation in labor intensive industries ... , and he possessed the technological vision and creative genius to make it actually happen. ... He is without question the most creative and innovative individual that I have ever known. ... [A] modern day Thomas Edison."—E. E. Hood, Jr., Vice Chairman, General Electric Company
"For nearly a quarter of a century, Mr. Gerber made exceptional technological contributions that rank among the milestones in the history of the textile industry."—National Academy of Sciences
"By combining pragmatism with imagination, and hard work with optimism, he has become one of America's most prolific and successful inventors."—National Academy of Engineering
"[H]is name is synonymous with bringing our industry from a craft to the highly competitive, technologically advanced business it has become. ... His manufacturing systems ... have helped the American Clothing Manufacturers survive."—E. O. Hand, Chairman and CEO, Hartmarx Corporation
"The ILGWU sees Gerber's advanced apparel technology as one of the keys to maintaining a domestic apparel industry based on good and productive jobs — as well as a global industry built around productivity and a living wage, rather than antiquated methods and intolerable wages and conditions."— Jay Mazur, President of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU)
Selected U.S. patents awarded to Joe Gerber
2,561,020 Instrument for measuring (Gerber Variable Scale)
2,843,935 Instrument for measuring, interpolating, plotting and the like (Gerber GraphAnalogue)
2,791,836 Instrument for measuring the slope of a curve at a selected point thereon (Gerber Derivimeter)
2,918,213 Computing instrument for use in the analysis of graphs and curves having initially unknown characteristics (Gerber Equameter)
3,110,106 Data reading apparatus (digitizer)
3,473,009 X-Y plotter (with David J. Logan) (plotter)
3,330,182 Device for exposing discrete portions of a photosensitive surface to a variable intensity light beam (photo plotter)
3,445,741 Fractional step rotary stepping motor and control system therefor (motion control)
3,477,322 Device for cutting sheet material (with Robert J. Pavone) (graded-pattern-making system)
3,495,492 Apparatus for working on sheet material (with David R. Pearl) (cloth cutter: vacuum compression)
3,533,298 Lead screw and nut mechanism (motion control)
3,555,254 Error correcting system and method for use with plotters, machine tools and the like (plotter)
3,561,313 Apparatus for cutting sheet material using bed of granular material (with David R. Pearl) (cloth cutter: knife-permeable bed)
3,609,237 Line or edge digitizing system with means for automatically outputting only data truly representative of the line or edge being digitized (digitizing)
3,610,119 Photo exposure device (with Ronald B. Webster) (photo plotter)
3,677,123 Penetrable bed used for cutting sheet material (with David R. Pearl) (cloth cutter: knife-permeable bed)
3,681,846 Knife blade construction (knife technology)
3,719,113 Penetrable bed used for cutting sheet material and method for treating same (with David R. Pearl) (cloth cutter: knife-permeable bed)
3,752,098 Method and apparatus for translating an article and a tool relative to one another (with David J. Logan)
3,936,712 Interactive graphic system (with others) (interactive graphics)
4,363,539 Photohead with flashing beam (photoplotter)
4,133,235 Closed loop apparatus for cutting sheet material (cloth cutter: knife-intelligence)
4,331,051 Apparatus for cutting sheet material with variable gain closed loop (with Leonard G. Rich) (cloth cutter: knife-intelligence)
4,205,835 Bristle bed for vacuum table (cloth cutter: knife-permeable bed)
4,583,181 Fabric flaw related system (with David J. Logan) (fabric inspection)
4,916,819 Progressive plotter with unidirectional paper movement (marker making)
5,089,971 Method and apparatus for cutting parts from hides or similar irregular pieces of sheet material (leather processing)
5,163,006 Method and apparatus for advancing sheet material for the cutting of successive segments thereof (with Zdenek Zeman) (bite cutting)
5,291,392 Method and apparatus for enhancing the accuracy of scanner systems (with others) (photoplotter and platesetter)
5,495,803 Method of forming a photomask for a printing plate with an ink jet (platesetter)
5,608,453 Automatic optical inspection system having a weighted transition database (with others) (electronics inspection)
- Gerber file format, also known as RS-274D, was named after Gerber and his company
- "H. Joseph Gerber, 72, Inventor in Many Industries". The New York Times. 1996-08-10. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- "Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2015". www.nxtbook.com. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- "Guide to the Gerber Scientific Instrument Company records NMAH.AC.0929". amhistory.si.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- Tray, Anne (September 1986). "Joseph Gerber Is Apparel's Thomas Edison". Bobbin.
- "Broadcasting the Story of Invention | Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation". invention.si.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- "eMuseum". waywiser.rc.fas.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- Engineering, National Academy of (2002-06-25). Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering. National Academies Press. ISBN 9780309594226.
- Gerber, David (2015). The Inventor's Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber. Yale University Press.
- "No Finger Guides the Roving Pen". Business Week. March 28, 1964.
- "The Engineering Design Revolution - CAD History - 21 Miscellaneous - Documents". documents.mx. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- "The CAD Success Story of the Year". Electrical Design News. 1981.
- Hanratty, P. J. (1992). The selling of CAD/CAM. Manufacturing Systems.
- Brown, Elizabeth. "System Cuts Cost Of Shoemaking". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- "'Furniture Factory of the Future,' a Reality at ICC". Industrial Sewing News. April 1990.
- "H. Joseph Gerber | Sign & Digital Graphics". sdgmag.com. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- Computer generated mold for contoured garment piece formation, retrieved 2015-11-30
- "Swivel Along". Sign Business. November 1995.
- "Kluge to Reveal Dream". New York Post. April 6, 1987.
- "The New Hermes Concept 2000: Progress Report". Engraver's Journal. 1982.
- "Label Capable".
- "GATF announces InterTech Technology Award winners". americanprinter.com. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- Hanlon, Joseph F.; Kelsey, Robert J.; Forcinio, Hallie (1998-04-23). Handbook of Package Engineering, Third Edition. CRC Press. ISBN 9781566763066.
- "Revolutionizes Steel Rule Die Production". Paperboard Packaging. December 1999.
- "Annual Report". Gerber Scientific Instrument Co. 1965.
- "Gerber Scientific: Finding Markets for Machines That Automate Output". Business Week. October 29, 1979.
- "Gerber Scientific Inc Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Gerber Scientific Inc". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- "1995 Connecticut Medal of Technology: H. Joseph Gerber". Connecticut Academy of Science & Engineering. 1995.
- "Joseph Gerber Quote". A-Z Quotes. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- Jacobs, Whitney (August 15, 1959). "Gerber's GOAT Proves Success, Fundamental Thinking Pays Off". Hartford Times.
- "Can't Let Go". tribunedigital-thecourant. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- Gerber's page at the RPI alumni hall of fame
- Gerber Scientific, Inc., About Us, Our Founder
- H. Joseph Gerber Medal of Excellence
- H. Joseph Gerber Vision Scholarship Program
- H. Joseph Gerber '47 Endowed Scholarship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- International Directory of Company Histories: Gerber Scientific, Inc.
- National Academy of Engineering Tributes: H. J. Gerber
- National Medal of Technology and Innovation: H. J. Gerber
- New York Times obituary: H. J. Gerber
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Hall of Fame: H. J. Gerber
- Sign & Digital Graphics Magazine: H. J. Gerber
- Smithsonian National Museum of History, Lemelson Institute - Broadcasting the Story of Invention
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History – Gerber Sci. Inst. Co. Records
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History – Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History – H. J. Gerber Papers
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Magazine: "The Inventor's Dilemma" (article)
- Transcript of the 142nd U.S. Congressional Record S10564: H. J. Gerber
- Gerber Scientific, Inc. Homepage