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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present
i General Conditions
ii Iron and Steel Production
iii Aluminium Technology
iv Innovative Copper Refining Process
v The EDIM-4WD Load-Haul-Dump Vehicle
vi Copper Rod Production
vii Copper Wire and Cables
viii The Diecasting Industry
ix Automotive Components
x Whitegoods or Consumer Durables
xi Hardware
xii Some Recent New Industries
xiii The National Measurement System
xiv Manufacturing Industry in this Decade
xv Acknowledgements



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Electrical components

H.P.M. Industries Pty. Ltd. is an Australian company producing domestic switches and power distribution products that are to be found in the majority of houses, factories and other buildings in Australia. Their first patent was taken out in 1936 for a household switch, and many patents have been filed since. In 1951, a notable first in the industry was the introduction of a miniature switch which could be mounted at the back of a cover plate and suitable for multi-ganging in standard electrical wall boxes. The ready acceptance of this innovative idea, at a stroke, put the company to the fore in the electrical installation industry and was quickly followed by the power point version. Although now very commonplace, the company introduced the 'double power point', a perhaps simple, but highly desirable novelty. Many new products followed over the years -the moulded mounting block in 1955 to replace wooden blocks allowing the flush mounting of switches and power points. Polycarbonate resins were introduced to manufacture isolator switches and nylon found use in 1961 for fluorescent lamp holders of an unbreakable type to replace cheaper but more fragile imported devices. A breakthrough in 1964 produced greater ease of installation with the provision of a 'looping terminal' on the device.

A truly Australian group and a pioneer in the manufacture and design of electrical fittings for the electrical contracting industry is the sixty-five-year-old Gerard Industries Pty. Ltd., of South Australia. Noting the total importation of these devices in the early 1920s, the founder, A. E. Gerard set about to design a suite of fittings which would overcome the widely varying tolerances shown by imported items and overcome the thermal expansion/contraction problem in Australia. The result was a novel design of fittings developed from sheet metal.

The range of fittings grew through the twenties and with the arrival of compression moulded bakelite plastics, a whole new generation of fittings was developed in the early thirties. These products were not only novel to Australia but in the world. The range at this period encompassed more than 3500 different items for the contracting industry.

Strong emphasis has always been placed on the style of the large range of switches and power points, as for example with the round nylon base miniature architrave switch, which was a 'first' in the industry. The safety of power switches for domestic and industrial uses was greatly enhanced by the design and development of a novel earth leakage protection circuit inbuilt into the switch itself in 1981. A further innovative Australian first came with the development of consumer switchboards to comply with Australian standards whilst offering labour saving advantages and ease of maintenance. Offshore manufacturing facilities have been established in Malaysia and in the United Kingdom indicating that the novelty and utility of the range of products are acceptable on a world basis.

Mechanical components

Clyde Industries Limited had its origins about 1855 with the construction of William Hudson's joinery shop in Hudson Street, Redfern. Hudson, described as a 'skilled mechanic' according to the ship's registrar, had brought his family from England to Sydney via New Zealand, seeking work as a cabinet maker in 1843. His sons were trained to follow him in business.

A later shop that opened at Granville gradually extended into rolling stock carriage work which was strongly influenced by the American style of the period. Later rolling stock of all types was manufactured, together with the manufacture of agricultural machinery, which was the driving demand of many engineering activities in Australia at this time. Amongst these products was the 'Clyde Windmill' which earned for it the description, 'designed on current American principles it can take over the work of horses and steam engines and is Australian made for Australian needs'. In later years, an innovative design yielded a pasture development seed drill which plants the seed with minimum damage to the existing grasses, and allows the planting of seed into wheat stubble to provide a second crop in the minimum of time.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Clyde Industries Ltd; Gerard Industries Pty Ltd; H.P.M. Industries Pty Ltd

People in Bright Sparcs - Gerard, A. E.; Hudson, William

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 908 - 909, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher