Pneumatic tube systems are basically networks of pressurized tubes that are used to transport canister-like carriers between different locations. These pneumatic tube systems have actually been around for over 150 years, since the first working one was developed way back in the 1850s. While the basic concept is still the same, the technology behind pneumatic tube systems has changed a lot over this time. Early systems relied on manual power or steam, but modern ones are computer controlled and digitally monitored. The carrier designs have also evolved from simple cylinders to durable plastic containers that can hold all sorts of items.
As pneumatic tube systems expanded from isolated hospital setups in the late 1800s to being widely used in many commercial buildings these days, their capabilities and applications have continued improving. Let’s look at the key developments and innovations throughout the evolution of pneumatic tube carriers.
William Murdoch invented the concept way back in the late 1700s. Then in 1799, George Medhurst proposed moving goods through pipes using air pressure. But the one who actually got it working was Josiah Latimer Clark. In the 1850s, he successfully tested out a small-scale setup within the London Pneumatic Dispatch Company building.
Originally, these pneumatic tube systems were primarily used inside larger buildings like hospitals to transport things around internally. As the hospital systems proved effective, more got installed throughout Europe and North America in the late 1800s. They allowed hospitals to efficiently deliver supplies, linens, paperwork between different floors and departments without needing staff to carry stuff by hand.
Back then, the carriers were rather basic, often just cylindrical canisters made of metal, wood or thick paper, depending on what materials they had available. They ranged from around 6-10 inches long and 2-4 inches wide. Openings on both ends let them insert documents or small packages.
Expansion of Pneumatic Tube Systems
As hospitals weren’t the only ones seeing the benefits of these pneumatic tube systems by the late 1800s/early 1900s, other types of big buildings started incorporating these systems too. By the 1900s, many large office buildings, banks, and department stores had put in their own internal tube networks to speed up getting documents around. This helped lead to the industry agreeing on standard sizes for the carriers so they could be swapped between different manufacturer’s systems. Common sizes became short-distance carriers (6-10 inches), medium carriers (10-14 inches), and long-distance carriers (14+ inches).
By the mid-1900s, pneumatic tube systems had become a regular sight in many commercial buildings worldwide, helping streamline getting paperwork, samples, mail, and more from place to place.
Beginning in the 1970s-80s, pneumatic tube systems began integrating computerization and digital control systems. This allowed for monitoring and management of entire networks from a central control room. Sensors and software could track carrier locations in real-time, optimize routing, and monitor system performance.
Around this same time, carriers switched from metal to more durable plastic that could handle impacts better. The new carriers had rounded edges and locking lids, so they could securely transport way more types of stuff than just paper. Standard plastic carriers used today range from approximately 10-30 cm in diameter.
Nowadays, pneumatic tube networks are all over hospitals, universities, government buildings, factories, and more. The future will probably bring even more computer integration with carriers able to communicate electronically. Location tracking may get precise down to the centimeter.
Utilize Pneumatic Tube Carriers in Your Business Today
Pneumatic tube systems have come a long way since their inception in the mid-1800s. Starting as simple experimental systems for moving items within buildings, they expanded and standardized through the 1900s to become commonplace in hospitals, offices, and other large facilities worldwide.
Today, pneumatic tube systems serve vital logistical roles in applications like airports, hospitals, factories, and more. After over a century and a half of progress, pneumatic tube systems demonstrate their ongoing value in streamlining the movement of goods and materials. Call us today to learn more about how you can utilize and harness the benefits of pneumatic tube carriers in your business.