Pneumatic tube systems have been used for decades in a variety of fields and are currently the best method of transporting critically needed supplies for hospitals. But this method of transportation has not received the attention it deserves. You may have seen a tubing system on a tv show or movie looking incredibly futuristic, or at a local bank in a simple form. But regardless of how much experience you have with pneumatic systems, the history of them is fascinating.
The History of Pneumatic Tube Systems
The concept of pressurized air transportation started all the way back in the 1660s with Otto von Guericke. He built the first artificial vacuum, which would be the starting point from which pneumatic tubing would be designed.
Utilizing Guericke’s design, the Atmospheric Railway was created to help transport passengers in the early 1800s. New York City created its own pneumatic system in the 1860s to help propel their subways underground. While New York did not maintain the pneumatic subway system, London created its own railway around the same time known as the Crystal Palace pneumatic railway.
Governments all over the world have used pneumatic systems in their own ways. For example, London was home to the “Secret Tube” during the 1930s, where confidential and highly sensitive information was transported. This was a secure way to move documents and state secrets, without worrying about being tapped. NASA also used pneumatic tubing before computers were as common. This would be the preferred method of transporting information in offices.
During the 1990s, banks began using pneumatic tubing systems to allow for secure drive-through banking. This combined the convenience of an ATM, with the person-to-person contact of going into a bank, making it ideal for those who weren’t satisfied with either of those methods.
Companies like steel or chemical plants or parts of the food industry also use pneumatic tubing to help transport paperwork or samples without having someone carrying the product that takes an extensive amount of time. This allowed quick and secure transportation of information within large businesses without wasting time walking from one location to the other.
Hospitals are one of the largest users of the pneumatic systems currently because of the speed and safety in which things can be transported. For example, you can get your blood drawn in one area, then have it sent to the testing site via a tube in a matter of seconds. The pneumatic tube system carriers are a clean and secure way to transport these items, and there is no need to worry about lost samples or contamination.
Most people do not get to see a pneumatic tube system in its full complexity and glory. But they serve an important purpose and greatly increase efficiency in a wide range of situations. While they have not been used nearly as much as they could be, it is clear to see the capabilities and potential that has kept pneumatic tubing around so long.