10 YEARS AGO — 2000
Ceramic nozzle reduces downtime for lasers: Engineers at the American Torch Tip Co., Bradenton, Fla., patented a ceramic nozzle holder for high-voltage CO2 lasers. The nozzle uses a threaded pin to replace a solder joint that held the cap tight. This soldered joint often fails under the harsh conditions of factory use, causing the cap to loosen. The ceramic base of the nozzle also screws into the copper cap, eliminating the adhesives once used to affix the cap. Like the solder, adhesives would break down under severe use. These changes make it simpler to attach the cap to the ceramic base.

30 YEARS AGO — 1980
The robot boom is on: After years of getting the cold shoulder from industry, most robot manufacturers are now backlogged with orders. This change is due in part to the greater reliability, lower cost, and versatile electronic controls of today’s robots. But the key reason behind industry’s interest is the robot’s ability to increase productivity.

50 YEARS AGO — 1960
Tunnel diodes pick up speed: Binary triggers (basic computer switches) will soon be operated at speeds five to10 times faster than possible with present circuits. Two new tunnel diodes under development at IBM Corp. switch on or off in less than 0.4 billionths of a second, promise far greater reliability, and use less power than conventional models. Packaged in rivet-type and microwedge housings (shown compared with a conventional t-d package, left), the first of the two new solid-state devices is ready for production. Key to the diodes’ compactness (both models are smaller than the head of a paper match) is a new fabrication method which involves an electronically monitored and controlled etching technique. The automatic process assures uniform electrical properties in every unit. The germanium is etched away until an almost microscopic pyramid remains.

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