Willis H. Carrier: An inspiration for engineering problem solving
Despite climate change, I felt this week we are entering a promising hot summer season. And it came to my mind a couple of projects running during August, one in Seville and another one in Orlando, Florida.
This made me think immediately about how much we should be grateful for the air conditioning, an invention that helps us have a better life. My friend and colleague Ramon always joked about how air conditioning is the best invention in history, even better than the wheel.
Then I decided to do some research about Carrier and I somehow found out about a fascinating story. Fascinating not only because of the invention it resulted but because of how it happened. Inventions are typically associated to either labs, F1 or war seasons; nevertheless, this one came from a challenge in a plant in Brooklyn.
Everything started in 1902 when Walter Timmis, a consulting engineer was facing a challenge at Sackett & Wilhelms multicolor printing plant. The problem came from the fact that the ink misaligned with the expansion and contraction of the paper stock due to humidity. And you can imagine the huge quality issue, waste and productivity loss the company was facing.
Timmis visited J. Irvine Lyle, Head of Buffalo Forge’s sales in New York. Lyle knew engineers had been able to heat up, cool down and humidify air and recommended to meet a recent Cornell University graduate engineer, who had already impressed many people at Buffalo Forge.
Carrier started to experiment with cold water flowing through heating coils and airflow to cool the air down to the desired dew point temperature. As a result the first set of coils was installed at the plant along with fans, ducts, heaters, perforated steam pipes for humidification, and temperature controls.
The compressor was introduced later in 1903 to meet the demands of the first full summer of operation. This system of chilled coils was designed to maintain a constant humidity of 55 percent year-round and have the equivalent cooling effect of melting close to 50 Tones of ice per day!
Modern air conditioning was born.
To read the full history, visit www.williscarrier.com
By the way, we recently heard about a similar challenge in a top consumer goods company that packs products inside a blister, built on a pre-formed plastic packaging sealed over a backing of paperboard.
Should they try to find the new Willis Carrier?