History of Automatic Doors

Automatic doors are commonplace in modern-day society. They front our shops, hospitals, sometimes even schools and churches. We see them fold, slide, or swing out of our way as we approach as though the universe were personally holding the door for you. But few know just how far back the history of the automatic door reaches! The origins of the automatic door stretch back some 2000 years to the start of the Common Era. Historians have identified a mathematician and engineer called Heron of Alexandria, who lived in Ancient Greece, as the inventor of the world’s first automatic door. Heron published his designs across two books known as the Pneumatica. Heron designed automatic temple doors using pulley systems and rope, with fire used to heat water to direct it to weigh down on the pulley system, opening the doors. He later designed city gates based on a similar principle. In the 17th Century, an automatic door was designed in China which used a foot sensor! This was designed for Chinese Emperor Yang of Sui, who reined between 604-618 AD, and used to gain access to the Royal Library. Fastforward to the 20th Century. It wasn’t until 1931 that the very first optical device to open an automatic door was invented, by two US engineers. The device was installed in Wilcox’s Pier Restaurant in West Haven, Connecticut, so that waiters holding plates and glasses didn’t need to open the door themselves. During the economic boom of the post-war period, two other US engineers invented the first weight-based mat actuator to operate automatic doors which opened when the mat was stood on. Mat actuator automatic doors popularised throughout the 60s and were commonly found on hotels, malls, banks, and offices. In the 1970s, motion sensor-based automatic doors overtook their mat actuator predecesors. These systems provided greater accessibility for disabled people and did not require a part to be stood on to operate – meaning less wear and tear on the mechanism and greater longevity. By the 80s, revolving doors were becoming commonplace and motion detecting slide and swing doors had replaced most of the old weight-based mat acctuator doors. Finally, in the 90s, infrared motion sensors had become the dominant mechanism for automatic doors, and folding automatic doors were invented. The history of automatic doors spans far further back through human history than most people realise! At ABC Industrial, we specialise in automatic doors and roller shutters, so we have all the expertise required to complete any job! Get in touch today to see how we can help you.

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