How Interchangeable Parts Made Industrial Business Possible

How Interchangeable Parts Made Industrial Business Possible

History is full of stories of innovation, from the printing press putting books in the hands of the common person to the assembly line that made manufacturing large machines more efficient than ever before.

But some of the most significant innovations in the industrial world were far simpler and less glamorous. Even so, we owe much of our modern economy to it. This truth becomes abundantly clear when you learn how interchangeable parts made industrial business possible.

What Are Interchangeable Parts?

Interchangeable parts refer to when a business creates every one of its products with parts as close to identical as possible. This allows the products to be built much more efficiently while allowing a single component to work equally well with any unit eliminating the need to create new custom parts every time one is damaged.

Industry Before Interchangeable Parts

To our modern sensibilities, interchangeable parts seem like common sense. However, before the industrial revolution, goods like guns, furniture, and tools would all have been made by a craftsman who made everything by hand.

At this time, society was primarily rural, and communities were made up of fewer people. Because the need for these goods was smaller, this craftsman-centric industry worked well.

The Invention of Interchangeable Parts

The first product to be made with interchangeable parts was a gun. As the story goes, in 1797, Eli Whitney— the famous inventor of the cotton gin—was tasked with building thousands of guns for the US military. One day, he came before congress with ten rifles. He unassembled them, switched the parts, then reassembled them in perfect working order.

As it turns out, this may not have been the first instance of interchangeable parts. Honoré Blanc of France, a different gun maker, may have created interchangeable gun parts first. However, this idea was perfected throughout the years by other engineers.

Impact of Interchangeable Parts

The impact of interchangeable parts on industrial businesses is evident in the work of one such inventor, Mark Brunel. Beginning in 1803, he was able to mass-produce pulley blocks for marine shipyards, thanks to his ability to create interchangeable parts.

This ability to create many of the same products was crucial as the world became more urban and industrialized. This helped lay the foundation for other key industrial innovations, such as Henry Ford’s assembly line and even our modern CNC servo drives, programmed to create the same part repeatedly.

History is full of innovators. Join in on a proud tradition with manufacturing parts from Industrial Automation.