Auto Controlled Elektron

This venture put forth by Mergenthaler Linotype Company during the early and middle 1960’s was so futuristic with innovation – it was most difficult for the ordinary typesetter to perceive just where Mergenthaler Linotype was going with this creation. (Was advertised that the Frank Lloyd Wright Design Studios was involved as for streamlined looking machine.) I live near Madison and Spring Green, Wi. in area of many Frank Lloyd Designs. I’ve viewed similarities.

Mergenthaler had many innovations over the years – but none painted blue.

This machine stood far and above other competitors (was only one - Intertype) with safety guards, blinking lights, micro switches, electric drive clutch and brake, push button start/stop buttons and more. This monster didn’t have an assembling elevator! It did have an assembler for matrices that moved the assembled line from right to left with the touch of a lever. No more pushing down with the right hand and lifting with the left.

[I was a machinist apprentice in early 1960’s and remember “old timer” operators placing their left hand first finger under the auxiliary rail and lift the assembler to deliver the line of matrices left to the first elevator for casting. Then with their right hand they reached down to a make shift peanut can ash tray hooked to the right side of the keyboard to grab the “cig” for a puff of smoke. Their black machines were coasting at 6.5 lines per minute.]

Couldn’t do that with this NEW BLUE Monster – that was punching type high slugs down the knife block chute onto the type galley at 14.5 lines a minute. I heard someone vociferate that Sunday afternoon in March 1964. “Maybe the 9th wonder of the world”. A demonstration for users, owners and machinists in 1964 @ Linotype Company Office, 531 Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL. – Now a Condo.

I heard there was a black Linotype, Model 31, displayed in the lobby of the condo building.

The NEW BLUE monster has been designed so automated functions may be added at a later date to fit  customers needs. (Like buying a bare bones vehicle and adding features after purchase.) For instance, the customer has only magazine selection and mold selection on their new purchase. Later they can add automated mold selection [six mold disk], knife block and ejector lever settings.

more . . . check back later.


Two options are offered with this system for handling copy on a mixer machine with line-by-line changes of font size, such as occur in classified ads. (One line of 8 point followed by several lines of 5 point.) The first system uses an advertising mold, with automatic quick open of the knife block in response to a tape signal. The larger font is cast with an overhang and ejected with the knife block automatically opened to clear. A blank slug is then cast to underpin the overhang. This has been the standard system used in the past.

The automated machine, with its ability to change molds, makes another option possible. The mixing signals are used to control the mold selection system. Each font is cast on its own mold, automatically selected as the machine mixes between the two magazines (line-by-line). This arrangement has the advantage of not requiring the underpinning, as well as providing solid slugs without the relatively fragile overhang.

As an additional advantage the casting heat load is distributed between two molds, with better slug quality in both sizes. Under average conditions, the speed of copy production is about the same for either "quick-open" (first option) or "mold-mixing" (second option)operating.

Note: Picture above is a later version of distributor shifter lever. Actually there is no shifter lever on this machine. It’s a long cable that’s actuated by a cam on the outside of the first elevator cam. When the second elevator moved down to receive the matrices from the first elevator jaws, as it was raising up this cam and cable would cause the distributor shifter slide to be pulled to the left (facing the machine) most position on it’s slide. The first machines had an electric clutch operated motor that was supposed to control the shifter slide.

It failed so many times and cost Mergenthaler a ton of money to replace the shifter slides – they went to the cable system.

The cost, if I remember right was around $250.00

 Someone told me that Frank Lloyd Wright helped design the machine and didn’t want any shifter lever flopping left to right with each line distributed.

The system of "mold-mixing" is not applicable to "in-line" mixing composition, such as food store ads or book work where two fonts are mixed in one line.

When the "standard" automated package, option No. 2, which consists of Magazine Elevating, Mold Selection and Automated Knife Block is used, only one tape signal is required for selection of the magazine along with associated mold selection and knife block. Settings are preprogrammed into the system, and are variable for each setting depending upon the users requirements. This preprogrammed set-up may be easily changed as required. The selection of anyone of the four magazines, plus the associated mold and knife block settings, may therefore be called out with only one tape signal.

Magazine Elevating

The Automated Magazine Elevating circuitry is connected in parallel with the manual magazine elevate selection circuitry and also to the standard electromatic safeties which will prevent magazine movement if the safeties are not cleared. Additional safeties are provided to prevent magazine elevating if the Elektron is not in its normal position, i.e. the delivery lever and the carn shaft not in normal position. Unlike previous Elektron operation, which cancels the magazine elevate signal if the channel entrance or assembler entrance safeties are activated, the automated circuitry contains a memory which retains the signal. In the event one of the safeties operate, a red reset lamp will light to alert the monitor. When the safety has been cleared, the reset button must be depressed to allow the machine to continue the automated change.

Note: The ACE Elektron above is pictured with Mergenthaler LOU Auto Setter. In 1968 Wisconsin Cuneo Press chose to equip their 2 ACE machines with Teletypesetter Operating Units 75B. According to Mergenthaler field engineers, the LOU operating unit was not the most reliable auto setter on the market. Cuneo had 3 Model 29 mixers with TTS units and were most pleased with the results of those machines. Cuneo Press previously (1964) added a former Fairchild TTS installation engineer to their staff as Head Machinist of Automation. jer

As on a standard Elektron mixer, magazines must be in upper magazine position before elevating or fanning. Therefore, when an automated magazine elevate signal is received, the magazine pair will automatically be moved to the upper magazine position before initiating the automated magazine elevate operation.

If the A/C/E configuration selected is with Automated Magazine Selection only, the control cabinet is not included since the Magazine Selection chassis is mounted on the Elektron and is connected to the Elektron power supply in the Power Central.


Mold Selection

The mold selection servo mechanism is hydraulically actuated, motor driven mechanism that is initiated by a tape signal. In operation, a split mold turning shaft is driven forward hydraulically to disconnect it from the standard drive and connect it to the automated mold selection driving gear . The drive motor will then turn the mold disk until the correct mold is in position. At this time a latch will lock the mold selection mechanism in position and the hydraulic system will allow the split mold shaft to disengage from the automated mold selection gear and engage the normal mold drive.

A safety is provided to prevent the cam shaft driving clutch from energizing while mold selection is in progress.


Note: The last statement above: “A safety is provided. . .” would seem to cover all movements of the mold, knife and magazine being selected before casting another slug took place. Mergenthaler forgot about the time it takes electric signals to reach relays, TTS operating units stop magnets, safeties, servo motors, electric clutches and  other things. The problem is: It requires more milliseconds for hydraulic fluid to flow through a hose than it takes electrical signals to travel down a wire informing TTS stop magnet, drive clutch stop relay and more to continue.

Setting short lines, for Wisconsin Bell Telephone Yellow Pages, we found that the Split Mold Turning Shaft is moved forward with hydraulic pressure to choose a different setup for mold, magazine and knife setting.

The “change setup” signal  stopped the TTS operating unit from selecting matrices. The ACE     completed casting the last line then wait until all mats were cleared from the distributor bars (mixer) before allowing mold, magazine and knife settings to change.

The ACE started to assemble the next line when mold, magazine and knife settings were complete.

However the Split Mold Turning Shaft was NOT completely in the normal (mold turning alignment pin not totally engaged with slide shaft) rear position due to the slow return of hydraulic fluid to the quadder sump pump reservoir.

The ACE machine was allowed to deliver a line to the first elevator jaws signaling the machine drive motor to cycle the main cams to move forward allowing the first elevator to rest on the vise cap.

At the same time the mold turning was supposed to present the correct mold to the matrices. It could not perform this function because the split shaft alignment pin was not engaged into the split shaft collar — thus causing the machine to be “out of time.” The alignment pin had already left the normal position, however on its’ second cycle did engage into the alignment hole on the collar on the split shaft. It would turn the mold disk about 1/4 turn when the mold slide would make its forward movement to present the correct mold to the matrices hanging in the first elevator. The mold disk studs could not engage the stud blocks located on the vise frame. This prevented the forward thrust micro switch from sending a clear signal to the ACE timer switches. The timer system immediately issued a stop/hold signal on the main drive clutch motor. Everything came to a halt — including the TTS operating unit.

Why did this occur? Electronically the signals and safeties would take but a couple of nanoseconds to deliver their signals to the many relays and safeties on the ACE.

Problem was that hydraulic fluid didn’t flow as fast as electric signals did, which would prevent the Split Sleeve from reaching it’s rear most position.

Mergenthaler Solution: Punch 10 rubouts into the TTS paper tape or give it a long tape feed signal. As far as we were concerned that solution didn’t get it. What if we had a mechanical malfunction of another kind? Messing with flowing fluid in a hose and a sliding iron shaft
co-mingled with electric signals — we chose to go electric.

My Solution: We machinists created a black mystery box which would inject a time delay of ?? number of seconds to delay the x-fer of a electrical signal.

Milwaukee had much manufacturing of automated equipment in the middle 1960s. A couple electronic control companies on Greenfield Ave. in South Milwaukee had just what we were looking for. 1 - 6”x 6”x 8” black aluminum box, 1 - Variable Time delay relay, a couple 6 prong Jones Plugs, 1 - off/on switch and 1 - red light.

We then had to send a signal from the collar on the Split Mold Turning Shaft collar with a micro switch.

The relay (right) was placed inside the box which sat on the back step of the ACE machine. A plate was fashioned for Micro switch (left) and mounted in the area of the Split Mold Turning Shaft collar. The roller on the micro switch was adjusted to be energized when the face of the shaft collar pressed up against it when collar reached it normal position.

We tapped into the wire harness that sent signals throughout the ACE. Diverted a couple of them to the relay and then back to other signal wires. We then dialed the adjustment on top of the relay to “hold” the stop magnet on the TTS operating unit for 2 seconds after the shaft collar reached its home position — fully engaged onto the mold turning collar alignment pin.

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Machinist’s Safety Switch
This feature was added to the back of the ACE machines which was Designed by the machinist department.  It was a small plate that contained three lights and 2 switches.

One red light would flicker each time a matrix broke the light beam on the Shaffstall mat detector. (See contents LINK for Shaffstall Mat Detector) That way we machinists would know that mats were in fact being selected. The machinist’s dept. was 60 ft. behind the ACE machines.

The second light, blue, told us that the ACE was in normal driving motion — casting slugs of type. One switch located under the blue light was used to stop the ACE machine. When doing maintenance or repair on the machine, we could put a permanent hold (people could push the start button on the front of the machine and NOTHING would happen.) on the main driving clutch. We didn’t have to jump down, go around the machine and hit the stop switch.

The third light, white, alerted us that the TTS operating unit stop magnet was in a stop or hold condition. A second switch located under the white light allowed us to place a stop/hold on the TTS operating unit. This was a life saver in that when clearing out a distributor stop we could control the TTS unit from the back of the machine. Clear out the mats from the channel entrances etc. then return mats to the second elevator bar and into the magazines. All clear, just flip the switch and the TOU (Teletype Operating Unit) would continue assembling matrices.

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Leonard Smith, Mergenthaler Mid-West Sales Eng. (1943-1970) viewed what we did with great interest. He vociferated his observation back to the Chicago, 531 Plymouth Court, Chicago, Il. district office. Henry Cieko, Mgr. of Chicago Office and Earl Porter, the matrix engineer arrived at Wis. Cuneo one day for a show and tell, however, I never heard a word from Mergenthaler top management, but I sure got a lot of questions from their field service engineers, George Remly and Ralph Poor.

By that time, 1970, I’m sure Mergenthaler was done developing anymore hot metal products and focusing all their efforts on that new word — “Phototypesetting.”

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The other notable person who showed up, and I can’t remember his name, was the Chief of the U. S. Printing Office, Washington DC, about 1968. He obtained permission to enter the restricted area at Wisconsin Cuneo Press, Milwaukee, to view this auto mold turning etc. operation. The U.S. Printing office had, at that time, had a total of 35 machines. Comets, Models 31’s, 36’s, 29’s and 8’s linecasting machines.

Eventually the United States Printing Office purchased ACE mixers and contacted me for kits etc. that I created and sold with installation instructions.

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Auto Ejector

The auto ejector is provided as part of the mold selection. Its adjustments are the same as for non-automated Linotypes.

This attachment is not new to the Mergenthaler Linotype machine. Been around for quite some time.

Pictured to the left are controls for a 6 pocket mold disk.

The Thermex mold cooling system allowed for only 4 molds to exist on a single mold disk.

A different ejector selector plate was required.

Automated Knife Block

The auto controlled Knife Block mechanism utilizes standard knife block parts and adjustments. In addition there is a new automatic turret and drive mechanism which replaces the turret handle on a manually set knife block. In operation, a hydraulic system lifts the turret, a motor then turns the turret until the proper banking screw is in position. At this time a latch locks the mechanism in the selected position, the motor will turn off and the hydraulic system allows the knife block to settle back onto the selected banking screw.

A safety is provided to prevent the carn shaft clutch from energizing while the knife block setting is in progress.

Automated Quick Opening Knife Block

The automated quick opening knife block provides for opening of the knife to a new position in response to a tape signal, timing the opening to correspond to the ejection of the line in which the signal occurs. After the line has been ejected, the knife block will close to its normal position. The quick opening settings are preprogrammed settings.

Line Measure
An Autoshift code, followed by three numeric codes which describe the measure in points, is used to select the line measure. If, for instance, a line measure of 12 picas, 6 points was desired, multiply 12 (picas) by

12 (points to a pica), giving 144 points. Add the 6 points, giving 150. Therefore, punched on tape would be the codes for Bell, 1, 5, O.

Settings are always made against a positive latch in the increasing direction. When a shorter measure is called for, the mechanism will overshoot by approximately 6 points and then reverse to the selected measure in an increasing direction.

The Mohr Saw may also be controlled with the automated line measure device.


Note: Wisconsin Cuneo did not have any ACE machines with Line Measure Control.
It was accomplished in another way with very little expense.

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Year = 1969 –
Teaching ACE Elektron and IBM 1130 Computer to communicate

When setting different length lines for telephone yellow page ruled box ads we would set the manual measure control to the longest line length -14  picas. (6 pt. Bell Bold business name, then fill with top align 1 pt. rule mats to the length of 13 picas - plus we added a
½ pica space for a buffer against the last matrix rule.) That line was quad  left on the slug. The makeup person would miter the top line to 12 picas. (the rule mats were 1, ½ and  ¼ pica respectively.

The ad “guts” were a combination of  8, 7 or 6 pt. type on an 8 pt. slug – 11 pica long.  All lines centered on slug. (
§ © ® Ú ●  characters available in magazine)

The phone number line was indented 1 EN space on both ends and contained at least 1 spaceband for justification. The IBM 1130 computer was programmed with the maximum space we wanted the band to justify. After deducting all character widths in the line, the computer added the correct amount of LAD (leader aligning dash) mats to fill to the phone number for the 11 pica line.

Ad makeup people would have sufficient 6 pt. material (1pt line rule) all mitered to 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 pica rules for the bottom and left/right side of the box ad.

The computer was programmed to output TTS perforator codes to change the ACE Elektron:
bell code + 1= 14  pica line measure, 12 pica liner, 6pt mold/knife change for top line
bell code + 2= 11 pica line measure, 11 pica liner, 8pt mold/knife change for “guts.”

TTS monitors would program the plug board (inside the ACE control cabinet) to access:
mold #1= 14 pica liner with 6 pt. knife setting
mold #2= 11 pica liner with 8 pt. knife setting

It took the monitors 15 minutes to change the 4 magazines, 2 mold liners and program the ACE plug board with the correct settings to match the molds with knife settings and 4 different magazines of matrices.

It sounds like a lot of work, however, we had sufficient tape punched to run one ACE 5+ hours two times a week for Yellow page work. The amount of type produced for ADs alone kept 5 people on 1st, 2nd and 3rd shift busy – 5 days a week doing changes to standing ads and assembling new ones. From October to December 15th. Wisconsin Bell assigned 2 supervisors to each shift to monitor and answer questions from makeup people.

And we’re not even talking about the White Page Listings. Residential and Business. That was a different group of makeup people, 2 shifts a day. The primary responsibility on the second shift was to get the “Daily Addenda” printed and delivered to the Grey Hound Bus depot for delivery to various points around Wisconsin. Number changes, new customers, listed and non-list numbers and more had to be printed on loose leaf pages. The copy came from Ma Bell @ 4:30pm and had to be on the Grey Hound by 8:30pm. Depending on the unpredictable number of changes etc. there could be 8 to 15 people working the same project.

Wisconsin Bell’s markets were: Green Bay, Appleton, Neenah-Menasha, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Milwaukee + Metro area, Racine-Kenosha, Madison, LaCrosse and Eau Claire. Wisconsin Cuneo had hundreds of standing phone book pages of customer listings and Yellow Page Ads.

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Line Delivery
The ACE machines did NOT have to raise the assembly elevator up to release the line delivery. The assembly took place (in line) on the same level as the intermediate delivery channel and first elevator jaws, when the machine was in the normal stopped position.

At end of the line two codes in the TTS paper tape (return/elevate signals) signaled the Electron timer to start a delivery cycle. The TTS unit stopped selecting matrices, another signal was sent to the star wheel jogger to push the last matrix inside assembler gate pawl then a third signal allowed two short line delivery fingers to rotate forward and downward behind the last matrix (right end of line) in the line. The first short finger moved left pushing the line of mats against the long delivery finger and continued on thru the intermediate delivery channel into the first elevator front/back jaw. As the line delivery was moving left, a second short finger remained next to the star wheel waiting for the TTS operating unit to assemble the next line. The machine started the main drive cams to start forward rotation which lowered the first elevator to rest on the vise cap. Upon return of the line delivery (long and short finger) the two short fingers would be rotated upward and backward while the long finger buffered up against the left end of the line being assembled.

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Vise Automatic?
There was no such thing as a vise automatic rod (which would cause the machine to stop if the first elevator didn’t seat properly) with a knife edge that would slide under the mold disk dog knife edge.

There was a piece of flat tapered steel mounted on the inside of the first elevator that actuated a micro switch which in turn signaled the machine timer relay that the first elevator head was in fact seated on the vise cap holding the matrices in place for the forward thrust of the mold disk. If that vise automatic switch didn’t get energized — the  machine came to a halt.

Verticle Start Lever ?
There is no vertical start lever, automatic stop fork and lever or clutch rod attached to the fly wheel with (C18) clutch leathers riding the inside of a flywheel on these Elektron machines. It’s all done with electric clutches attached to the drive motor.

Screw “A”, First Elevator (side view) = Banking Screw which rests on Vise Cap.
Screw “B” is adjustment screw for actuating Vise Auto. Switch — MS-37 (above)

MS-36 and MS-37 work together. Both switches are wired in series. If MS-37 does NOT get energized by the time MS-36 rides up on cam “1” (right) machine will halt.

These 2 switches, some wire and a set of contacts in one 9 contact relay replaced the Vise Automatic Rod, Vertical Start Lever, clutch collar, clutch toggle and other associated parts.

Clutch Lever Has Returned ?
By popular demand, Mergenthaler installed a fake starting – stopping handle and mounted a micro switch behind it. Due to old habits, when people wanted to stop a machine, they would automatically reach for the clutch handle to stop the machine.
Pulling this lever forward on Elektron DID NOT start the machine.

Keyboard – one of many places to Start/Stop the Elektron
To start the machine, it required the operator to depress the Ready Button then the  Start Button on left side of keyboard. (also see auto knife block photo above) START, READY & STOP lighted buttons. Below them are buttons for the upper/lower rail control. A little further down you can see the upper end of the line delivery handle. It does what the elevate handle on other machines. Causes a line of matrices to be released for delivery of line (right to left) to the first elevator jaws. The Elektron machines have no first elevator to raise up to allow the line delivery to move the assembled line from right to left.. A little upward pressure on the handle causes a micro switch to send a signal to the delivery slide short finger to be released and push the line of matrices to the left against the long assembler slide finger and into the waiting jaws of the first elevator.

The long vertical lever to the right of the UR/LR buttons is the space band selector which energizes a micro switch to send a signal to a relay mounted behind the space band box.

Above the start button is a pump stop toggle switch. (momentary off switch if pushed to right –  permanent off if pushed left) Electric Signal is sent to solenoids mounted near the pump stop lever located on top the metal pot and under the plunger arm that forces the pot plunger to push hot (475 +/- degrees) molten lead metal up the crucible throat then pot mouthpiece and into the back of the mold. This lead is forced into the awaiting line of matrices (casting molds with letters, numerals and other characters) to be cast onto the top edge of the body of lead called a

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The four standard ninety-channel Linotype magazines which the Elektron accommodates can be elevated or fanned with push -button ease.

To bring a specific magazine into operating position, the button for the magazine position is depressed. The magazine selected will be moved by hydraulic action to the proper position.

To fan the magazines, the FAN button is first depressed and then the button for the particular magazine to be removed. The magazines are then automatically raised or lowered to the proper position and fanned by hydraulic action, with the pre-selected magazine in position for removal.

The elevating, lowering and fanning of the magazines are fully protected by safety devices.

About the Safety Switches

Under the cover (above pic) are 4 Cherry Switches for testing position of magazine being used.

The TTS tape issued a magazine change.
ACE would check the present magazine being used and make decisions with the help of many Micro Switches and the 4 Cherry Switches.

1st.   Check to make sure magazine frame is in Upper Magazine position.
2nd. Wait until distributor clear light signaled OK to proceed.
3rd.   Move entire 4 magazine frame ¼” up. This checked assembler and channel                      3rd.   entrance switches to make sure all matrices have cleared and are inside the magazine.
3rd.   If OK, ACE would issue a command to cam “reed rack” out of the way.
4th.   Machine would proceed to move to selected pair of magazines.
5th.   Continue composing the next line of type.


Assembler Swinging Front

Matrices take only a short drop from the magazine - compared to the older black Linotypes.

This improves assembling particularly at high speed, and reduces wear on the right-hand side of matrices during the assembly of the line.

The assembler belt, which was made of vinyl rubber had to be hand washed in hot water and soap two or three times each 7 hrs.
When transpositions [teh for the] would show up on proofs the first thing we machinists
would do is wash the assembler belt with hot
water and soap. That solved 99.5% of assembler transpositions. Our machinist apprentices had real clean hands now and then during the work shift.

These belts were quite expensive. $ 15.00 – compared to the cloth belts the black machines used. $4.50.

In order to expedite the belt cleaning we had five extra assembler belts hanging on a hook near the Elektrons. Changing them took 5 minutes.

Washing them was another story. By the time an apprentice would wander down to the washroom to clean the dirty belt, stop and jaw-jack with others along the way – that took 15 minutes.

When apprentices started whining about having to clean belts I changed the rules when the belts got cleaned. Take 5 minutes for each belt on the “dirty belt” hook plus 5 minutes for hand cleanup time - then punch out. No overtime for belt cleaning. Problem solved.

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An eye-level Line Length Indicator recessed in the swinging front includes a red pointer which sets to the measure desired. A second red pointer moves with the line length indicator slide showing the space left for justification.
If a line is overset, the delivery of the line will be prevented and the light will glow red.