Skip to main content

Full text of "History and production of Engineering Research Corporation / by William F. Gannon"

See other formats


William F. Gannon 

April 5, 1940 

The history of this young company, The En^-ineerinf^ Research 
Corporation, Is more or luss limited. This is due not only to 
the short span of Its existence, but also to the fact that itc 
growth - while very rapid - wae not deliberate but merely follow- 
ing In the footsteps of its own progress. The company has grown 
from a concern housed in a small bulldin.^ employing eii^ht men 
to an imriortant eornoratlon In the avaltion inciustry. It Is now 
locateci In a modern structure ano ^ives em'^loyment to anDro^dmat- 
ely two hundred oeonle. 

At present the Engineering' Ret:-earch Cornoration is interetted 
in three phases of production; namely- wlachinury for forraing 
airplane structures, Propeller desi^'n and manufacture, and. 
Marketing: their own exclusive airplane, the ERCOUFE, It is with 
this latter nroduct that they hope to make the country airmiaded. 
This will be affected by puttln-^ the airplane q-^ the same levtl 
as the automobile with regafd to cost, safety, and ea^t of 
operation. The machinery they produce is sold to many of the large 
airrilane manufacturing companies which shows well enough the 
Drogri:Ss in this field. Information on propeller production nas 
been woll f?;uarded because of government contracts but it is 
reasonable to assume that advancement is being made otherwise 
these contracts would be cancelled. 

After i nvectif^atln.'?; all these aciiiev^;mcnts it is easy to 
see that the cornoratlan is not static but moving forward 
continually. This forward movemtint is resultin-" not only in their 
own financial success but also in the advancement of the avaltion 
Industry as a whole. 


The En.gineerla,e; Research Corporation Of America was 
firct conceived by Henry A. Berliner of Wafchington. Under his 
leadership and promotion the charter wat; obtainea aad the 
company was incorporated in lyso. Mr. Berliner wa^ named 
preirndent at that time; a position which he ha^ helc =ver since, 

The prime purpose for the organization of tne company 
was to carry out esperimente in the interest of the Avaition 
industry both with respect to airplanes themselves and machines 
for their construction, with the hope that some inventions 
would be fievelooRd alon^^^ these lines. Havin^^ this In mind, 
the President of the Cornoratlon brought el^ht men from the 
B J Aircraft Com-^any In Baltlnore to work for him at the 
plant, which consisted of a small shop located in Wash! ngton,D. C 
At this small shoD many ej. periments were carried on witn a 
two place light flying boat wnich tney /^ad constr^ctea. L-ome 
work waft alto performed on macliinery for shaping sheet mfetal, 

Wori. of thiF mature wa. elaborated on for four years but 
at no time did the number of employees eice^d fifteen. In 
1934 the Company was -noved to 61u:. Slifl;o Mlllroad in V/ashington. 
Here the factory consisted of a mucn larger ouildins; witn an 
Increase In the number of employees to appro:., imatoly one iiundred. 
Work was cuntlnuec on machinery for mailing airplane parts 
with the principal emphasis upon those for -naKing propellers, 
shaping sheet metal and riveting, a four placf low wiag 


rtionoplane v/at cjnEtrueted anc; its characteristics determinec. 

In Noveiibdr 1938 The Sn^ineerinp: .iesearoh Corooration 
was moved to Riverdale, Uaryland, It is here that trie factory- 
is now located. The principal reason for the relocation of 
the plant in the VVashin(i^ton subarb was to secure enou-^h level 
groimd Tor an airport ajacent to the i"actory. inlti spot was 
one of the few tracts of land available while the convenience 
of transportation facilititis of the Baltimore and Ohio iiailroad 
made it very deslreable. 

The Dresent structure which now houses the factory is a 
modern building built of brick and steel. It ie completely 
Air Conditioned with lars-e sheet netal ducts sunilyln^ warm 
air in the winter and cool air in the summer. The air is 
autoraatically controlled at all times with regard to aolBtare 
content; this being necessary beca ise of the characterifctic£5 
of materials used in the maaufaoture of propellers and airplane 
structures. The front of the buildiftfT is a two story structure 
with drafting roo -is and offices upstairs. The retit of the 
Dlant is only of one story construction with sky lights in the 
roof and wallc of glcss brlci; admitting plenty of li,.ght, so 
that ia daytime none of the plant needs much artiiicibl illuaiaa- 

The plant itF-.. If is l^yec out in seven dlfierciit principle 
parts namely; Offices, Propeller chop, Taint Snop, lilachine 
Shop, :.!achlne Assembly, Stock lioora and Heating?; Plant. This 
is shown in Fl^-ure 1 , 





/?^ Ao&(//r>ff /^&^/iir-/77 

















/ZOO/? /^A^A^ o/^jT/yo/A'^r^/pz/yG^ /9^s^/^pc// coppop/^r/OA^ ^r /p/y£'/?a^z^j/pf/^ 

^/yu^a 3 


The original Intc^nt of tills corporation was to Cbrr.y jn 
ejpBrlments to develop new Drlnclple^ and Inventions for air- 
plane manufacturing maciJnery, r.ave them patenteci and then sell 
the patent ri^hte to sone other cu'npaay. This intiant aoiue; 
none of the producing themselvsE, leaving that up to tae new 

The orl»?inal intention of the companj could not oe carried 
out however because during? the depression, when money for new 
adventures was not so nlsntiful, no one was interested in sucli 
Inventions as were develor)e^; therefore the nolicy had to be 
ohnnred . The new one ar'ontefi was that of develooin? inventions 
for alrnlane manufacturing' e"'.]! -^mbnt , makin^r the eruipiaent and 
then sellin.'r the finished machinery to other companies. It 
Is this policy unon which the co'ioany now operates. 

It should be noted here that the trade name of 
c mpany Is SHCO whicii comes very naturally from ilnirineering 
Research Corporation. At present the machines manufactured 
by EHOO are — Autonatic Rmchini; and itivetlng '.la chine 5; Propeller 
Profiler; Hydraulic StreterJn^'? Press; Shet^t Metal Shriniter; 
and Sheet Metal Former. Besides t.^is macni nery wiiici. iL 
produced thtj cjmpany has another product, one which ua.t. recuivsd 
more publicity than all the rsst put tOt;"i;ther — namely tne 
small airDlane trade named EHCOUlfE, A moie detailed oxplaiiatiou 
of rjme of these products will now oo ^^iv^n. 



This small ll^ht weight airplane (Figure 2) la the result 
of many yenrs of research and planning till today tne nroduct, 
which shortly will be turned out for retail delivery, is Just 
as its trade sloe-an sa-s, "No Stall-No Spin-Safety Built InV 
It is /^uarantet d spincroof as a result of many test fli,;hts 
by stunt fliers whos attempt to do so were of no avail. 


Figure 2 

The quick take-off, rapid climb, and high sustained cruising 
speed of the ERCCITPE provide noint to point transportation which 
will surprise and '^lease the private pilot. The ability to land 
easily at any s'^eed between ?f and 80 m. n.h., to stop in an 
astounding short run, and to operate safely under adverse weatner 
conditions eliminates that anxiety and uncertainty of 
commonly associated with ll.^ht planes. 

Slratillcity in flying hat been achieved oy elimination of the 
i*ud. er pedals--the airplane being flown entirely by the control 

£)y^ P^^0^ O/^^A'a^^^lSy? /WO/7^/S/P 


wheel. Ailerons, mdcer, and nose wheel are all mechanically 
coordinated so that turning is accomplished in tht air, atlt is 
on the ground, by taring the wheel to the right or left--the 
proper bank is always maintained in turns at an;; speed. 

The ERC; UPS has amaaing stability — it will not get "out of 
control'.'--even with the wheel full bach straight flight can be 
maintained or turns performed at will. On the ground, as in tx*e 
air, the ERC0UP3 will handle with ease. 'Ao nose-over is possible 
even with full anpllcat'on of the hydraulic brakes, powerful 
enough to slcici the tires. No ground loot) will occur even on 
crosswind landirti'E or high sT>eed turns, nor ballonlng-off even 
when landins' at hi^-h sreeds or in f-"trong rust winds. 

The structure of the nlane ie all metal, a.t is the covering 
structure of all but the outer wing panels, The cabin s^ats two 
comfortably, r, ide by side, and oerraits closing by two sliding 
curved nanels meeting ■. t the top. Controls are operated by 
push rods or straight cables, pulleys having been eliminated to 
avoid friction and possibility of ^iamming. The landing gear is 
of tricycle design. 

This plane wat designed by Mr, Fred £. t^eiek, chief engineer 
of the corporation, and constructed under nls personal supervision. 
At present only two of these ships are completed, but it is the 
intention of the officials of the company tj turn them out in 
lots of ten and sell them at retail to the public. In fact tne 
present layout of the plant is being rearranged so that an 
asi^embly line may be formed for mass oroduction. 

^/t'o/vr yAr^a^/^o/='^/,L/^/F /wo/^//.^^ 



Not much information of EiiCO work upon propellers egald 
"be obtained because they are collaborating with jjovernment 
engineers both in QeE3.j;n anct prjcuctljn. J)\i^ to unac tiled 
worlc-wicle concltions these proceeseii are being Kept Etcret. 
A brief summary however will be given on a propeller-making 
machine which they sell to the public. It is known as PiLOPELLiiiR 

This machine is the result of fo':?r years research and 
development by the corporation. The experimental model was 
comnleter last year 'inf tho-^ou^hly tested by the Hatailton 
Stanc?ar<? Proneller Comt^any of East Hartford, Conuectlcut, 
After several month's trial, during which time they chcCKcd 
the accuracy, speed and practicability of the macnine tiiey 
collaborated with EHCO in the redesign and offered inan;y- valuaple 
suPT.'^estl ons which have been incorDorated in the newest mooel. 

Credit for the original conception of tnis machine- fToeja 
to Mr. Lee SIm,Uns whose propeller e: cerl-once dates back 
to 1910 when he produced the wooden propellers; usee on ma.ny 
of the 2iore successful American airplanes of tx;at era. 

In lySO LIr, Kenry A, 3erliner after investigating Mr, 
Simmin's desi.^n anc hearintL; nis tu,^;gettiyns at., ro trisi po..siiJle 
ImnrovementE that could be raade, entered into an agreeiaent 
with Mr. Slmrnlns whereby the EHfi^in'^trinf:; and Research Corporation 
undert:30k to riroduce a machine eatable of procucln,i? metal blades. 
The first machine was built an6 after some modification was 

^/^M^O/=^ /='/?OP£'ll£'/F y^/FO/^/^S/F ^S//0^/40 y^^STlT/F C/^yi^ 


found to be eapaole of producing metal oladbt on a ooflLaercial 
scale witi. i'ar greater accuracy than had ever btiarc been 

Op_e rat1 on of Prof i Ik r : Contrary to the "copying lathe" prin- 
ciple ern.ployed by moE^t machines the present design profiles 
one sic!e of the "blade at a time. The master cara or form is 
a Folid piece of caet iron whose leni?th is about two inches 
more than the ma:-' 1 mum width of the bl^-r^e beln^t produced. The 
can rotates anr! iF directly reared and syncronized with the 
table holding the blade for>-l:.^ which is .<ed horizontally past 
the cutter. Thus each line radially on the master cara or form 
represents a corresDondln^ element oi tue olade. T'.ie cutter 
with the roller of similar profile reciDrocates fore una aft 
in simple harmonic motion and oscillates freely aoout a trunion 
which permits the vertical travel necessary to the contour. 
The blade Is fed horizontally past the cutter from tip to nub. 
at about the eighteen inch station {measured from the hub) 
the cutter lifts off the forging and the machine is automatically 
shut off. The table is tnen cranj^ed bacK to tne startinc^ 
position by means of a hand wheel, a new forging is inserted, 
and the machine Is then started by means of a convenitntly 
located push button switch. 

The Tiropeller is sur>riorted on the table by a head and 
tail stock. The tail stock connection permits horizontal 
ey^anslon, "between the head and tail stocks are closely spaced 
and easily adjutable steady rests. 

l//^M^O/^/^/^/^^^l£7Fye9Qr/l£/? S//OJ1/AVO mZ9/r O/^ y90^^£~/F 


The blade is held ti-'htly against these rests by means of a 
weighted roller, located Just ahead of the cutter to Insure 
contact at the point being machined. 

To Droduce the maEter cam of form, tne cutter and roller 
are reversed on the machine. A master blade (which ha^ been 
carefully finished by hand) l£ placed in position on tiie taole 
and wooden falrlni^ is worked around It so that the roller can 
travel about one inch pa£t the leadi.ig and trailiUf^ ecl^es of 
the master blade, a wooden block is placed on the master caia 
shaft and thii Is then cut to the desrired form by the machine, 
an allowance for shrlnJcage being made. An Iron casting is made 
this wooden pattern which Is placed on the machine and then 
i^round from the marter blade in the sanie manner that the wooden 
Da t tern was cut. 

About one hundred ant" fifty hours are now required to 
prorluce a lair of master cams althou^'*h it is believed tnat tnis 
may be considerably reduced, narticulai-ly wh^n several tets 
are being made at once. Of course only a oortion ox this 
is done on the profiler, the remainder beir.;?j lathe ana pattern 

:a:ico hydiuulic straTCEIi^v; ritit^^j 

This Dress Is a two cylinder h.^draulic press designed 
to form sheet metal by restrain! nr-* two tsd^es of the sheet to 
be formed with clamps and forcini^ a wooden or metal male die 
upward into the work, (see pi.otogrtph) The ufcc of thit maenine 
eliminates the necessity of a female die. This resaltt In a 
saving of both time and money on any particular Job. 

^. ^ 

//hZ)/^Al/l/C Sr/P£'rCA^/A^O /^/P£'yS'& 



The Sheet Metal Shrinier, sometimes called an "Upsetter", 
was developed in response to the demand of the aircrai't Industry 
for a method of foi-mini: and fitting various sheet metal piirts. 
A machine was required to reduce the len^^th of a piece o£ metal 
in a localized area, which action is just the reverse of that 
obtained with hand or power hammers. 

Ihe Shrinker in Its refined form is able to perform this 
ODeration efficiently on various metals including mild and 
stainless steels, as well as the Bluminura alloys for which it 
was orlp-inally designed, and therefore should find its way into 
all Industries which woi-k sheet metal for various uses. 

The heart of the shrinker is the Jaw system which can be 
seen in Fi^rure 3. Two pairs of Identical jaws are used. 
'•^he upper ones are mounted on an anvil attaciied to a recip- 
rocating ram that moves vertically, while the lower ones are 
on a siraillar anvil attached to a tool poet. ^he jaws themselves 
are wedf^e shaped pieces of tool steel resting on inclined tur- 
facee of the anvils anc held Lipart against pins lu the anvils 
by coll springs within them. Their working surfaces, whien are 
rou.trhened to aid In holdln£; the work, are parallel to one 
another, and grip the metal to be shrunk at two points at 
the same time. The stroke of the ram is so adjusted that it 
travels beyond the noint where the work is ^rinped and in so 
djln.t^ It forces the .^aws to slide ciown the inclined surfaces of 
their anvils, eomnressln*- the coil snr-inK-'S anc' the work at the 
same time. The springs, of cource, are not permanently affected 


by this action, but the naetal between the two areas ^^ripped 
by the Jaws Is compresEed beyond Its elastic limit and is 
thereby reduced in length and increased in thickness, fly feed- 
ing sheet metal through the machine an operator can in this 
manner produce double curvature shapes, remove wrinkles in 
Tireviously formed T^leoes, or perform any of several related 
operations almost impossible with the other metal workinj^ tools, 

Figure 3 


At first ^-'lance one mli^ht think that the shrinker would 
leave an Irregular sui'ff^ce on the material worked. This iB 
trufc if one attempts to shrink the work violently or extremely, 
but under noriial oDeration the only surface ciiange to be found is 
a loss of Dollsh. The roughness of the working surface of the 
jaws shoulcl be matched with the class of finish desired, how- 
ever, as much more rapid shrinking is possible with serrated 
surfaces, which can be used if the resulting-; marks are not 

?UKChi:jG AifL KIV^TIi^G^ a.^ChII^j!; 
Only an exclanation of ttie manner in Wixicn tni£ maciJntj 
works will be <":iven. " An attempt to ej^ plain more fully would 
get too complicated and technical. The ijole Is punched chroagii 
two or more layers of material after they are in an atsombled 
position. The punch remains in the hole it nas Just Dunched, 
keenln?- the narts in accurate alifrnraent. The river is then 
fer! (^own onto the Dunch, pushing the punch out of the hole as 
the rivet enters, 'lo shifting?: of the materials Is possible, 
nor is any effort reouired tc locate the rivet in the hole as 
the two operations arefully automatic and are performed with- 
out moving the material or the machine, 

SKEii:i :UTAL F0R1-.0j:R 
The "KRCO" FORMER (Fi-^ure 4 ) is a new type machine whlcJi 
provides a means of forming or flanging the edges of t 
metal where the contour is so irre.^;ular that hand work would 


Figure 4 


otherwlse have to be resorted to. 

The method of forming or flan.^lnij is throagh the oscillation 
of a short brake against a holding-down tool at a speed o£ 
250 and 500 strokes per minute. The total angle of this motion 
is controlled by a hand v/heel In front of the machine. 

The working; parts consist of an Anvil, a Braice Tool and 
a Eold-down Tool mounted on a solid frame which enclo6;;B trie 
operatinfE^ raeehanism and supports the motor. (rij?ure 4) 
Seperate tools ore required for each iiei;;ht of flange and 
thickness of material. 

In keeping with the spirit of progress, they intend to carry 
out a profrram simlllar to that of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. 
Stuclents, from the University of Maryland, will be trained both 
on the around anr" in the air, to fly tneir own air olane-iilHCOUPS. 
A coranariEon will then be made of their results ana those of 
the Civil Aeronautics iiuthorlty. These will oe used to make 
Improvements in order to lessen solo fli^:nt time. 

The fact, that many large airplane manufacturing companies 
buy machinery for producing airplane structures from iSngineering 
Corporation, is enough in itself to show the advancement that 
has been made in this field over the short span of ten years. 
Marked Drogrese in orooeller production and design has resulted 
In securing government contracts. Cai-rying out these contracts, 
lay down rigid specif Ic^-tions , points out the rellaDility of 
this young company. 

All the ■Information for this naper was obtained from 
an lnsr»ection trin of the En/^lneerlnr: Researcl: Corporation's 
olant at Rlverdale, Maryland an.d a personal Intei-view d^ 
Mr. Fred E. Welch, Chief Snerineer of the Company.