The History of Automatic Doors

Automatic doors have been around a lot longer than you may have thought, the very first one thought to date back to around 40AD. The designer is believed to be a Greek mathematician and engineer, Heron of Alexandria. It is said that these were powered by water, but maybe, if we are to believe that fiction can also be fact, others were powered by a Donkey. The famous expression ‘Open Sesame’, something that was supposedly magical, being nothing more than a Donkey called Sesame, obeying the command of his owner Ali Baba. Who knows, but it makes for a great story does it not?

Other automatic doors were used in China, the first ‘sensor activated’ door being seen in the Six Hundreds. It is said that these foot sensing doors were installed in the royal library of the Emperor Yang of Sui. They again saw the light of day in the fictional works of HG Wells in his book ‘The Sleeper Wakes’ where what appeared to be a solid wall moved out of the way to permit entry and then closed behind the user.

However, it was going to be some time before the automatic door saw general use, the 1930’s in fact, when a door was fitted in a restaurant in the USA, this allowing the waiters carrying plates and glasses to move in a safer more efficient way. The designers were Horace H. Raymond and Sheldon S. Roby, the door using an optical system to detect the approach of a user.

Another American couple, Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt, created the first automatic doors with mat actuators in 1954, at the height of the post-war euphoria. The doors secret was that some electronic circuitry was hidden in the mat itself, this being the actuator that triggered the door. Putting it smply, the door opens on its own when someone stands on the mat and then closes again after a set time period, if that is, there was no one standing on the mat at the time. After that, automatic doors were erected in many public buildings, including banks, hotels, and retail malls, their popularity growing throughout the 1960s.

Next came Motion Activated Doors

This innovation appeared in the 1970’s, it offering a great way of improving the accessibility to any building by a disabled person. With the  growth of the industry came the need for agreed standards. This led to the formation of the Builders’ Hardware Manufacturing Association, whilst the American National Standards Institute penned the first technical standard for power-operated doors: ANSI A15610.

Later still, in the 1980’s came the revolving door, but it was the sliding door that has proved to be the most popular over the years.

As to the type of motion activation, the most commonly used variant today uses active infrared sensors, these coming with all sorts of extra bells and whistles which either improve safety security or both. The former includes high security door systems, some of which can actually ‘trap’ someone inside if they fail to pass any password, keypad number check or biometric monitoring system.

If you have found this brief history of automatic doors interesting and want more information on how this type of door could help your business, please visit the Record website.

Sarah Evans