Xerox retiree recalls working on early color copier | Lifestyle


Xerox’s first true full-color copier, from concept to implementation and build, was introduced in 1973. The only other competitor was 3M’s, which was introduced in 1969.

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Xerox had purchased one of these 3M copiers for our engineering lab for study. The physical size of the copier was large, bulky and quite long! In my opinion, it was not a true color copier in the sense that it used three large rolls of sensitized paper: yellow, cyan and magenta (an electrostatic process.) It produced one color copy per minute.

The Xerox color copier program had an internal product code name Epic-6500. When introduced in 1973, it was named the 6500 Color Copier. It made four color copies per minute on plain paper. It used some of the parts from the first fully automatic black-and-white copier in the world, the 914 Copier, launched by the Haloid Xerox Corp. in 1959. The Epic frames and covers were all made of sheet metal in house.

Local connections

The chief engineer on the color copier program was a young man from Newark by the name of Norbert Kaupp, and he had complete control over the color-copier build. Side note: Kaupp’s mother was the owner and operator of the “Paris Women’s Wear Store” on West Miller Street in Newark. Maybe some of you patronized the shop in the 1960s.

My first copier build assignment came in 1972-76 as an advance manufacturing engineer on the 6500 color copier. This was the first fully functional color copier produced by Xerox. The program machine is broken into major and minor subassemblies. Each of the major subassemblies, along with their minor subassemblies, consisted of the following: frames; optics; platen; electronics; developer; paper feed and transport; paper tray; fuser; covers; bias/gripper roll; photo receptor; final line; and packaging. Imbibed in each of the major assemblies are many supporting minor assemblies.

Each of the assembly parts — both major and minor subassemblies — were either made in-house or quoted out to specifically approved specialized suppliers.

The developer assembly was one of my main major assembly assignments. The developer is the most complicated of all the major subassemblies, as it consists of three individual clock housings assemblies. There was one for each of the colors: 7 o’clock for cyan, 9 o’clock for magenta and 11 o’clock for yellow (as they would appear on the clock). These three clock assemblies contained several stainless steel and aluminum parts, basically all nonmagnetic materials.

Some of the more sophisticated parts were the main cast-aluminum frame and the extruded, magnetic elastomer C-shaped rolls, which were supplied by GenCorp of Evansville, Ind., and mounted on an aluminum extrusion assembly. Six were required, two for each of the three developer clock housings.

The magnetic roll assemblies were magnetized in-house, creating different magnetic pole pattern combinations, of north and south fields. These unique magnetizing fixtures for magnetizing north south poles on the length of the magnetic elastomer extrusion were manufactured in our tool room. The 4-inch aluminum extruded paddle wheel mixed the toner to coat the magnetic carrier beads. A plastic toner canister assembly was suspended inside the paddle extrusion. One of our local suppliers was G.W. Lisk in Clifton Springs. They made the vibrator motor that dispensed the toner from the canister. Garlock Inc. of Palmyra supplied a molded, urethane blade assembly.

The developer assembly had its own drive motor, which would drive three electromagnet clutches. When any one of the three clock housings was prompted to present coated toner to the photo receptor drum, that clutch would electrically engage, thus causing the clock housing to rotate forward to a predetermined gap setting to the photo receptor.

How it worked

Each copy made three revolutions, electrostatically picking up the correct color toner from the photo receptor. As the copy starts its first cycle, the image to be copied on the photo receptor passes through a green filter for the magenta color. On the next cycle the image passes through a blue filter, applying yellow toner, and during the last cycle the image passes through a red filter applying the cyan toner. The color image is transferred from the positively charged photo receptor to the negatively charged plain paper held on the bias roll. From here, the plain paper copy is transported to the fuser assembly where the toner is melted, creating a shiny fused print.

We all had to attend the “Principles of Color Technology” course by Billmeyer and Saltzman. The final assembly area had special day light florescent lighting used for viewing the color copies in a natural, daylight environment.

One of our engineers — I believe it was Jim McCarthy — came up with a brilliant idea to mount a 35mm Kodak carousel projector and a mirror assembly on the copier, to project the 35mm slide image onto the platen optics and make a personal color copy from the 35mm slide. This color copy could be ironed onto T-shirts or other fabrics to create personalized garments.

Xerox had its own fabrication department in Building 208. I started at Xerox in 1967 as a sheet metal foreman in the punch presses. There was a 620-man shop operating with three shifts and multiple departments, including sheet metal punch presses; injection molding; welding; metal finishing; multi drill and taping; screw machines; mills; drills; tap control mills; planer mills; plating and paint. All were supported by our quality control room, tool and die room and maintenance department.

Sad to say that today, after about 55 years, all of that is gone and now just a distant memory.

Johnson is a lifelong Phelps resident who is interested in local history.



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