VACUUM-TECHNOLOGICAL MACHINE BUILDING AT TUNGSRAM
Tungsram is best known as a light source producer. Based on the modest machining capacity of the interwar era, vacuum-technological machine building as a new business line developed after the central factory in Újpest had been completely dismantled by the Soviet Army in the spring 1945, offering a creative answer to a tragic situation. Tungsram supplied light source production machine lines, complete factory equipment and various vacuum-technological machines mostly but not exclusively to socialist and developing countries and even developed capabilities to design and produce industrial robots, as a testimony to the innovative capabilities of Tungsram.
May 15, 1945. After the Soviet Army withdrew, Tungsram was left with a devastated factory in Újpest. The dismantled equipment filled 700 wagons, including the technical library and the sensitive equipment of the research laboratory. The damage, amounting to 12 million USD, did not even deduce the reparation payments of Hungary to the Soviet Union. Using old, deprecated machines, a radio valve production equipment unit used for German army supply in late 1944, and various small machines and equipment saved during the dismantlement by devoted colleagues light source production restarted as early as on July 6th and radio valve production in September 1945. In order to reach pre-war production level and meet reparation demands the modest machining capacity of the interwar era was developed into professional machine-building.
During the short-lived democratic regime after WWII efforts were made to rebuild Tungsram’s traditional Western European and transatlantic contacts. General Electric, the world’s largest light-source producer had a 10% share in Tungsram. During the negotiations on renewing the mutual provision of technical information GE proposed that Tungsram should deliver production equipment to the GE factory in China. Thus, supplying industrializing countries with vacuum-technological production equipment as a new business line first appeared. The Hungarian National Bank did not give its consent to the renewed GE-Tungsram contract.
After the Iron Curtain descended across the continent, the supply of the socialist countries provided a market for Tungsram vacuum technological machine-building. The center of this business line was the so-called Prototype Machine Factory and the Vacuum-technological Machine Factory (VTG), both founded in 1951, and united in 1967. Beyond light source production equipment for ever new product groups and with an increasing degree of automation, which was the main profile, VTG gradually took up design and production of various other vacuum-technological production machines mostly for socialist and developing countries. The machine designing capability of VTG was crucial for Tungsram to keep up with technological development, as ever new product types (halogen lamps, compact fluorescent lamps) needed specialized production equipment. Machine export to the Soviet market was of the largest volume including a widening range of vacuum-technological machines. From Africa over the Arab countries to Indonesia Tungsram designed and produced production equipment for complete factories, instructed staff in light source production and, on demand, even provided technical management in the initial phase.
From the 1960s, Tungsram increased production capacity by integrating various factories in the Hungarian countryside while the production profile was complemented by production equipment for television tubes and semiconductors, for the glass and pharma industry and for packaging. The Győr Machine Factory produced vacuum-technological machines for socialist countries, other types of machines such as moulding equipment to countries with convertible currencies. The Konverta factory in Budapest produced electronic control units for light source production lines and various other products such as theatre lighting control units. As part of streamlining production profile and organization in the 1980s, some machine factories (for example in Pécs and Nagykanizsa) were made independent of Tungsram.
The Gyöngyös Semiconductor and Machine Factory became an important center of Tungsram vacuum-technological machine production. It mainly produced production equipment for the glass and the pharma industry to produce glasses, ampules etc. Tungsram’s semiconductor-production, located in Gyöngyös, profited from on-site machine building as it supported the adaptation of licensed technologies and continuous development of production technology. Some diode production equipment constructed here was even bought by Philips and Telefunken. Starting from the production of manipulators used mostly in the production of television tubes and cars in the Soviet Union Gyöngyös developed capabilities to construct industrial robots by the mid-1980s. However, this capability was not used. As part of the Government Program for Microelectronics Tungsram semiconductor development and production was transferred into the newly founded Company for Microelectronics (founded in 1982), together with research institutes of the same profile. Vacuum-technological machine building in Gyöngyös was reorganized many times and was given up altogether in the early 2000s.
After General Electric bought the majority of Tungsram’s shares, VTG became a supplier of the GE factories. VTG experts supported production in some European GE Lighting factories and directed the transfer of production from various GE Lighting factories in Europe and the USA to Hungary. VTG was closed in 2017. Part of the machine-building know-how provides a basis for Tungsram’s machining capacity and component production today, contributing to answer the challenges arising from the transformation of the lighting industry.
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Beszélgetések a Tungsram egykori dolgozóival