A Brief History of the Down Machine

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1.  My first introduction to the down machine at Sierra Designs was simply hearing the periodic sounds of a machine on the first floor wafting up to the retail store on the second floor at 4th & Addison.  If I remember correctly, it was a canister vacuum cleaner fitted with two hoses.  I believe the operator simply weighed the correct amount of down in a container on a single pan balance, placed the ‘blowing end’ of the machine into a garment or sleeping bag baffle, stepped on a foot pedal to start the vacuum, and then sucked down out of the container.  My memory of this is pretty fuzzy and any corrections would be appreciated.
2.  Allen Foster is now on the scene and is working on developing a more automated version of the down machine.  It was all done with transistor to transistor logic for the control of blower motors and valves.  It could be ‘programmed’ by product.  That is, you could select the 300 Sleeping Bag in size large and it would know what weight of down it had to deliver to each
baffle.  The electronics would control a set of five or six solenoids, each having a lead weight hanging on a string.  Combinations of these weights would drop down on one pan of a two pan balance to provide the correct weight for the baffle being blown.  On the other pan of the balance was a plastic cylinder.  When the correct weight of down was in the cylinder, other valves and blowers would blow this down into the product.  As far as I know, Sierra Designs was the first company to use this for the delivery of down to sleeping bags and jackets.  Allen improved on this design and eventually got the idea patented.  Clark Technical, Inc. is the assignee on the patent, not Sierra Designs. Maybe George can shed some light on this.
3.  Link to Allen’s patent: http://tinyurl.com/kmwfgfx
4.  If the technology has advanced beyond this, you might want to add it here. [Anyone know?]
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