Humboldt State University ® Department of Chemistry
(accessed 10 July 2014; minor editorial changes and links added by rap).
Industry: Pharmacy and Laboratory Scales and Balances
Headquarters: Clifton, New Jersey, U.S.
Area served: United States
Key people: James Q. Maloy, President; Karl D. Nowosielski, Vice President
Parent: Fulcrum, Inc. (establish 2000)
Torbal began manufacturing scales and balances in 1887. It is a supplier of prescription scales that are used in pharmacies, and it produces a laboratory scales including analytical balances for research purposes and industrial scales for quality control applications. In addition, the company makes related products such as moisture analyzers and force gauges.
The company markets its products primarily in the northern hemisphere with the US, Canada, and Mexico predominating. Torbal sells through some distributors in the pharmacy market, but the bulk of its sales are done through direct purchasing. It operates a number of affiliated web sites and also sells directly through e-commerce.
- The Torsion Balance Company (1897–1944)
- Christian Becker
- Modernization and Vertex (1946–2000)
- Present day
- External links
The Torsion Balance Company was preceded by the Springer Torsion Balance Company, whose Certificate of Incorporation was filed on September 7, 1897. The purposes of that corporation were to "acquire the ownership of patents on scales, balances, automatic discharging meters, and other instruments of precision and to manufacture and sell such articles." Five years later, The Torsion Balance Company was organized under the laws of the State of New York by filing a Certificate of Incorporation on January 7, 1902.
The corporation had its principle place of business at 92 Reade Street, New York City, and a plant in Jersey City, New Jersey until May 1949 when both the New York office and the Jersey City plant were moved to New Jersey in a new factory which was erected in Clifton.
The company has continuously manufactured and sold Torsion Balances. The principal markets for the Torsion Balances were with the retail druggist who used it in compounding prescriptions, and with users who needed a precision weighing device that could be used under adverse conditions that would quickly ruin balances with knife edges or friction bearings.
Workers at the old Torbal workshop via Wikimedia Commons
On February 8, 1915, the Torsion Balance Company bought the business carried on under the name of Christian Becker which was engaged in the manufacture and sale of analytical balances. This purchase included the right to the use of the trade name "Christian Becker". The acquisition of Christian Becker offered opportunity for the introduction of the Torsion Balance into laboratories as a balance less sensitive and less expensive than the analytical balance, but one for which there was a need. Over these succeeding years, the sales volume of Torsion Balance laboratory scales was built up until it was second to Torsion’s pharmacy sales. Additional markets for the Torsion Balance were found in the dairy industry, where the balance was used to determine the butter-fat content of milk, and in the textile industry.
After the acquisition of the business of Christian Becker, the Torsion Balance Company formed a New York corporation called Christian Becker Incorporated by filing a certificate dated February 18, 1915. Its directors were Harold H. Fries, William Clark Symington, and Robert B. Symington who were also its original stockholders and all of 92 Reade Street, New York City. This corporation remained in existence until the year 1943 when it was dissolved in the manner later described; and it, thereupon, became a division of the Torsion Balance Company. See the history of the Christian Becker family in precision weighing below.
A Certificate of Award to Becker & Sons from the US Centennial Commission via Wikimedia Commons
Christopher Becker came to New York from Arnhem, the Netherlands in 1836, leaving two sons Jule and Henry in the Netherlands. With his other sons Christian and Ernest, he established an observatory at 54 Columbia Street in Brooklyn where he manufactured nautical and astronomical instruments. In 1854 Professor J. Renevick of Columbia College asked Christopher to manufacture an analytical balance to supplement several British and German ones he already had. The result was good, and Becker and Sons was founded for the purpose of manufacturing balances and weights. Christian and Ernest were the sons of Becker and Sons.
In 1861, possibly to get away from the Civil War, the family returned to the Netherlands and manufactured balances in Antwerp. It is likely that the other two brothers Jule and Henry participated in this venture and gained their knowledge of balances in this way. When the Civil War was ended (1865), Christopher, Christian, and Ernest returned to the United States and established a new factory in Hudson City, New Jersey.
Jule and Henry established Becker and Sons, Rotterdam and H. L. Becker, Fila, Brussels. Whether there were originally two joint ventures is not clear, but Jule is predominately associated with the Rotterdam Company and Henry with the Brussels firm. Christopher moved from Hudson City, New Jersey to Newark, New Jersey and in 1874 to New Rochelle, New York. In 1884 the sons left Christopher and started their own business as Becker Bros. Christopher continued his business as Christopher Becker and apparently died soon afterwards.
In 1892 Ernest died, and the name was changed to Christian Becker. In 1915 the company was bought by the Torsion Balance Company. Christian's two sons, Christopher and Frank continued to be associated with the Torsion Balance Company. Christopher died in 1949 and Frank in 1956. Christopher (Sr.) is credited by 9th Edition of Britannica with the invention of plane bearings. Christopher (Jr.) held the patent on the chainomatic device (1915) and received the Franklin Medal for this development.
Torbal employees inspecting a line of [analytical] scales in the laboratory (see http://humboldt.edu/scimus/HSC.54-70/Descriptions/AnalBal_TorCB.htm) via Wikimedia Commons
Harold H. Fries died on June 29, 1946 and his shares were ultimately registered in the name of Wills and Company as nominee. Upon the death of Harold H. Fries, it was found that there was no one suitable to act as directing head. The attorney for the estate, Walter D. Fletcher, was designated as President of the Torsion Balance Company as an interim measure until a new directing head could be found. In the intervening months, this effort went on, and on December 13, 1946, Charles E. Donovan was made Vice President and active directing head of the Company. He was elected president of the company on November 12, 1947. At the meeting of the Board of Directors on December 13, 1946, it was decided that this company would undergo a complete modernization. In the course of this modernization a new plant was erected, the three principal lines of balances were redesigned to be more acceptable in the market, new machinery was acquired, new tooling and new sales policies were adopted, new accounting procedures installed and practically a new organization created.
This modernization was successful and the company grew in its Clifton, NJ facility. However, increased competition from European companies, especially Mettler and Sartorious, for space in the major distributor’s catalogs was becoming a problem, as were US labor costs. It was decided that a new manufacturing facility in Ireland might reduce product cost to manufacture and increase Torsion’s competitive position. The move was unsuccessful and much of the company’s assets were dissipated as a result. It was decided by the Brown Brothers Harriman Bank that the Company be discreetly put up for sale. Brown Brothers were involved on behalf of Roland Harriman (Avril Harriman’s older brother) who was married to H.H. Freis' daughter and had purchased all of the Torsion Balance Stock to settle an internal squabble. The company was sold to Vertex Industries Inc. in 1965.
Torbal prospered under Vertex and was restored to full strength by 1970. Vertex was becoming interested in automatic Identification technology and acquired a bar code company, Identicon, and also acquired a magnetic stripe readers product line from the Business Products Division of Dymo Industries. The era of digital scales had arrived, and once again Torbal was coming under competitive pressure. Vertex decided that the auto ID business showed far more growth potential and did not invest in the development of electronic digital scales. Torbal continued with its mechanical scales until in 2000 the Company was sold by Vertex to Fulcrum Inc., the present owner.
The company relocated and soon began to develop its line of digital scales. It developed an alliance with a Polish scale manufacturer that has a first class ISO approved manufacturing facility, excellent technical capability, and very competitive labor costs. Working together they produced a line of prescription scales, and then a line of laboratory and analytical scales for the North American market. The alliance continues today.
Since the introduction of their first digital scales, Fulcrum has made huge advances in the technology of these products. Creating patented features such as Advanced Pill Counting Accuracy (APA) and Pill Fragment Detection (PFD) has contributed to the increased efficiency of pharmacies and safety of their customers. Rx Verification, also known as NDC Verification, has enabled pharmacists to match the barcodes on prescriptions with those on the supply bottles.
In an effort to expand the Torbal line, Fulcrum introduced industrial weighing scales, moisture analyzers, and washdown scales. These added products appealed to a larger segment of laboratory and industrial sectors. With the expanded product selections, Fulcrum was able to begin offering customizable firmware to customers. The service, known as “Torbal Custom,” was created so that customers could better utilize Torbal products for their intended applications.
In 2012, Fulcrum broke into the force gauge industry with the release of their FA series gauges. The force gauges were the first weighing devices offered under the Torbal brand that were not required to be used as a stationary top or bottom loading unit. The FA series included ergonomic gauges with internal weighing mechanisms as well as high capacity models with external load cells. An FC series is expected to be released in the Spring of 2014.
To complement Torbal’s upcoming FC line, they are currently developing a motorized test stand. This accessory will not only eliminate the need for users to manually drive the gauge along the stand, but it will provide more accurate force over distance measurements by simply inputting the desired distance prior to testing.
Fulcrum, Inc. looks to finalize their development of micro-analytical scales in the near future as well.
The company produces a wide range of weighing products. The present day product line includes industrial scales, moisture analyzers, and force gauges, and newer versions of lab and analytical balances. An up-to-date line of prescription scales and systems is available for pharmacies. Sensitivity ranges from 0.0001g for its analytical balances, 0.001g for its laboratory and prescription scales, and 0.01g for its industrial scales. Capacities range from 50.0g up to 6000.0g for the lab, analytical, prescription and industrial scales. Torbal crane scales and force gauges can go to higher capacities.
The ST-1 balance was originally manufactured to be a teaching balance for high school and college students. via Wikimedia Commons
The company has produced many products that received industry recognition, e.g., magazine ranking or metrology society awards. The most famous was the Model EA-1 which was the first analytical balance to use electronic force substitution. The last three digits of weight were read from a digital Veeder Root dial that was linked to a precision 10 turn potentiometer. The potentiometer output voltage was converted to force coil current which caused a magnet suspended from the weigh beam to apply a linear force to bring the mechanism into a precise balance condition. Also in the balance an E-Core type structure was used to detect the beam position and the result was displayed on an electronic zero center null meter. The first three decades were done with digital weight loading dials. This balance, which was marketed starting in the early 1960s, is still in use in many labs around the country and they appear fairly regularly on e-bay as they are retired.
Another scale of significance was the Model PL-1, which was quickly followed by a series of scales based upon the same principle. This scale was an optical projection type that was intended for both laboratory and industrial use. The first decade was a digital weight loader which was used to bring the beam close enough to a null position so that the next three digits could be read directly off of an optical projection screen. Many people claimed that the optical portion of the scale was accurate to four places, however, reading a linear dial projection to four places without a vermier is a real feat. In this scale the beam deflection moved a glass plate which contained the graduated scale and the image was projected onto a screen in the front of the scale. The scale used a viscous fluid dashpot type of damping system and was remarkably fast. It soon became the favorite scale for many industrial applications because the torsion type taut band suspension made it very rugged and the simplicity of weighing combined with its fast damping made QC testing a simple chore.
One other scale that is deserving of recognition is the Model ST-1, which was designed specifically to be a student balance that could be used in high school and college chemistry labs to do accurate weighing (0.01% can’t be called precision) and allow students to develop a feel for weighing. The scale’s structure was actually half of an equal arm Roberval balance. A calibrated dial with a calibrated spring attached to it was used to apply a restoring torque to equal that of the torque applied by the unknown weight. With an attractive price this scale soon became very popular in schools across the nation.
Torbal's scales are used for pill counting and for drug compounding. The only mechanical pharmacy balance still manufactured by Torbal is the DRX-3.
A DRX-3 model pharmacy balance. This is the only mechanical balance that Torbal continues to produce to this day. via Wikimedia Commons
Torbal Official site
Torbal Pill Counters Official site
History of Precision Weighing Official site
Categories: Clifton, New JerseyCompanies based in Passaic County, New JerseyCompanies established in 1887Scale manufacturers
Vendor Catalog Scans
See also Christian Becker article