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The last CRT factory in Europe

End of the European CRT production era.
28 of September 2012, Cathode Ray Technology (the Netherlands), the last Cathode Ray Tube factory in Europe closed. Ironically the company never experienced so much publicity as now, all of the media brought the news in Holland about the closure. In fact this means the end of mass production 115 years after Ferdinand Braun his invention. The rapid introduction and acceptation of LCD and Plasma displays was responsible for a drastic decrease in sales. Despite the replacement market for the next couple of years in the industrial, medical and avionics sector.
The numbers are small and the last few CRT producers worldwide are in heavy competition.

I had the privilege to visit the factory in its last days, talked with owner CEO André Klok and the last few production employees helping dismantling the factory, they worked here for years. Important for me was to save as much historic interesting things as I could find. The company was so generous to help me in this. All documentation of all the CRT's made here since the beginning and even earlier went to Frank-Philipse who runs a large website with data sheets http://www.tubedata.info/
I was able to make some pictures in the already partly dismantled production facility and found a great collection of prototype CRT's from the past which can be seen on a special page. Much of the machinery came from the Philips facility in Eindhoven and dates back to the seventies but it would easily last for another decade.

CRT production in Holland.
The first steps of  CRT production by Philips started in the thirties with the Deutsche Philips Electro-Spezial gesellschaft in Germany and the Philips NatLab (Physics laboratory) in Holland. After the introduction of television in Europe, just after WWII there was a growing demand of television sets and oscilloscope equipment. Philips in Holland was ambitious and started experimental television in 1948. Philips wanted to be the biggest on this market. From 1948 there was a small Philips production of television and oscilloscope tubes in the town of Eindhoven which soon developed in mass production. In 1976 a part of the Philips CRT production went to the town of  Heerlen and produced its 500.000'th tube in 1986. In 1994 the company in Heerlen changed from Philips into CRT-Heerlen B.V. specialized in the production of small monochrome CRT's for the professional market and reached 1.000.000 produced tubes in 1996. In this stage the company was able to produce very complicated tubes like storage CRT's.
In 2001 the company merged into Professional Display Systems, PDS worked on LCD and Plasma technology but went bankrupt in 2009. The employees managed a start through as Cathode Ray Technology which now in 2012 has to close it's doors due to the lack of sales in a stressed market. Their main production was small CRT's for oscilloscope, radar and large medical use (X-ray displays). New experimental developments were small Electron Microscopy, 3D-TV displays, X-Ray purposes and Cathode Ray Lithography for wafer production. Unfortunately the time gap to develop these new products was too big.

My visit.
On these pages I will show you an overview of my visit to the factory. The production halls are empty now, most machinery went to the scrap heap, some parts are sold for re-use. It's sad to see an complete functional production line broke down this way. All special know how is now gone with the, some still unemployed, workers. This is the painful side effect on a human scale in an economical recession. These people made the millions of CRT's where many of us worked with, or still do. But as André Klok stated, it's reality and business wise the right decision.

Special thanks to André Klok, Max So and Robbert Venrooy.
Overview of the empty electron gun assembly room with spot welding equipment.
Here the electron guns were manually build. I managed to save all guns in the back of the picture, see here. A collection of many years and were used as examples for the building process.
Cathode welding equipment.
The final batch of tubes ready for neck sealing. Former employee Jo Schröder gave me an educational trip through the factory.
The completed last batch ready for packing.
The tube on the top right was the one donated to the CRT site.
Aluminum evaporating equipment.
The measurement chamber.
Here all technical specs of the CRT's could electrically be measured.
The dismantled machine called "Spooky" and it's operator Wiel Haan. Here all geometry distortions were corrected magnetically by sealing the magnetic changes into a tiny magnet ring which is part of the gun assembly.
Development room, what's left off...in the back the measurement chambers and duration tests.
The heart of Spooky, the coil system.
Three employees standing next to the rotating table for applying the Phosphor in the front of the tube and the drying machine on the right.
From left to right Wiel Thiessen, Wiel Haan amd John Schols.
Oven
Gun sealing process
A last glimpse in the working factory where
CEO André Klok explains the closing
.
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