An Historical Look at the Copying Business

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Did you invest in Xerox when you had a chance? Would you if you had to do it all over again? Taking a look back can help investors understand new market innovations when they come along. This historical piece from the 1960s gives a good overview of the industry and investment potential then.

"Photocopier" has become a magic word in Wall Street and has contributed to the creation of several star performers, including American Photocopy, Xerox Corp. and BBM Photocopy, which climbed from 8 to 60 for a 700 percent appreciation in less than a year because of its new "photocopier" based on the electrostatic principle!

Basically speaking, most photocopying machines or "photocopiers" are based on the photographic principle. They use the action of light to reproduce images, with their methods varying, depending upon the process employed.

Broadly speaking, we have the following five basic photocopying processes in use:

1.Thermo Fax process The simplest and most widespread process used was developed by Minnesota Mining & Mfg. This depends not on photography, but on the use of heat. Infrared rays heat carbon or metallic particles on the original, which in turn burn their image on specially treated paper.

2.Transfer-diffusion process This process is used by American Photocopy, Sperry Rand's Remington Rand, and others, and is more closely akin to photography, except that no lens is used. In this process, the original is placed next to a "negative" translucent sheet and light the negative runs through a chemical solution.

3.Dye-transfer process This process is similar to the transfer diffusion process except that the negative is coated with a type of dye. It prints upon ordinary, untreated paper, much like a rubber stamp. This process was developed by Eastman Kodak's Verifax which can reproduce five to seven good copies from the dye-coated matrix or negative.

4.Diazo process According to this process, paper to be copied is placed directly over a sheet coated with diazonium salt, and the two are exposed to ultraviolet light. Then the copy is developed in the fumes from a strong alkaline solution. This process is utilized by Charles Bruning and Ozalid (General Aniline & Film) for heavy-volume copying at low cost.

5.Electrostatic process This process is also called xerography because it was developed by Xerox Corp. for its xerography machines. Here a camera is used, much as in the conventional photostat method except that the picture is taken on a positively charged metal plate. The plate then is sprinkled with a finely ground, negatively charged powder, which sticks to the printed areas.

The electrostatic process appears to have significant advantages over other methods despite its complexity and expensiveness. Copies can be enlarged or reduced in size by manipulating the camera. It provides very faithful reproduction. It is extremely fast.

In order to compete with others, each process is striving for innovations or improvements. For instance, the transfer-diffusion process has just licked one bugaboo: the need for hand application of chemical solutions by operators. The chemicals now come premixed in disposable cartridges; devices built into the machines empty and refill the developing trays at the flick of a switch.

While all photocopying methods are in continuous process of development, the greatest research effort is going on in the electrostatic reproduction field. Under licensing arrangements with either Xerox Corp. or RCA, a half-dozen firms are seeking means of simplifying and reducing the cost of electrostatic copiers to bring them within the range of small scale users.

Among the leading photocopy issues, Xerox Corp. and American Photocopy appear favorably situated. Good acceptance of Xerox' new 914 photocopier has bolstered the stock. With a large percentage of its outstanding shares held by institutional investors, only a small floating supply of stock is available. American Photocopy's Electrostat desk-top copying device is also in good demand.

As with any industry, the names and numbers change. Recognizing innovations will always be a winning strategy for the potential investor.

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