Friday, August 01, 2014

Invention of the Day: Wind-powered Sawmill

In the 17th century, the Dutch dominated sea trade and naval warfare. That time in European history is often referred to as the Dutch Golden Age. One Dutch inventor was particularly instrumental in giving his small independent nation a decisive advantage over Spain, the naval super-power of the 15th and 16th centuries.

In 1594-97, Cornelis Corneliszoon van Uitgeest (c. 1550 - c. 1600), a Dutch windmill owner, invented and perfected the first wind-powered sawmill. That is, before Cornelis two workers had to saw a log manually, using a specially designed pit. It was a long and ardious process.



Source: Power from Wind: A History of Windmill Technology
By Richard Leslie Hills.

The new device allowed its operator to produce wooden planks 30 times faster than before.

Why this tech advance turned out to be strategically important for the Dutch nation?

Because wooden planks was the key material for building ships. In combination with ubiquitous windmills, the new technology enabled Dutch shipbuilders dramatically increase production of low-cost naval vessels, both military and commercial. As the result, the Dutch could not only swarm Spanish ships in sea battles, but also transport great amounts of commercial goods from newly discovered places in Africa and Asia, which gave them strong market advantages. The invention of the wind-powered sawmill brought about a 10X change in productivity that rippled through the entire world.

Eventually, the British overtook the Dutch, partly due to James Watt's improvements of the steam engine, which was much more powerful and reliable than the windmills.

tags: invention, innovation, 10X, source, tool, packaged payload, 

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