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Ignition apparatus is used for igniting the charge in internal combustion engines. It is required for automobiles, tractors, farm engines, and all similar engines. Starting and lighting apparatus is used chiefly on passenger automobiles. It includes an electric generator, a motor, and a storage battery. Ignition apparatus is of two types, the magneto and the battery systems. Since passenger automobiles usually carry a battery for starting, the battery system is generally used for such cars, while for trucks, tractors, farm engines, and similar uses, where a battery is not otherwise necessary, the magneto system is preferred. Another necessary part of the ignition system is the spark plug.

In 1914 domestic production amounted to $22,260,847. Since that time the increase has been great; in 1919 magneto manufacturers alone estimated their production at $17,000,000. The census reports production of magneto ignition apparatus, generators, spark plugs and coils for 1919 at $51,286,793.

Steel, copper, and insulating materials constitute the essential raw materials, all of which are of domestic origin.

Starting and lighting equipment is made by quantity production methods, and is well standardized. Ordinary machine-shop equipment is used, and hand labor is minimized. Magnetos require somewhat more skilled treatment and more hand labor.

The two principal magneto manufacturers of this country are the successors of German firms which operated branches or affiliated concerns here before the war. There are several smaller makers. Starting and lighting equipment is made by a number of firms, including manufacturers of electrical apparatus, automobiles, and specialties.

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Before the war Germany controlled the export trade, which was chiefly in magnetos, but since the war American manufacturers have built up a considerable business, amounting in 1920 to $3,600,000. In 1921 exports dropped to $1,313,614.

In 1914 German magnetos and parts were being imported at the rate of $800,000 per annum. At present importation is small, but no statistics are available. Practically no starting and lighting apparatus is imported.

Germany was foremost in the development and manufacture of magnetos, and German apparatus was considered the standard of quality throughout the world. Since the war the industry has been developed in Great Britain, France, and other countries. Starting and lighting equipment has developed more slowly than magnetos, and the foreign industry has to a great extent followed the lead of the United States.

Competition in starting and lighting equipment is unlikely, as the industry is further developed in the United States than elsewhere, and the product is standardized and made by quantity methods. Competition in magnetos may ultimately be expected from Germany since the German product is high grade and can be produced cheaply.


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Act of 1913, paragraph 167. Articles or wares not specially provided for in this section; * if composed wholly or in chief value of iron, steel, lead, copper, brass, nickel, pewter, zinc, aluminum, or other metal, but not plated with gold or silver, and whether partly or wholly manufactured, 20 per centum ad valorem.


In all internal-combustion engines the mixture of combustible vapor or gas and air, after having been drawn or injected into the cylinder, must be ignited. In many of the larger stationary engines, which operate at nearly constant speed, ignition is effected by means of the heat of compression, or by the heat of compression assisted by a hot tube in the cylinder. In the case of the smaller engines used on automobiles and elsewhere, operating at widely varying speeds, these means are not practicable, and electric ignition is the only satisfactory method. When the speed of an internal-combusion

. engine is widely varied, it is necessary for satisfactory operation that there should also be a variation in the point of the piston travel at which the gas is ignited; the ease with which this is effected with electrical ignition, together with other important advantages, makes its use universal. In the electrical ignition system the gas is ignited by a spark sent between two terminals within the cylinder. The source of the current may be a magneto (a small electric generator geared to the engine shaft), or a storage battery charged from a small generator, and carried on the car primarily to operate the starting and lighting apparatus.

Battery ignition systems.-Before the battery current can be used, it must be passed through a series of devices, called the interrupter, distributor, induction coil, and condenser, which greatly increase the pressure, in order to enable it to jump the gap in the cylinder, and which permit control of the time of the spark. The interrupter is a mechanism which opens the circuit at the required time, and creates the spark.

The distributor is a revolving switch which distributes the current to the several cylinders in the proper sequence. The induction coil consists of two carefully insulated coils of copper wire, wound on an iron core, which increases the voltage when the circuit is opened, and enables the current to jump the gap and produce the spark. The condenser is an auxiliary built up from thin sheets of tin foil and insulating material, which assists the operation of the induction coil. The spark is produced between two terminals in the spark plug; one of the terminals is clamped in insulating porcelain or mica, the other being connected to the frame of the engine. The interrupter, distributor, coil, and condenser are usually assembled in one unit. The above description applies to the battery system of ignition. Magneto ignition systems.-- In the magneto system, the current instead of being derived from the starting and lighting generator, and charged in the storage battery, is obtained directly from a generator called the magneto. The magneto combines the functions of generator, induction coil, distributor, and condenser in one unit. The secondary winding of the induction coil is over the generating winding, and revolves with it. The magneto system is used on trucks motor cycles, and farm engines, which are usually not equipped with electric starting and lighting systems, and consequently do not carry a storage battery. It is also used to some extent for passenger cars. either separately or in addition to the battery system. It is said to be somewhat more reliable than the battery system, since it eliminates the storage battery, and is especially preferred by users located in countries where facilities for the care of storage batteries are not widely distributed.

Electric starting and lighting systems.-- Passenger automobiles are also provided with a set of electric lamps, and an electric motor for cranking the engine, which is thrown out of gear after starting. The current supply for battery ignition, starting, and lighting is furnished by a generator, or in some of the smaller cars the generator and motor are combined in one machine. The storage battery is used to supply current while the engine is not running, and is automatically connected to the generator by a regulator for charging when the speed of the engine becomes sufficient to charge the battery, and is disconnected when the speed drops below this point. The automobile type of equipment differs in requirements and design from that used for general power work, and its manufacture is carried on by firms specializing in such products, or by separate branches of electric manufacturing companies. The tendency in America is to standardize on battery ignition rather than magneto, since the storage battery is required in any event for the starting system. In Europe the magneto is often used as an auxiliary to the battery system.


In 1914 the domestic production of magneto ignition apparatus. spark plugs, coils, etc., in the Cnited States amounted to $22,260,847 and in 1919 to $51,286,793. Since 1914 the production of automobiles has greatly increased and a much larger percentage of automobiles is supplied with electrical equipment in addition to ignition

apparatus. Manufacturers estimate the production of magnetos alone for the year 1920 at about 700,000, valued at $17,000,000, an increase of 40 per cent or more over that of 1919. In addition to this there is very large production of starting and lighting and battery ignition apparatus and spark plugs. In 1920 there were over 1,800,000 passenger automobiles produced in the United States, and practically all now are equipped with starting and lighting apparatus, while every gasoline vehicle must have ignition apparatus.

Materials. --Iron, steel, copper wire, brass, and insulating materials constitute the principal raw materials. Parts of the armatures are built up from steel punchings. All the materials are of domestic origin, and the supply is adequate. The quality and prices of materials are not very different from those prevailing abroad.

Equipment.-- The equipment is of the usual type found in shops producing small machine parts. Standard machine tools are used, fitted with special jigs and fixtures, and some special machines are used for operations such as winding. The equipment is all of American make, and the quality is equal to that available in foreign countries.

Methods of production. This type of apparatus is manufactured in large quantities, and is highly standardized. The designs of the various makers differ in detail, but each manufacturer puts out a complete line of starting and lighting or ignition apparatus, or both, which differs but little in its application to different makes of cars and engines.

The manufacture of magnetos requires more skilled labor and more hand work than that of starting and lighting equipment, as they are more closely adjusted and of more delicate construction. Starting and lighting equipment is manufactured by the quantity production methods applied to other small motors.

Organization. The magneto was developed in Germany and was there brought to its greatest perfection. Before 1905 the magnetos used in the United States were for the most part imported from Germany, but between that time and 1910 the demand became so great that American factories were built and operated as subsidiaries of the parent concerns, or in close relation with them. In 1918 the Alien Property Custodian took control of two German companies which were operating American factories producing these two magnetos, and they were later sold to American interests. These two companies are now producing the greater part of the American output; one of them probably produces at least half. There are in addition several other important but smaller concerns manufacturing magnetos. The electric starting and lighting systems are a purely American development, and are produced by a number of firms. ` Altogether there are perhaps two dozen or more domestic firms making electric equipment for internal-combustion engines, of which six or more make both ignition and starting and lighting systems. They range in size from small concerns making only a specialty, such as battery ignition system which they sell to the producers of starting and lighting systems, to large firms of several million dollars capital. Some of these firms were organized for the manufacture of automobile specialties, while others are manufacturers of other electrical products, which make this class of goods as an additional line. In addition to the electrical systems made by manufacturers of electrical goods.

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several of the automobile makers, particularly those of the lowerpriced cars, produce their own electrical apparatus.

Geographical distribution.-Production is largely localized in the New England and East North Central States. In 1914 Ohio, Massachusetts, Indiana, New Jersey, and Connecticut in the order named were the largest producers.

History of the industry.-During the early development of the automobile, progress in the design of magnetos and other ignition equipment was most rapid in Germany, and, until recently, German magnetos were considered superior to those of domestic origin. In the early automobiles, ignition was effected by a coil

and vibrator operated by a small battery carried for the purpose. The magneto replaced this system, doing away with the battery, and providing a more powerful spark by reason of the greater power available. Later came the development of the electric starting and lighting systems, requiring the use of a rather powerful storage battery, and the battery system was again introduced, in an improved form. The magneto no longer has the advantage of eliminating the battery on passenger cars, since it must be carried for operating the starting system, and battery ignition has replaced the magneto on the greater number of passenger cars. The starting and lighting equipment for automobiles is an American development, and was adopted by European manufacturers considerably after it was in wide use in America.

Domestic production and consumption.--In 1914 the domestic production of magnetos, spark plugs, coils, ignition apparatus, and similar material amounted to $22,260,847, and in 1919 to $51,287,000. Neither imports nor exports are shown for that period, but it is likely that imports exceeded exports. At present production probably exceeds the domestic consumption. Production of magnetos, excluding other electric equipment, in 1920 is estimated by manufacturers at about $17,000,000.

Exports. --Statistics of exports are not available before 1918. In that year they amounted to slightly over $3,000,000, and in 1920 increased to approximately $3,600,000; in 1921 they dropped to $1,314,000. Exports went chiefly to Canada, Italy, Australia, Great Britain, and Japan. Previous to the war there was comparatively little export; Germany was the largest producer, and controlled the export trade of the world. Contrary to conditions in many other machine industries, exports to the manufacturing countries are large, since this class of equipment is used chiefly by manufacturers of automobiles and engines.


Great Britain.-At the beginning of the European war only one English firm made magnetos, and that on a very limited scale, not more than about 100 per month,' which was a negligible factor in the industry. The general feeling was that high-grade magnetos could be obtained only from Germany. At the beginning of the war difficulty was met in obtaining materials, including permanent magnets, molded insulation, and the required grades of treated paper, silk, varnish, and insulation for wire. Several British firms undertook the manufacture of magnetos, and by forming an association,

1 Automotive Industries, Nov. 27, 1919.

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