Automatic doors are a primary element of security, accessibility and comfort in a great number of buildings. Besides, they are an example of innovation and how technology has progressed in recent years. However, since they are objects of daily use which main purpose is going unnoticed, it is clear that we do not pay so much attention to them as to a mobile phone, a computer or a television. But one must stop to think about how automatic doors were in a hospital, a shopping centre or an office building years ago, and how they are as of today. At present, automatic doors are light, secure, energy-efficient and noiseless. Nothing to do with the first models that started coming out in the middle of the twentieth century.

No matter how, if we had to establish the origin of automatic doors, they should date back to the Ancient Greece. Hero of Alexandria, the creator of a great number of inventions that have been developed up to the present day, designed a door opening system with water vapour for Greek temples. It transmitted enough pressure to move the door by using a pulley and shaft system.

But the history of automatic doors as we know them today begins with the birth of the electrical engine, in the twentieth century. This engine enabled to improve the techniques used so far, and in the twenties, the Overhead Door Corporation designed the first retractable garage automatic door. And in 1931, the first model of a device causing the opening of a door in an automatic way was designed. It was installed in a restaurant in Connecticut. This system allowed waiters to walk between the kitchen and the restaurant when they carried multiple plates or drinks and they had their hands full.

In the following decades, a variety of models started being developed: folding, sliding, overhead doors… Lifts were another first place where they started being used. In 1957, in the United States, an automatic door system was installed in passenger elevators, a pivotal moment towards the end of the lift attendant employment.

Step by step, automatic door use and safety improved. It was during the seventies when the first remote control systems appeared, enabling the opening and closing from a distance, then they were gradually brought up to date by introducing changes in the manufacturing systems until now, where big progress has been made regarding the quality and technology of these systems.


Differences between automatic doors of the late twentieth century and today’s

Which are the main differences between the automatic doors of the late twentieth century and those of the present day?

  • Maintenance. Automatic doors in the eighties required more periodic maintenance, considering that they were not as safe and stable as today’s. At the present time, with all the quality and safety standards that must be considered in their design, manufacturing and installation, maintenance is safer and faster, and hence many problems are prevented. Reliability and usability are guaranteed as well.
  • Noise. Current automatic doors are noiseless and rely on swift opening and soft-close door systems, whereas years ago, the functioning mechanism could be heard every time they opened and closed.
  • Safety. Nowadays, access control systems, anti-crush mechanisms or anti-trap protection systems provide higher safety in regard to people flow and security for building protection. Besides, there are fire-resistant models, doors equipped with break-out systems, break-resistant glasses, or systems where the opening time can be changed in order to improve security.
  • Energy consumption. The first automatic doors made use of a high amount of energy, since the engines that were employed had not been developed as much as the current ones. As of today, a technically optimised automatic door makes use of a very low amount of energy and has a strong impact on building sustainability.
  • Simplicity. Automatic doors today are simpler and lighter than previous models, which were much heavier and needed a higher amount of energy to function.
  • Variety. In the course of time, technology has made possible the design of a variety of automatic doors models, not only the common sliding doors. As of today, we can also find them telescopic, curved, revolving, hermetic…
  • Design. Design is playing a fundamental role in the evolution of automatic doors. Previously, only a few standard models were available, and customers chose the one that best adjusted to their needs, whereas today, door design must fit in and be integrated into the rest of the building, providing distinction, elegance and design, while at the same time they guarantee functionality, safety and interior comfort. Clients have now more options at disposal, with a view to make automatic doors meet their requirements, and not the other way around.

These differences will certainly increase in the following years. Technological progress and the Internet of Things will entail high benefits in terms of accessibility, comfort, safety and security, and will still make automatic doors go unnoticed concerning users.

Manusa Automatic Doors