In the late forties, Lehigh, Inc. of Easton, Pennsylvania, a large malleable iron foundry and munitions maker, formed the Air Control Division for the prime purpose of manufacturing the old casting style of hand valves, panel-mounted combinations of valve and F.R.L. units similar to the Logansport type which were quite popular during the post World War II period.
As a foundry type of company, the in-plant use of air and air cylinders was extensive. It was in that atmosphere of dirty, contaminated air, corrosive foundry fumes and abrasive particles that the need for a better air cylinder became evident. Additionally, the current design of lubricators offered relatively inefficient downstream lubrication, and a more efficient method of providing cylinder lubrication was desperately needed. (Note: Lubricators haven’t improved much over time and are still a source of neglect and maintenance headaches.)
It was at this time (over 55 years ago) that the Lehigh self-lubricated air cylinder with an internal reservoir was conceived by a brilliant engineer named Charlie Keller. Around the same time, the Lehigh slide valve was developed for air use as a modification of an earlier Lehigh design for air conditioning defrost valves.
Awareness of the unique air cylinder spread by word-of-mouth, and Lehigh began to receive orders.
The need for a permanently lubricated, non-polluting air cylinder spread slowly, since air pollution was not considered a major problem until the 1980’s. Additionally, most air equipment used in conjunction with cylinders required lubricators.
During these years Lehigh also developed the first dynamic lip cushion seal principle. Independently, another cylinder manufacturer developed the identical cushion design and applied for and received the patent. However, both companies agreed that both companies would use the patent, since Lehigh proved prior disclosure date. Since the patent has long expired, most cylinder companies are now using this superior concept instead of the old type requiring ball checks and springs.
In 1964, Lehigh, Inc. spun off the Air Control Division as Lehigh Fluid Power, Inc. and sold the rest of their divisions of foundry, air conditioning compressors, vending machines, and material handling, with the major purchase being the foundry bought by the Victaulic Company of America.
Lehigh Fluid Power, Inc. continued to use the manufacturing and office space of the Easton facility until 1970. At that time, the operation was moved to our current facility in Lambertville, New Jersey.
Ownership of the company changed in 1977 when two longtime friends from Boston and their sons purchased the company. The primary interest in Lehigh evolved from John Taplin, the founder of Bellofram Corporation, as a result of his long association with the Fluid Power Industry.
In 1983, Lehigh purchased state of the art CNC machinery which added new dimensions to the manufacturing of our cylinder component parts. By 1985 we computerized our inventory control, scheduling, and cost accounting to further decrease delivery time and increase production.
Since 1990 Lehigh has focused on special engineered applications. We have supported this thrust with additional engineering personnel. Special applications include: stainless steel, nickel plated or bronze cylinders, boosters, and air/oil tanks.
A major expansion of our manufacturing and warehousing facilities was completed in January 1997. Additional investment in capital equipment and plant facilities is ongoing.
In March 2015 Lehigh Fluid Power, Inc. purchased the assets of Ortman Fluid Power from Quincy Compressor LLC. Ortman was incorporated and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Lehigh Fluid Power and manufactures a full line of NFPA cylinders in Quincy Illinois. The companies have complementary product lines and are able to support customers with a tremendous array of actuators via distribution and direct sales.