Ergotron is a technology furniture manufacturer based in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. The company specializes in products for use in office, education, and health care markets. Product lines include monitor arm mounts, height-adjustable standing desks, charging carts for mobile devices, and medical carts. The company is a subsidiary of Nortek, Inc. (Nasdaq: NTK).
Ergotron was founded in 1982 by Harry Sweere with the idea for a computer monitor stand that tilts and swivels. The name Ergotron was chosen as a portmanteau of the words “ergonomics” and “electronics,” intended to convey the purpose of the company’s first product, which was the improvement of the human interface with computers. From Harry Sweere’s garage, initial prototypes were fashioned for sale into the airline industry, providing the company’s first stream of revenue. As Ergotron grew in following years, the product line diversified, moving into computer workstation furniture, LAN racks and specialty mounting systems for a variety of display technologies.
In January 2005, Ergotron merged with Constant Force Technology, LLC (CFT), a company also founded by Harry Sweere. CFT was primarily an OEM manufacturer to the display industry, producing adjustable desk stands for monitors sold by major brands. These OEM relationships continued under Ergotron.
In December 2010, Ergotron was acquired by Nortek, Inc., a global, diversified industrial company with headquarters in Providence, Rhode Island. Ergotron would become the lead subsidiary of Nortek’s Ergonomic & Productivity Solutions division.
In January 2012, Nortek merged its existing AV mount manufacturing subsidiary, OmniMount Systems, with Ergotron. OmniMount’s primary focus has been TV wall mounting products for the consumer market. OmniMount continues today as a consumer brand in Ergotron’s brand portfolio, with products sourced through Ergotron’s factory.
In January 2015, Nortek acquired Anthro Corp. out of Tualatin, Oregon. Anthro had been a competitor of Ergotron in the charging cart and standing desk furniture markets. In 2016, Nortek formally merged Anthro with Ergotron. Ergotron has retained the sales and manufacturing operations at the Tualatin facility, while continuing the Anthro brand as a custom-design and manufacturing channel for its business and institutional customers.
Patents and technology
Ergotron holds over 190 patents worldwide with most involving their monitor mounting technologies.
Harry Sweere filed Ergotron’s first patent in 1982, which was a swivel and tilt platform for a cathode-ray-tube monitor. An early application of this platform mechanism was the introduction in 1984 of the company’s MacTilt Stand, developed to raise Apple’s original Macintosh computer off a desktop while giving the user the ability to rotate and angle the computer’s screen. This technology was later expanded in 1987 with mounting arm technology that allowed for larger CRT monitors to be lifted using a pneumatic pressure cylinder.
In June 1996, Ergotron filed a patent for one of the earliest mounting arm systems for flat panel monitors. The patent features rotation on three axes with further elevation adjustment from the supporting arm, intended to give a user control in positioning a display screen.
A defining technology used in many current Ergotron mounting products is referred to as Constant Force or CF technology. The original patent for CF was filed in 2000, with several iterations applied in following years. The basic concept employs a counter-balancing mechanism for providing support and position control for an item (such as a monitor). By balancing stored energy and its displacement, the mechanism enables manual adjustment of the item’s position with minimal force expended. The technology was initially incorporated into adjustable monitor stands but has since been scaled to lift entire computer systems, large TVs and desktop surfaces of various sizes.
VESA standard
The introduction of flat panel mounting technology coincided with Ergotron’s Harry Sweere proposing a universal mounting interface for flat panel monitors to the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). The first VESA mounting interface standard, known as FPMPMI, was released the following year, guiding display manufacturers to include an appropriate mounting-hole pattern on the backs of displays to allow attachment of third-party mounting products. Harry Sweere went on to become the lead author of the revised and current VESA standard known as FDMI, which was introduced in 2002.
Most monitors and TVs sold today now include a VESA standard mounting interface. Ergotron is only one of a handful of companies to earn certification for VESA Mounting Compliance from the VESA organization.
Standing movement
While coming to market with its own line of standing desk products, Ergotron also launched in July 2010, intending to build awareness about “Sitting Disease,” a term used by some scientists. The web site highlights published studies that have involved Ergotron. Ergotron has collaborated in research with organizations like Stanford University, HealthPartners, the University of Minnesota, and the Mayo Clinic to study the consequences of sedentary behavior and the benefits of increased standing on workers in offices and students in classroom environments.
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