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If there is one constant in our history it is innovation. Here you can read about our first 140 years, from 1873 until 2013.
When Atlas Copco was founded it made products for railways, but the core of our business dates back to the early years of the 20th century, when the first compressors, tools and rock drills were manufactured. Today, we are a world leader in these and many other areas.
Atlas was founded in 1873 in Stockholm, Sweden, to provide Swedish Rail with all types of equipment for building and running Sweden’s new railway. But with the growth of Swedish Rail relatively short-lived, Atlas had by the mid-1880s already begun a strategic shift toward the production of more advanced products, such as steam engines and boilers. In November 1890, the company was reconstructed and a new company, Nya Aktiebolaget Atlas, was founded with three new production lines: locomotives, commercial central heating systems and machine tools.
At the beginning of the 1890s, a young engineer named Gustaf Ryd visited England and the US and came back with a pneumatic caulking hammer and riveting hammer, respectively. The new machines proved invaluable and the need soon arose for spare parts and replacements. With none available, they had to be made in-house, paving the way for a completely new line of business. Initially, the pneumatic tools produced by Atlas were destined solely for its own workshops, but as word spread of their efficiency and reliability demand grew throughout Sweden.
Atlas took up regular production of pneumatic tools in 1901 with pneumatics engineer Gunnar Jacobsson heading up a newly established pneumatics department. Under Jacobsson, who would become managing director of Nya Aktiebolaget Atlas in 1909, the pneumatics department quickly expanded its range of tools and air compressors. As early as 1904, a copy of a German compressor was produced, which was driven by Atlas steam engines, and the following year the company launched its own compressor as well as its first rock drill. By the time the First World War broke out, pneumatics accounted for more than 50 percent of Atlas’ revenues and an even greater proportion of its profits. The other production lines were gradually phased out. Railroad car production came to an end in 1911 and the last locomotive was rolled out in 1917.
In 1917, Atlas merged with Diesels Motorer, a manufacturer of marine engines and stationary diesel engines. The new company was named Atlas Diesel and, during the 1920s, all operations were moved to Sickla, just outside Stockholm, where Atlas Copco is headquartered today. Although its pneumatics operations continued to go from strength to strength, showing a 50 percent profit by the early 1930s, its diesel operations went into a steep decline and had to be wound up in 1948. With the Atlas Diesel name no longer relevant, a new name was sought that would reflect the company’s operations and unite its foreign subsidiaries. Atlas Copco was chosen, derived from the name of a Belgian subsidiary – Compagnie Pneumatique Commerciale.