OPEX Corporation is based in Moorestown, New Jersey and builds machinery for the purpose of opening envelopes. The main classes of machines are slitters, Rapid Extraction Desks, Mail Sorters, and High Speed Mail Extractors, such as the System 150.

If you ever wondered what happens to your phone bill or credit card payment after you send it in, this writeup will give you a bit of insight.

Here is what each machine does:


A Slitter consists of a feed assembly which feeds unopened envelopes loaded into a hopper into a paper path. A rotary cutter slits open the top edge of the envelope and deposits the opened envelope on a conveyor belt for further manual processing.

Rapid Extraction Desks

A Rapid Extraction Desk is a desk-sized workstation that allows an operator to easily extract the contents of an envelope. The mail is loaded onto a conveyor, where the feed arm pulls the envelopes into a paper path. In the paper path, the top and right edge is slit open, and the envelope is advanced to a station where suction cups pull the envelope open. When the operator pulls out, or extracts the contents, the suction cups let go of the empty envelope. The empty envelope moves into a trash bin and the next envelope is fed into position for the operator. An operator can open several thousand pieces of mail per day with one of these machines.

High-Speed Mail Extractor

My favorite is the System 150 which is a High Speed Automatic Mail Extractor. It is a huge beast that can be over 7 meters long with all of the bells and whistles. The System 150 can automaticaly open over 12,000 envelopes per hour, but there is a catch. The catch is that the envelopes and their contents should be pretty uniform in consistency. Banks, Credit Card issuers, and the like receive huge amounts of this type of mail in the form of remittances. The mail is fed onto a long paper path from a conveyor, where it is processed.

As soon as the mail is fed into the paper path, the envelope is measured for length and thickness to determine if it can be automaticly processed. If the envelope does not qualify, it is outsorted to be manually processed on a Rapid Extraction Desk. If the envelope qualifies, it is cut open on 3 sides and the contents are separated from the envelope. The contents and empty envelope are measured again to verify that the extraction properly takes place, to prevent the possibility of accidentally sending important documents or checks into the trash. If a problem occurs, then everything is reunited back together, and the operator processes it manually. If the extraction goes well, then the contents are sequenced and scanned by digital cameras and Magnetic Ink Character Readers, known as a MICR which collect information about the document's orientation and position, Postnet Barcode, and so on. Using this information, the contents are resequenced and reoriented if necessary, and stacked in nice neat little bundles for processing by data entry, and address changes or special checks, such as Money Orders can be routed to special bins.

Recently, another step to the process has been added, called an Image Export Module or IEM for short. The IEM captures a high-resolution digital image of each item, along with detailed information from the MICR and OCR lines of the checks and documents. This information is exported to a server, which does further processing of the image. An Audit Trail is sprayed onto each item with a piezoelectric inkjet printer before stacking.

Mail Sorters

A number of high-speed Mail Sorters have been developed for different purposes. Incoming Sorters can sort mail by a number of characteristics, the main objective is usually separate different accounts from each other and to route Clean Mail to System 150's, and everthing else to Rapid Extraction Desks. Like the 150, they can measure an envelope's physical characteristics, and also information that can be obtained by Imaging and MICR. Outgoing sorters are used to presort outgoing mail by zip code and to print a postnet barcode onto the envelope. This reduces the amount of work the Post Office has to do, and in exchange for this favor, the Post Office give the outgoing mail customer a break on postage rates.

In case you haven't guessed, I make my living caring for these beasts, these electromechanical monsters run by computers, and deal with everything from ball bearings and solenoids to network servers, sort of like a jack of all trades.

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