Profile: Bicron Electronics Company

For a half-century, customers have been trusting this Canaan, Conn.-based company with their high-frequency transformer and solenoid needs
 

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Bicron Electronics Company doesn’t deal in standard products, but rather takes a “platform” approach for its VoltBoss® transformer line — allowing for each customer’s needs to be addressed without necessarily driving up costs with unique or rarefied materials.

A small business established in 1964 and based in the northwest corner of Connecticut, the privately held company — which builds high-frequency specialty transformers and other specialty magnetic products — turns 50 this year.

“Everything we do is customer needs driven,” said director of sales Kevin Bradley. “Our customers come to us because of our proprietary designs, which eliminate breakdown caused by partial discharge and the corona effect.”

The corona effect, according to Bradley, involves ionization and the release of caustic ozone gas. If you’ve ever heard crackling of a large transformer, “That’s partial discharge,” Bradley explained. “Partial discharge is a breakdown of the insulation system which can devastate electrical systems, especially those built to handle high voltages in an intimate space. “Once you lose your insulation,” said Bradley, “that’s it. You’re fried.”

The corona effect is especially difficult to detect — very few engineers even pay attention to it in their designs. Bradley said, “An engineer might look at 15 different components before she or he finally decides, ‘The transformer is causing this problem.’ In the end, though, it can destroy a system.”

Bicron’s transformers thrive in the kinds of applications where reliability and safety — endurance, if you will — are critical. It’s fitting, then, that their tagline is, “Bicron, when your transformer must not fail.”™

There are many companies that rely on Bicron for transformers, and for its custom design work. For some of Bicron’s applications — such as in methane gas testers — lives are on the line.

Other applications include offshore wind turbines, which require an $80,000 helicopter ride to fix. Many of its customers make large power supplies and other industrial controls. Bicron’s transformers are even found in the locomotive braking and medical fields, where reliability and continuous operation are very important (“You don’t want to see any spikes or loss of power when someone is undergoing a medical procedure!”) The company has maintained continuous ISO certification since receiving initial approval in 1997.

Bicron places a great deal of emphasis on its intellectual property, which Bradley describes as “all about the design itself. We are able to design transformers that reduce the footprint to the smallest possible size for a customer to use, which gives them flexibility of design and lowers their cost, but will also avoid all the electrical problems of a design that is too tight. We pride ourselves on being able to perform to the power specifications necessary, all while keeping the footprint small.”

Bicron’s designs also enable its transformers to operate at the lowest possible temperatures. Bradley explained, “Heat rise in an electrical system is dangerous to the system. It aggravates the materials. You want to operate the system with minimal heat rise. Because of our design capability and proprietary material systems, we can withstand harsh environments better than other transformers.

Their newest line of low partial discharge transformers is called the VoltBoss, a product able to “do more with less.” It can increase efficiency, and even a small gain in power efficiency is important. It also lowers component costs by helping customers avoid costly heat sinks. Finally, it gives customers more real estate to work with.

“Our transformer designs are leading the way — board-mount transformers and torroidals,” said Bradley. “We also have an excellent niche business in our solenoid business. Our solenoids are found in electronic locking devices, military hardware, pharmaceutical equipment, and diesel motor fuel controls. We are the exclusive distributor for Shindengen solenoids, and we have partners that we work with to design custom solenoids.”

“Transformers are really our bread and butter, heavily utilized in the wind industry and in the industrial control environment,” said Bradley. “We guarantee our transformer for ‘one day more’ than our customer guarantees its system. We have built and supplied over a million and a half transformers without a single field failure in the last 15 years.”