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Current Automation - power solution providers

5 June 2002 News

Current Automation (CA), located in Kya Sand (Randburg) began operations under its present name in 1994. Its predecessor was established in the mid-1980s by Johann van der Westhuyzen, the original focus of the company being the custom manufacture of high power DC thyristor controls as used by the gold recovery and electroplating industries.

This competency has been retained and CA can, to order, provide specialised power supplies from 2 A to 30 kA at 6 to 300 V d.c.

Van der Westhuyzen's son Ettienne joined him in 1997. Ettienne is a B-Eng (Electronic) graduate from RAU and spent two years in Canada before joining the family business.

Currently, the range of locally manufactured, custom-built products includes air, oil and water-cooled rectifiers and transformers. These can provide constant voltage with varying current for various industrial applications including anodic/cathodic units for corrosion protection. Both single and three-phase models are available and final assembly and test is conducted on the company's premises.

Although Current Automation has remained very successful in the large power supply business, having exported systems to countries all over Africa including Mali, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, this business tends to be very cyclical. (CA is, however, working on current contracts for Namibia, Zambia and South Africa). It was therefore decided in the early 1990s that the range of power supplies on offer had to be extended into the high-volume, low power area. While SA manufacture was considered, it soon became obvious that a local company could not compete with the other well-established low-cost and high-volume international manufacturers. This is particularly true when it comes to obtaining international standard approval for a large number of products.

In 1996 an agreement was reached with Mean Well Enterprises (Taiwan) to distribute its extensive line of switching power supplies. Mean Well, established in 1982, is a high-volume supplier of power supplies that range in output from 5 W up to 2 kW. While Mean Well was producing some 80 000 power supplies per month in 1996, this increased to 120 000 by 1998 and more recently, the company has more than doubled its capacity with the establishment of another manufacturing facility on Mainland China. It now has a combined capacity of 360 000 pieces a month.

Mean Well is ISO 9001 certified and its products comply with all the relevant international standards, including CE, TUV and UL. The range includes power supplies and chargers for every type of electronic device and includes corded in-line devices. While all expected features such as overload protection and EMI filtering are standard, the latest models are even equipped with their own on-board UPS functions. DIN-rail mounted units have also recently been introduced by the company.

Since it started off in the distribution business, Current Automation has added a number of other complementary products to its portfolio. One of these is the German-based company PULS that offers a full range of DIN-rail mountable switched mode power supplies. PULS is a leading competitor to companies such as Siemens and Phoenix, and is often the leader in the introduction of new technology. The PULS range of products is exceptionally compact, and through use of 'high-spec' components, offers longer service life and can withstand extreme temperature environments. The power range offered is from 25 to 960 W in the Miniline and Silverline product families, while specified MTBF is in some cases in excess of 700 000 hours.

Realising that there is a lot of competition in the power supply market, Current Automation decided early on that the best way to meet customers' needs was to ensure a high level of in-house stock. This policy has paid off and today the company has more than R1,3 million invested in stock. The product sales growth of imported power supplies is growing at some 30% per year and this calendar year alone (until mid-May) has seen sales of more than 7000 units. Current Automation prides itself on the fact that through its leading principals it can offer anything that the local electronics industry requires in the way of power supplies, and hence the company motto 'Power Solution Providers'.

Current Automation also represents Hong Kong-based Powersaver, which started off as a manufacturer of UPS systems but has recently diversified into switch mode power supplies, battery chargers and AC/DC power inverters. Another company in the portfolio is the China-located Array Electronic that offers a range of PLCs, remote controllers and telecommunications products.

In 1995 Current Automation diversified into the field of switches and established a new company called Switches International that operates from the same premises in Kya Sand. Switches International specialises in switches suitable for use in petrochemical and other hazardous or corrosive environments. These leverless limit switches are manufactured by Topworx (GO Switch) in the USA and are very well accepted in the industry although more costly, as each one is mostly hand made, and with only the best components. The Topworx (GO Switch) switches require no power to operate and as there are no levers or arms, wear and tear is eliminated, ensuring ultra reliability. They have been proven to operate reliably in extreme conditions including high temperature, dirt and hazardous gasses. Also, other models are available for continuous submersion at depths of up to 70 m.

Current Automation has a full range of printed catalogues and also, full details of all the product lines can be found at the company's website in PDF format. With a staff of 11 people, including five on in-house manufacturing, Current Automation is experiencing growth of some 30% per annum.

For further information contact Current Automation, 011 462 4253, www.switches.co.za



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