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Student Transforms Company's Output

An Auckland firm is saving money and building more power transformers because of some smart research work done by an Auckland University of Technology student.

The project undertaken by Ramesh Gopalan under the Technology for Industry Fellowship scheme, aimed to cut the drying time of transformers built by Electronic and Transformer Engineering Ltd (ETE). By changing from oven drying, ETE reduced drying time from four or five days to 8-12 hours for large transformers.

Mr Gopalan achieved this by designing and building a new vacuum-drying system that resulted in improvements and energy savings of between 50 and 70 per cent. These included using dry-vacuum pumps built in Britain and used in New Zealand for the first time.

The automated, custom-built drying equipment is controlled by a microprocessor. The transformer is put into a chamber and the moisture removed by vacuum.

"The transformer insulation system has to be very dry to withstand high voltages," says Peter Leece, ETE's divisional manager for distribution transformers.

Mr Gopalan, an Auckland University of Technology engineering student, took on the project for his post-graduate diploma in mechanical engineering. The Technology for Industry Fellowship scheme, operated by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, gives students the opportunity work with businesses, increasing their skills and helping companies by giving them access to university and Crown Research Institute expertise.

Mr Gopalan says the new vacuum-drying system was designed and built for accurate drying of transformer insulation. The project aimed to dry transformer insulation to a specific pre-determined moisture content.

"A significant advantage of the new drying system is that ETE can know precisely when the moisture content reaches the pre-determined level. So over-drying and premature aging is eliminated," Mr Gopalan says.

"With this process, testing the insulation dryness can be done on just one transformer per batch instead of checking every one. This is a significant reduction in cycle time and has helped to increase the process capability of the plant." Mr Leece says the reduced manufacturing costs have boosted ETE's profitability. Transformers can be built faster than before, so customer orders can be filled more quickly. The quality of the drying process has also been improved, resulting in a longer transformer life and fewer field failures. "It was a good piece of work by Ramesh," Mr Leece says. Mr Gopalan has a bachelor of engineering degree from Annamalai University in Madras, southern India. He came to New Zealand in 1998 with his wife, looking for work. He says that ETE offered him the project, which he took on as a challenge. "I had to do a lot of research and started from the basics." ETE now employs him as a design engineer. -ends-

Caption: Ramesh Gopalan, who has dramatically cut the drying time of transformers built by Electronic and Transformer Engineering Ltd.

Contact: * Ramesh Gopalan, Electronic Transformer and Engineering Ltd, 5 Charann Pl, Avondale, Auckland. Ph: (09) 828-0330, Fax: (09) 820-0190. Email: ramesh.gopalan@ete.co.nz * Peter Leece, divisional manager, distribution transformers, Electronic Transformer and Engineering Ltd, 5 Charann Pl, Avondale, Auckland. Ph: (09) 828-0330, Fax: (09) 820-0190. Email: peter.leece@ete.co.nz * Ian Gray, Technology of New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. Ph: (09) 912-6730. Website: www.technz.co.nz

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