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Rockwell acquires SoftSwitching to boost its power quality portfolio

13 March, 2012

Rockwell Automation has bought the assets of SoftSwitching Technologies, a US-based supplier of battery-free industrial power quality detection and protection systems. Rockwell says that the acquisition will complement its existing power quality portfolio and strengthen its capabilities in plant-wide optimisation. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

SoftSwitching Technologies’ products improve manufacturing production uptime by identifying and correcting voltage sags which can cause computerised machinery to go off-line, precision instruments to fail, and control systems to shut down.

“Brief power disruptions account for up to 70% of all unscheduled downtime in manufacturing today,” explains Bob Lennon, Rockwell’s vice-president of industrial components. “Studies show that most of these events are caused by voltage sags lasting less than two seconds. SoftSwitching Technologies’ products strengthen our capabilities in plant-wide optimisation, complement our current power quality solutions, and protect our customers’ manufacturing assets.”

Wisconsin-based SoftSwitching Technologies will join Rockwell Automation’s Control Products & Solutions business.

SoftSwitching’s battery-free, environmentally friendly products are said to offer cost and performance advantages over battery-based, three-phase UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) and constant-voltage transformers. It also provides a global, centralised, intelligent network that generates power grid alerts, allowing manufacturers to monitor activities and correlate power quality events with unscheduled downtime, saving hours of guesswork and mechanical diagnostics.

SoftSwitching’s customers include General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, BMW, Honda, Texas Instruments, Motorola, Kraft, General Mills, Harley-Davidson and Anheuser-Busch.

“This acquisition provides the necessary resources to extend all of SoftSwitching Technologies’ unique technologies into many more applications through the Rockwell Automation global channels network,” says SoftSwitching Technologies’ chief financial officer, Jason Doescher.

SoftSwitching grew out of work on power electronics conducted at the University of Wisconsin by Professor Deepak Divan. He established the company to develop real-world applications and to introduce customised answers to the challenges faced by power electronics and drives companies. From these innovations, a power control platform emerged at the same time as a study from the Electric Power Research Institute revealed that 96% of all power problems were caused by short-duration voltage sags, not outages as previously believed.

Professor Divan realised that his company could use its patented technology to offer a remedy, called the Dynamic Sag Corrector (DySC), which it started to manufacture in 1999. It now also offers intelligent sensors that pinpoint time and duration of voltage sags. It claims that its Grid Alert event notification system is the world’s only global power reporting and notification network.

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