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Ray Bristow, `father of the soft-start`, dies at 79

13 March, 2012

Ray Bristow, founder of Fairford Electronics and known as the “father of the soft-start”, has died at the age of 79. Bristow was one of the first people to recognise the possibilities for semiconductor-based motor controls and co-founded Fairford Electronics in 1979 to pioneer this technology.

In the mid-1970s, Frank Nola of NASA had invented an energy-saving algorithm for single-phase induction motors. Many manufacturers tried to adapt his technology for three-phase induction motors, but failed.

In 1982, Fairford  became the first company in the world to design and produce a digital three-phase soft-starter with automatic energy optimising. The technology was granted patents in the US, Japan, Australia and Europe.

For many years, Bristow (above) represented the UK on IEC committees and worked to promote the adoption of electronic motor controls. When he retired from the IEC in 2009, his committee colleagues honoured his involvement and named him the “father of soft starts”.

Last year, Fairford Electronics acknowledged his contribution to the industry by naming its new purpose-built premises in Plymouth, Bristow House. Bristow attended the opening ceremony.

Bristow’s death comes shortly after that of Fairford’s former managing director, David Bennett, who passed away in December. He was MD for many years and forged alliances across both the soft-start and drives industries.




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