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Power analyzer applications extend to solar power, electric cars

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tektronix unveiled its newest product, the PA 4000 Power Analyzer, on Tuesday. In the background, David Davis of Beaverton works on one of the new power analyzers in a production cell in the manufacturing building at the Tektronix campus.Less than a month after announcing its expansion into the power analyzer component market, Tektronix Inc., has already rolled out its first product.

The Beaverton-based electronics stalwart officially introduced its new precision, multi-phase PA4000 Power Analyzer to the market in an announcement Tuesday morning.

“It's been known to our distributor channel,” explained Curt Willener, general manager of Tektronix's new power analyzers product line, in advance of today's announcement. “Our practice is to enable distributors at the time we announce the product to allow them to meet customer needs immediately.”

Used by engineers to achieve precise power-level measurements in a range of design applications — including green energy components used in solar power, LED lights and electric cars — the component marks the first in what Tektronix officials promise is a full product line based on a technology transfer agreement with Fort Myers, Fla.-based Voltech. A Tektronix business partner, Voltech plans to phase out its power analyzer business by September.

“Tektronix has purchased all of Voltech's intellectual property, patents and proprietary designs,” Willener said. “Voltech will be consulting with Tektronix over the next three years in design, marketing and domain knowledge.”

Calling it an “aggressive move,” Textronix President Amir Aghdaei said the arrangement allows Tektronix to broaden its reach into green energy and other growing markets that require cutting-edge electrical measurement devices.

“Voltech's (intellectual property) combined with Tektronix's strengths in technology innovation and development will allow us to introduce new, category-leading power analyzer products in the near term,” Aghdaei said. “This is an efficient way for us to expand our portfolio of products and to meet customers' need for (start to finish) power test and measurement solutions.”

Founded in 1946 during the electronics boom in the wake of World War II, Tektronix has been headquartered since 1959 on its 300-acre campus at 14200 S.W. Karl Braun Drive in Cedar Hills. In November 2007, Danaher Corporation acquired the company in a $2.85 billion deal.

New era

While a “precision multi-phase power analyzer” might not have enough ring to it to end up on one's next Christmas list, the equipment provides an exciting gift for engineers developing applications related to solar power, electric vehicles and all manner of cutting-edge technologies.

The power analyzer provides a complement to the oscilloscope, an instrument measuring oscillations of electrical voltage and current, which founders C. Howard Vollum and Melvin J. Murdock developed to put Tektronix on the map.

“It's an exciting market,” said Ken Price, product planner for Tektronix power analyzers. “We get to go work with some of the most advanced customers in the world. People who have used our oscilloscopes for years are excited to have this piece.”

The new PA4000, for which prices start at $10,500, is used to design, test and validate electronics devices used in industries that use motor drives, electric propulsion, backup power, alternative energy, high-efficiency lighting, among other applications.

The new product offers highly accurate power, energy and efficiency measurements to help engineers meet governmental and customer-based requirements dictating efficiency as well as the amount of distortion or “line pollution” imposed on the power grid.

“This instrument is very versatile and works in a wide range of applications, from a military or shipboard system down to an LED lightbulb,” Willener noted. “We're serving markets that are more dynamic than they've been in a long time, not only because it's driving more efficient, renewable power sources, but a lot of new semiconductor technology is based on new materials that didn't exist a few years ago. All those things drive better efficiency.”

Local demand

Admitting the product may seem esoteric to the average consumer, Willener said the power analyzer plays a key role in determining a light bulb's rate of power consumption or mileage from a rechargeable hybrid vehicle battery.

“What the customer does see is overall improved performance of design,” he said. “If (a component) is performing better, you get more miles. It's about efficient energy usage. The power analyzer is the final testing instrument, telling us if you're getting the efficiency and performance gains designed into the devices.”

He and Price said Tektronix will be the sole manufacturer of power analyzers in Oregon, and one of the few in the United States. The customer base will include technology-based companies in the Portland area.

“This doesn't compete with anybody locally, but serves customers locally,” Price said. “It's rewarding to do work like this and offer jobs locally.”

He sees the move into power analyzers as the right move at the right time.

“We're always looking for growth markets to go into. We looked into it and decided it was a good growth market, a strong brand with a strong ability to win,” he said. “By providing more solutions for customers today, it's a win for us and a win for customers.”

For more information on the new power analyzer and Tektronix's takeover of Voltech's product line, visit www.tek.com/user/login?destination=document/news-release/tektronix-delivers-new-precision-multi-phase-power-analyzer .

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