OEM Turns to Out-of-State Custom Transformer Supplier for Specialty Products

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Success of manufacturer to obtain custom transformers for oil-rig application from non-local vendor sets precedent other OEMs can follow

Other manufacturers should be willing to look outside their local area to find the best quality and service that you can obtain for a given product

While many design and specifying engineers pride themselves on thinking outside the box, some still find it difficult to seek vendors beyond their immediate geographical area.

Yet, when challenging applications surface, continuing "business as usual" with a local company for the sake of convenience can jeopardize product reliability and delivery timelines.

Instead, one OEM manufacturer of SCR (silicon controlled rectifier) drives found a perfect match for its unique and demanding applications by connecting with a supplier over 1,100 miles away who has consistently delivered high-quality, specialty power transformer products for challenging applications in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Based in Houston, Texas, National Oilwell Varco is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and sale of equipment and components used in oil and gas drilling and production. The company's Ross Hill Controls product line includes leading-edge SCR systems.

"I design the engine generator controls and SCR drives, which are basically AC to DC converters," says Mike Wagner, Project Engineer for National Oilwell Varco. "We use these controls and drives on drilling motors for land based and offshore oil rigs, both of which present different challenging environments for electrical products. Harmonics will destroy the windings on some commercial transformers because of the high levels of dV/dT, so we have specialty requirements for the primary and secondary windings."

Presented with a choice of hundreds of power transformer manufacturers within his home state of Texas, Wagner, instead opted to seek the expertise of a proven vendor located due north and far away, in Minnesota.

"We've been using Nicollet for as long as I've been here, which is 10 years," says Wagner. "They have made a lot of products for us in the past, which have become our standard design and they continue to make them for us in varying production quantities. But when we need short runs with unique voltage, frequency or phasing, we make the long-distance call."

A custom transformer design and build firm, Nicollet Technologies¬ólocated in Minneapolis, Minn.¾specializes in OEM prototypes and short runs. Since 1969, Nicollet has produced more than 3500 different OEM designs for many industries.

"To hold up against the unique salt-water environment of offshore drilling platforms, Nicollet's custom transformers are dipped in epoxy," explains Wagner. "In addition, they use paper insulation between the windings, which helps them withstand the harmonics present. For these reasons, we order from Nicollet and they have consistently met our requirements."

For this particular OEM, the long-distance relationship did not delay production deadlines.

"The nice thing about Nicollet versus other vendors is the quick response time to custom transformer designs that we require, and the fast shipment they provide¾the turnaround time is excellent," stresses Wagner. "Additionally, their products are more robust, approaching 'mil-spec' as opposed to commercial grade."

"Other manufacturers should be willing to look outside their local area to find the best quality and service that you can obtain for a given product," concludes Wagner.

Nicollet Technologies is an ISO 9001:2000 custom transformer design and build firm whose products meet the standards of certifying agencies that include: CE, UL, CSA, TUV, VDE, FAA, and the FCC.

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