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Sun Transformer New Items (Cont.)

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Sun Adds 8,000 Square Feet

March 26, 2012 – Sun Transformer announced today that it will be expanding its McLeansboro, Illinois facility. The industry-leading designer and manufacturer of transformers, printed circuit assemblies, and electronics products has purchased an 8,000 square foot structure and is in the process of renovating work space and upgrading communications capability within the building.

The additional space will be used primarily as office space for the Systems and Software group, which is responsible for hardware layout and design, software development and testing, and firmware development and testing.

Surface-Mount Equipment Added to Lineup

Sun Transformer SMT Clean RoomJune 3, 2011 – Sun Transformer recently installed equipment for a new circuit-assembly line, enabling the company to better meet the continuing transition to surface-mount printed circuit boards. The line is housed in a new room with positive-pressure hepa air filtering.

The mid-volume assembly equipment includes a stencil printer, pick-and-place machine, lead-free reflow oven, and low-discharge deflux system.

Due to the size and weight advantages, Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) has become the preferred method for assembling small PCBs with high connection density. Not surprisingly, the demand for surface-mount assembly has increased in proportion to the number of small devices in electronics markets. In fact, about 90 percent of new PCB assemblies manufactured by Sun Transformer are made using surface-mount placement. The new SMT equipment allows Sun Transformer to more effectively manufacture these types of small components.

Sun Transformer Celebrates 25 Years

STC Sun Transformer 25th Anniversary GraphicMarch 4, 2011 – Sun Transformer is celebrating their 25th anniversary as a manufacturer of high-performance transformers and electronics. As an ISO 9001 certified business, Sun Transformer manufactures transformers, inductors, and chokes for electronics applications.

The roots of the Sun Transformer story trace back to 1967, to a company in Cape Girardeau, Missouri by the name of National Transformer. In 1986, current Sun Transformer president Brad Cross was part of a group that acquired the engineering files and select assets from National Transformer. Cross moved the manufacturing facility to McLeansboro, Illinois in 1988.

The early weeks and months after the move to Illinois were filled with trials and obstacles to overcome, as production was temporarily conducted at both facilities. Production Supervisor Linda Shaw, who has been with Sun Transformer since it's beginning in McLeansboro, remembers these trials well.

"During the first week, we had no test equipment so we carefully built parts, shipped them out, and hoped they worked. We had only four or five winders, and no packing equipment or solder machines. But when we got our test equipment that second week, we did 100-percent testing just like we do today."

The small cinder block building that housed Sun Transformer during the first five years presented its own set of challenges.

"During a snowstorm that first winter, while we were assembling components, we started hearing an occasional "Pssst" sound," Shaw recalls. We looked around, wondering what the sound was, and we saw little bits of snow blowing into the building. We were hearing the sound of snow landing in the hot solder pots."

Shaw credits company president Brad Cross for the improved working conditions.

"He's made it safer. He's made it much easier and more efficient. We've come a long way."

When asked about the Sun Transformer's advantages in the industry, Cross points to specific examples.

"We have low turnover for one thing," Cross says. "Our staff is very experienced, but they're also willing to learn the new technologies that we implement in order to increase efficiency."

The figures bear this out. In fact, approximately 30 percent of the workforce has been with the company for over 15 years. Staff members take pride in being familiar with customer requirements and their intended use of Sun Transformer products.

The production equipment today scarcely resembles the equipment in place 20 years ago, and Cross says that is another important factor in remaining a competitive industry leader.

"We focus on embracing change while remaining strong in what we do well," Cross says. "Whether it's getting a fax machine like we did in the early years when they weren't widely used or installing automated winding and testing equipment. The quality environment we've established ensures that we'll continue to provide reliable products, and it also enables us to look toward continually improving efficiency."

Sun Transformer's Green Initiatives

October 13, 2010 – Shortly after Sun Transformer opened its doors in 1986, the company started recycling the various bits of scrap left over from production jobs. From a conservation perspective, it just made sense not to add recyclable and reusable items to the landfills. From a financial perspective, the company realized a modest return by sending in scrap for recycling.

Through the years at Sun Transformer, the number of items sent back for recycling and re-use has steadily increased, while the percentage of material sent to landfills has decreased.

So what prompted this trend in the first place?

"Spools," says Sun Transformer employee Les Vaughn. "Early on, we realized how many of our empty plastic wire spools were ending up in the landfill, so we got together and talked about what we could do about it. We spoke to our suppliers and came up with an agreement to send the spools back for re-use."

"From there, we started recycling iron, solder dross, and wire," Les adds. "And now, of course, we also recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum cans."

In recent years, it's become easier to find ways to conserve materials and energy. In fact, Sun Transformer replaced all water fixtures with ultra-efficient models last year. Appliances and lights have also been replaced, as needed, with Energy Star models.

Sun Transformer has addressed the less obvious areas of waste as well.

"There are other areas where we've made an effort to reduce waste," says company President Brad Cross. "For example, we were able to get one multi-function machine to handle the job of one printer, two faxes, and a scanner."

"We're also vigilant about making sure our manufacturing equipment is up-to-date and works properly so we don't end up with large amounts of scrap as it is," says Cross.

Cross says the long-term goal is to eventually get the plant building Energy Star qualified.

"These types of building use an average of 35-percent less energy than typical buildings, so the advantage is clear."

New Equipment Added to Lineup

July 26, 2010 – Sun Transformer recently added two new components to its array of production equipment, increasing product versatility and decreasing production time for PC-mount transformers and mid-size toroids.

One of the new pieces of equipment, an HBR Industries laminator, is used to manufacture one of Sun Transformer's benchmark products.

"The products we make most often with the new laminator are the low-profile transformers that are mounted on printed-circuit assemblies," says Vice President of Operations Angie Calkin.

These parts are most commonly used in electronics applications where vertical space is very limited but a relatively sizable output voltage is still required. Refer to the LPC Transformer page on this site for more information about these types of transformers.

"The biggest advantages that come from having this laminator are the versatility it offers and the quick turnaround time in production," says Calkin. "Our low scrap level from using this laminator has also been very impressive."

The other new piece of equipment, a mid-size Gorman Productor II toroid winder, also benefits electronics applications with limited space.

As with the new laminator, the new winder allows Sun Transformer to build a wide variety of toroids. It also enables building products that are not feasible to be built by hand.

"Some toroids require several hundred turns of wire, which is very challenging to do by hand," says Design Engineer Les Vaughn. "Others require very small-diameter wire, and this winder can handle those types of jobs."

"These kinds of toroids are used for a lot of circuit board assemblies, especially the very small boards that require miniaturized components, so the benefits of having this new winder are many."

Transformers in Popular Culture

May 18, 2010 – Every five or ten years, it happens. We'll be relaxing at home watching television, most likely a science-fiction show, and there it is. In the background, an enormous transformer powering a very sophisticated piece of equipment that's key to the storyline. These transformers are almost exclusively toroids, which consist of a series of coils wrapped around a ring-shaped core.

Toroid in Sliders EpisodeIt happened in the Fox series Sliders, which tells the story of Quinn Mallory, a genius graduate student who has figured out how to open vortices to alternate universes. Needless to say, it takes quite a bit of power to generate a vortex, so Quinn has equipped his basement workshop with a four-foot-diameter toroidal transformer to handle the task. When Quinn powers up the system to create a vortex, the lights flicker upstairs and the vortex magically appears in front of him.

Toroid in Stargate SG-1It happened in the series Stargate SG-1, which follows the SG-1 military team as they explore the universe in search of greater knowledge and potential military allies to help defend the Earth. In the season-five episode Ascension, a friendly alien named Orlin stays with SG-1 team member Samantha Carter for a few days while trying to figure out how to get back to his home planet. The solution to his problem is a homemade stargate (that is, an interplanetary portal). Orlin's stargate is, in fact, another toroidal transformer—made from materials ordered online, as well as Carter's toaster. Upon powering up, the five-foot toroid creates a portal in its center, and Orlin is able to jump through the portal to get back home. Don't try this at home!

Toroid in Lost EpisodeIt also happened just recently on the ABC show Lost (Season 6, Episode 11). The toroids in this episode (yes, more toroids) play a much more sinister role. To evaluate character Desmond Hume's ability to withstand an "electromagnetic event", corporate magnate Charles Widmore has him forcibly placed between two six-foot toroids, to which Widmore applies power. Don't try this at home! Desmond somehow manages to survive the experiment, and Widmore's question is answered. Unfortunately, the viewer's questions are not. (Please excuse the personal commentary.)

For geeky electrical engineers, the episodes with transformers are a lot of fun to discuss. Most discussions inevitably point out why the transformers would not accomplish the tasks shown in the episode. For example, toroidal transformers are remarkably efficient and create less of an exterior magnetic field than traditional laminated transformers, making them a poor choice for their twisted goal in Lost. If the writers for Lost knew this, they must have figured the inaccuracy was worth the cool look of a toroid.

For all the toroids we've built here at Sun Transformer, we've yet to open so much as one portal or interplanetary wormhole. Needless to say, we're so concerned about voltages, frequencies, and customer requirements that we miss the forest for the vortices.

Transformer Requirements Defined...

February 17, 2010 – It started as a simple news story about how potential customers can best determine the necessary requirements for their new electronic transformers. However, it quickly turned into a full-blown treatise on transformer specifications, available lead types, and mounting options—all things Sun Transformer design engineers ask for when speaking with customers, so our hope is that this new page will help you get that much further ahead in the process.

Rather than spelling out all the details here, we'll direct you to our brand new Determining Transformer Requirements page. Take a look around, kick the tires, and enjoy that new-web-page smell.

Also, please feel free to submit your specs or call us about your upcoming projects.

The Secret Life of a Sun Transformer Intern

Photo of STC Intern Extraordinaire Nick FreedJanuary 5, 2010 - Nick Freed wrapped up his spring semester at St. Louis University last May. At that point, he had to decide how to spend his summer before returning to school in the Fall.

The options for a young college student are many. Two months backpacking through Europe? Studying abroad at the University of Pimpleton? Sitting at home in pajamas eating pizza and playing video games?

Nick knew a summer internship would be the most beneficial option in the long run. As an aerospace engineering student, he also knew applying one of the many associated engineering fields would help as well. So when he saw the ad for an engineering position at Sun Transformer, Nick felt his stomach tighten and his spirits swell. After throwing away the pizza boxes and taking some antacid, Nick contacted Sun Transformer.

To Nick, aerospace engineering is the perfect combination of all the engineering fields that pique his interest. It encompasses everything from fluid dynamics (an aircraft's movement through air) to chemical engineering (materials used to fuel a rocket). But would an internship at Sun Transformer provide experience in any of the associated engineering fields?

In short, yes it would.

Take, for example, the simple task of getting a cup of coffee for a senior staff member (me). This task incorporates Fluid Dynamics ("Nick, get me some coffee!"), Thermodynamics ("Make sure it's hot, but not too hot."), Materials Engineering, ("Oh, and put it in my favorite mug."), Chemical Engineering ("Remember to use the pink sweetener."), and even Physics ("Whoops, I spilled it in your lap, boss."). I can't be sure, but that last remark seemed just a bit sarcastic.

In truth, Nick (a.k.a. "Nick the Intern") hasn't retrieved so much as one cup of coffee for anyone at the plant. However, he has been very helpful with some important projects. He was our turn-to guy when we purchased a new Watlow F4D Controller, which is used to run test profiles for our environmental chamber. He performed numerous quality assurance tests and helped write procedures for these tests.

As crazy as it sounds, Nick says those QA tests may have been the most enjoyable part of his time at Sun Transformer.

"The QA testing was beneficial because I was sort of the company's promise to the customer that our products would work as advertised."

Nick recently returned to work at Sun Transformer during his Christmas break, and will be leaving us again soon. The Watlow controller is still running environmental tests and the QA tests are still being conducted as designed. Thanks Nick, and best of luck!

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