Dawn of the digital transformer

Having been introduced over 130 years ago, the humble transformer is undergoing a digital evolution that will enable better analysis of power usage and unit lifespan.

No matter how good a piece of technology is, there comes a time when it needs to evolve. The creation of the distribution transformer in the early 1880s was a technological marvel. For the first time, it allowed the high voltage flowing through the national grid to be safely and effectively reduced to end-user levels. They were originally built to feed electricity going in one direction and usually were not used at night, giving them time to cool down.


"Transformer technology has advanced significantly since then," says Deia Bayoumi, head of global product management for distribution transformers at ABB Power Grids. "This is by necessity, as nowadays transformers are put in very stressful situations, where power is flowing in different directions, 24/7."

"ABB is a leader when it comes to transformer innovation," he continues. "It has kept up with the growing demand, making modern products up to 60 percent more energy-efficient than older units. But the needs of the industry are ever-changing. People are now adding their own power sources, like solar panels, and using much larger quantities of energy, such as when charging electric vehicles. As an industry, we need to be closely analysing this use through detailed data monitoring, allowing us to make informed decisions. The needs of the industry are evolving, and so too must the design."

The world's first truly intelligent transformer

ABB realised that the industry was hungry for a new solution. "We went back to the drawing board and asked the question: ‘If we were to build the world's first distribution transformer today, how would we do it?' We knew that the inclusion of sensing technology was essential, and that for it to be accurate, it had to be integrated from the beginning," Bayoumi says.

The new ABB digital distribution transformer has fully integrated sensing technology, meaning the level of accuracy of the data is extremely high. It allows the customer to get more information from both the transformer and the grid. There is also no additional cabling or wiring, making it easy to install. But the stand-out feature of this new transformer is that it has the capability to run inference analytics, which is predictive.

"Inference analytics doesn't just look at what is happening; it uses that information to predict what will happen," Bayoumi says. "It's commonly used in aerospace industries and is similar to the way in which we predict the weather or voting trends. Inference analytics absorb a vast amount of data and processes it using advanced algorithms to predict things like the lifetime of the transformer or future power quality."

Another area that customers are increasingly interested in is security. The data from the transformer is accessed via a built-in Wi-Fi router that is protected by top-of-the-line military-grade encryption.

Enabling a stronger, smarter and greener grid

Deia Bayoumi will be speaking about ABB's new digital distribution transformer at CWIEME Berlin - the world's leading exhibition for coil winding, electric motor and transformer manufacturing technologies.

"We want to make this new technology a collaborative effort, so attending CWIEME is the perfect choice for us," Bayoumi says. "We want people to come and learn more about ABB's approach to enabling a stronger, smarter and greener grid - and at the same time be part of this industry movement."

Bayoumi's seminar, entitled ‘Digital Transformations: Engineering the world's first digital distribution transformer', will take place at CWIEME Central on 21st June 2017 between 10:30-11:10.

CWIEME Berlin - the world's leading exhibition for coil winding, electric motor and transformer manufacturing technologies
Dates: 20th-22nd June 2017
Venue: Messe Berlin, South Entrance, Messedam 22, 14055 Berlin, Germany
Opening times: Tuesday and Wednesday 09:00-18:00, Thursday 09:00-16:00
Admission: An on-site registration fee of €40 will apply for those who have not already registered for free online.

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