Recent brownouts in California call attention to the need for reliable energy. Hospitals, banks, and many continuos-flow manufacturing plants rely on distributed power sources that efficiently deliver energy to computers, machinery, and other equipment around the clock and without fail. Ecostar, a new joint venture owned by Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, and Ballard Power Systems, is providing a much-needed boost to power conversion and control electronics. They are adapting technology developed for the automotive industry to a variety of industrial applications from 75 to 350 kW. Fred Flett, Ecostar's vice-president of engineering, explains that the company's new stationary power conversion electronics began in electric vehicles. "Due to our automotive experience, we are very fortunate to have been involved in developing efficient power conversion electronics," says Flett. "Our advanced control architectures and hardware-in-the-loop development tools allow development of control strategies—for example, alternative pulse width modulation techniques—while being connected to the grid," he says. Applications for the new power conversion and control system include small gas turbines, fuel cells, and other portable or stationary power generation systems. Allied Signal Power Systems Inc., for example, uses Ecostar electronics in its back-up power systems (BPS). The control system allows synchronized parallel operation of multiple power units as load is added or dropped. It also optimizes the BPS's operation for achieving the best performance for a given load. Usage modes for the Ecostar power conversion system include peak shaving, load following, base load, and grid blackout auto start. Operating modes include grid parallel operation, stand-alone power generation, auto transfer from grid parallel to stand-alone, and multi-unit connects. For more information contact Dwight Hansell, Ecostar, 15001 Commerce Dr., N. Dearborn, MI 48120; Tel: (313) 248-1496; Fax: (313) 845-5349.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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