Rachael Morling visited Finder at its main production plant in Almese, north west Italy, to hear about its latest products and see how developing and manufacturing in-house is key to quality
At an Autumn press conference at its facility below the mountains outside Turin, Finder launched a couple of new products to a small group of UK editors. The first was its new range of monitoring relays – the 70 series – and the second was an innovative time switch which calculates sunrise and sunset simply through the use of postcodes.
A tour of the facility, however, gave an insight into the company’s background and manufacturing expertise; and showed how it is committed to the people who work there, the majority of which live nearby. Where many companies these days can feel pressured to take manufacturing to the Far East or other places to reduce costs, this is not an option here. It would, in fact, devastate the local area due to the number of people employed there, explains the company. And, despite the growing importance of automation within the factory, it hasn’t lost any staff, jobs were simply re-distributed elsewhere at the site.
The family-owned company is dedicated to producing products of the highest quality, and as a result it is independent and autonomous – capable of designing, manufacturing and testing all its products, even down to manufacturing its own tools in its dedicated Toolshop at the Almese site. In fact these tools are actually assembled on machines which have been designed and built in-house.
This dedication to quality is reflected in a new fully automated line used for producing the 40 series miniature PCB electromechanical relay. Here, the automated process feeds in plastic parts, contact blades, coils and pins to assemble the body of the relay, then a thermal transfer printer marks the relay cover which is then added to the body. To ensure the highest levels of quality, the coils of each relay are 100% tested three times during the production process. The automated line also conducts 100% final testing, with tests for dielectric strength, holding voltage, must drop out voltages, and contact resistance, etc.
The company also has its own plastic moulding department featuring high quality injection moulding machines, and uses new premium grade plastics. Its 31 injection moulding machines for thermoplastics are linked to a central distribution system which stores the raw thermoplastic granules in a heat and humidity controlled environment. To ensure quality of the plastics, samples from each machine are checked at least once each hour, with more rigorous tests carried out several times per day.
The department also features seven thermoset presses used exclusively for the production of the critical terminal moulding which retains the electrical terminations. Thermoset plastics are used here for high power relays, despite it being a more costly process, as it adds to product performance, quality and safety, explains the company.
Currently, 650,000 pieces are produced in this department each day.
Finder has also recently opened a new 3500m2 electronics department to house the production of PCBs and the assembly of products that use these, including timers, monitoring relays and energy saving lighting control products. According to the company, by using this facility together with its own relays, it can address market demand by developing new products in a short space of time. This part of the facility features electrostatic discharge (ESD) protective flooring. An Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA) means discharge current levels that would otherwise be damaging to electronic components are avoided through dissipation under controlled conditions. This flooring means operators can move freely without using suitable anti-static equipment, and visitors can access the departments without any special equipment as long as they walk along dedicated routes. Furthermore, the surface mount technology in this department comprises machines selected for their specifications, performance, reliability and quality.
The new 70 series of compact modular rail-mounted monitoring relays help meet the need to protect valuable equipment by monitoring a range of electrical supply parameters. There are four models in the range, offering a selection of voltage limits between 170 and 270 for single phase, and 300 and 480 for three-phase supplies.
The relays can be used to monitor supplies to machinery, equipment and installations where failure or variation outside acceptable limits may result in damage to equipment, danger to personnel, or disruption to critical processes or procedures. These have ‘positive safety logic’ to ensure any failure mode results in the output relay assuming its de-energised position; and functions and values are programmable from the front face.
These are designed to monitor single and 3-phase supplies for under-voltage, over-voltage, voltage within set limits, and for neutral loss, phase loss, phase rotation and asymmetry.
Also newly launched is the Astro 12.81 time switch. Designed for where there is a need to control lighting, temperature or other functions according to daylight hours, this easily programmable switch uses a digital program to calculate sunrise and sunset using the postcode of the location. Helping reduce energy consumption, it will control lighting, heating/cooling and humidity equipment wherever sunrise and sunset times are critical in determining operation.
The device’s micro-controller stores postcode data from 16 European countries, including the UK, but can also be programmed using geographical locations. If needed, the time can be changed in ten minute increments up to 90 minutes; and there is also a manual override.
The switch is capable of directly switching 2000W halogen, 750W compensated fluorescent, 200W CFL or LED lamp loads and AC15 loads up to 750VA.