This year, Fujitsu Components Europe is celebrating Fujitsu’s one hundred years of manufacturing relays. The Takamisawa Electric Company was established in 1917 to design and produce relays for the Telecommunication industry. After being acquired by the Fujitsu Corporation in 1995, the name changed to Fujitsu Components in 2001 to reflect the focus of the company’s product lines that were added over the years such as connectors, keyboards, thermal printers, touch panels and wireless modules.
“However, our core business in Europe is still relays,” explained Hans Grobben, Vice President of Marketing & Sales at Fujitsu Components Europe. “One hundred years of designing and manufacturing relays means that we have thousands of people-years of experience that we can share with customers. We don’t see ourselves as simply component suppliers. Rather we try to be engaged with the customer at the very early stages of a project to ensure that exactly the right specification is designed in from the start. We are solution providers.
“All too often, designers do not take the complex factors into consideration of designing relays into their application until the last stage,” he continued. “Nowadays, electronic engineers are perfectly educated in the digital domain with very little focus on how this interfaces with the real world, which is often via relays. So they are challenged when having to select the right relay for their application. Fujitsu produces over a thousand different kinds of relays with numerous custom relay designs, so that we are confident to provide the perfect relay for the task at hand.”
The principle of a relay has hardly changed in the past hundred years but there are now many different variations and innovations on the basic concept from latching relays to internal arcing prevention and from surface mount to low profile versions. “Relay design requires a deep understanding of mechanical and electrical engineering, product design, and material science to select materials for housing, contacts, actuators, etc.,” explained Grobben. “It is rare for a customer to have this wide combination of knowledge so we gladly share our experience to guide the relay selection process.”
As well as partnering with customers on relay choice, the company also excels in features to ensure quality and long operational life, making it one of the leaders in relay design and innovation. For example, Fujitsu seals its relay enclosures to prevent the ingress of dust and fluids, which is particularly important for the automotive market where Fujitsu is a leading relay supplier.
Fujitsu is investing in new, fully automated production lines for the most popular relays and to meet the increasing demand for new, high voltage, high current DC relays that are required for the growing markets of electric and hybrid vehicles as well as for renewable energy infrastructure. Fujitsu is one of the leaders in DC relay design and manufacturing which present new design challenges, such as one way metal transfer between the contacts that does not occur with AC current due to the constantly changing direction of the current. This is just one example of how each switching operation results in wear of the relay, a fact that Fujitsu takes in account when guaranteeing a minimum number of operations; figures that Fujitsu verifies by extensive real life testing.
Grobben concluded: “Choosing the right relay is actually far more complicated than people think, as it brings together so many different areas of expertise. It genuinely is an art -–The Art of Relays.”