by John McHale
ANDOVER, Mass. — Officials at Vicor seven years ago created small subsidiaries across the country dedicated to providing custom power solutions and today find their creations not only profitable but growing fast in the military applications.
Vicor Integration Architects (VIAs) are essentially small businesses providing custom and customized component-based power solutions, says Andrew Hilbert, senior director of product marketing at Vicor. Operating in partnership with Vicor Corp. of Andover, Mass., VIAs design and manufacture turnkey custom power systems, specializing in the requirements of electronic equipment manufacturers in the military, EDP, industrial, communications, test equipment, and medical applications throughout the U.S. and Canada.
As small, entrepreneurial enterprises, VIAs can respond quickly to customer inquiries and project demands, Hilbert says. They are small companies with anywhere from five to 20 employees, yet they have the financial and technical resources of Vicor behind them, Hilbert says.
The six VIAs are Aegis Power Systems in Murphy, N.C.; ConverTec Corp. in Roseville, Minn.; Freedom Power Systems in Austin, Texas; Granite Power Technologies in Manchester, N.H.; Mission Power Solutions, Inc. in Oceanside, Calif.; and Northwest Power Integrations Inc. in Milwaukie, Ore. Granite Power Technologies is the most recent VIA, having celebrated its one-year-anniversary this spring, Hilbert says.
All six produce military components with some doing more than others, says Mark Connolly, marketing manager for custom products at Vicor. The fastest growing market for the VIAs is the military with medical coming in second, he continues.
All six VIAs combined make the top 10 in military custom suppliers worldwide, Hilbert says. The majority of the customers for VIA are also repeat customers, he adds.
The military and medical markets have similar requirements, — the products cannot fail, and "the customer needed it yesterday," Hilbert says. They are also low-volume customers and need the attention a small business can provide, he adds.
The idea for the VIAs developed over the years from customers constantly coming to us and "saying they really like our part, but could we add an enclosure here or connector there," Hilbert says. Since this was a low-volume demand and not Vicor's main business, which is providing components directly off-the-shelf, company officials decided it might be wise to create companies that would be able to give these customers the attention they deserve, he explains.
"We then basically put adds in the help-wanted section for engineers specializing in power design to run these VIAs," Hilbert says. The engineer then serves as president of the company and program manager on each project, ensuring the customer of the full attention of a small company with resources of a large one, he explains.
These affiliated companies use Vicor's modular design approach, that offers low cost, quick turnaround, and reliable performance, Connolly says. Vicor's line of power components and configurable total solutions enables VIAs to offer effective solutions to unique power requirements in the shortest possible amount of time, company officials say.
Vicor may create more VIAs internationally, but they do not want to create so many that they end up competing against one another, Hilbert says.
Examples of VIA products being used by the military include a shipboard power supply from Aegis Power Systems that has a four-output 345-Watt power system with a 10 second battery backup capability, and an integral heat exchanger. The backup is a 24-volt battery. Another is power device from ConverTec Corp. for a flight simulator application. The ConverTec device is a medium power AC input, multi-output supply that features six outputs and power factor correction. It is packaged in a 3U high, 19-inch rack mount configuration.
NASA experts are also using a Granite Power Technologies device aboard the X-35 spacecraft, the escape vehicle for the International Space Station, Connolly says.
For more information on Vicor VIAs contact the company on the World Wide Web at http://www.vicr.com/company/about/solutions/vias/vias.htm.