Friday, November 04, 2011

The transformer (Part 3)

 To his credit Westinghouse licensed both the Ferranti transformer and the Gaulard and Gibbs transformer. That's pure capitalism. He committed to a system (AC) and didn't trouble himself with the particulars. (In some ways it reminds me of Google's handling of their patent troubles.) But Westinghouse did bet on his pony, William Stanley. He had the good fortune to be the man who designed and installed electrical lighting at the 5th avenue Westinghouse offices.  George's brother H.H. actually made the introductions. George Westinghouse liked his work, and hired Stanley as his chief engineer for his Pittsburgh factory in 1884.

In 1885, Westinghouse imported a number of Gaulard-Gibbs transformers and a Siemens AC generator for Stanley to play with. Using this as research materials (ok and a bit of patent violation) William Stanley, Jr. built his first transformer and funny was a lot like the Gaulard and Gibbs's model. For the record, he also had access to the patent papers on the ZBD transformer.  But Westinghouse was still flirting with DC power and that infuriated the moody inventor. They weren't ready for a divorce so they got a trial separation in December of 1885. Under the new deal Stanley worked out of an office in Massachusetts. By March he had lit up a small neighborhood with his transformer and an AC generator. It was the first such system in America. The book Networks Of Power by Thomas Parke Hughes described it in detail:
"The length of the transmission circuit from central station laboratory to village center was about 4,000 feet. Connected to it were thirteen stores, two doctors' offices, one barber shop, the telephone exchange, and the post office."
 His claim to the first electrification of a network is indisputable. But what parts were actually his own? The generator was a Seimens and the transformers derived from Gaulard-Gibbs.This is hard to say for certain, but this is the system that Westinghouse mass manufactured and installed for a decade. Maybe I should back up a bit. In 1872 Electrical world was already reviewing a Mordey Transformer. William Morris Mordey’s transformers were manufactured by the Brush Electrical Engineering Company. This type of transformer is called a "shell transformer" beacuse the coils are completely surrounded by iron (except the ends).His electrical work was so important that a magnetic field behavior in dynamos was named for him.
  • Mordey Effect (noun) A phenomenon observed in dynamo armatures. At full loads the hysteresis decreases. The effect is thus expressed by S. P. Thompson. "When an armature core is rotated in a strong magnetic field, the magnetization of the iron is being continually carried through a cycle, but in a manner quite different from that in which it is carried when the magnetizing force is periodically reversed, as in the core of a transformer. Mordey has found the losses by hysteresis to be somewhat smaller in the former case than in the latter."
Both the Ferranti model and the Westinghouse model descended from Stanley's patents are also similar to the Mordey transformer. In all three models the circuit is made of thin rectangular iron plates, with coils wound through punched holes. So they're all manufactured and assembled about the same way.  The obvious difference among all the models I've mentioned is that the Gaulard and Gibbs model was an open circuit. All the others were closed. I think the incestuous nature of these developments is pretty clear now.  But lets get to the reason I need a part 4 for this series:
There were three large American companies making transformers by 1890: Edison, Westinghouse were fighting AC vs. DC. But there was a third; The Thomson -Houston Company. In 1892, financier J.P. Morgan engineered a merger between the Edison interests and Thomson-Houston. The resulting company was named General Electric. More on their role Monday.