Electronics Manufacturer of the Year
Pickering Electronics has been designing, manufacturing and distributing reed relays for over 50 years. It has pioneered miniaturisation and innovative design and is a leader in the high-end relay market, supplying reed relays for automatic test equipment, high voltage switching, low thermal EMF, direct drive from CMOS, RF switching and many other specialist applications. Pickering Electronics manufactures the largest range of reed relays on the market and also designs and manufactures custom model relays for its global customer base. The relay division of the Pickering Group, Pickering Electronics is based in Essex, UK and has quality-accredited manufacturing facilities both there and in the Czech Republic.
Over the past year, Pickering Electronics has experienced strong sales with demand for reed relays currently very high everywhere. Pickering Electronics reports that growth drivers were mostly from the automotive and automation markets. Unfortunately this resulted in longer lead times, even with its expanding production capacity. Due to the impact of the pandemic and in common with every other manufacturer, Pickering has also had to adjust in order to implement Covid-safe procedures for production and other staff who had to work in its facilities. This involved completely re-organising its production facilities, introducing screening, 2m social distancing at all times, weekly rapid COVID testing, mask wearing at all times, much improved ventilation plus live CO2 monitoring in all areas to guarantee good air flow for every employee. This has been costly and has made expanding production capacity particularly challenging.
However, Pickering Electronics reports that the mood in the high-end reed relay market is strong, with demand coming from customers demanding higher performance with high packing density. Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, Pickering Electronics order input saw an increase of 40% 2019-2020 and is remaining strong into 2021, which is expected to be another growth year.
The expansion of Pickering Electronics’ distributor network continued throughout the year, despite the difficulties caused by the global pandemic. A distribution agreement was signed covering Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand with Wiselink, a proactive supply channel partner for over 35 suppliers and more than 2,500 OEM and CEM customers across a wide variety of industry sectors. Beijing uc-chip technology company was appointed as Pickering Electronics’ distributor in China.
Since April last year, while meeting the high demand for its products and coping with the impact of the pandemic, Pickering Electronics also introduced a number of new products, such as the Series 131, which is the industry’s smallest high voltage reed relay. Additionally Pickering Electronics has just launched its first high voltage changeover reed relay, the Series 67-1-C, rated up to 5kV stand-off, 2.5kV switching at 100W max. These are designed for applications where high voltage signals need to be routed to alternate points, polarity reversing, capacitor charge or discharge where a high voltage Changeover relay (SPDT/Form C) would normally be the solution. This is usually implemented using two Normally Open (SPST/Form A) high voltage relays to ensure that one switch is always opened before the second switch is closed, which requires twice the PCB area and can cause complex driving issues. Also, if either of the SPST relays sticks then there is risk of unintentionally shorting signals. Pickering’s new 67-1-C high voltage reed relays guarantee break-before-make operation in a single, compact part, are simple to integrate into new high voltage designs and save substantial PCB real-estate.
Pickering reed relays are constructed using its innovative patented technologies, which deliver significant advantages over the usual hard moulded construction of reed relays. Instrumentation-grade reed switches with vacuum-sputtered ruthenium plating ensure stable, long life, while formerless coil construction and SoftCenterâ„¢ technology increase reliability and robustness.
Pickering’s SoftCenter technology uses a soft inner material to reduce stresses on the reed switch. In addition, contact life and more reliable contact resistance are achieved by using Former-less coil winding. Former-less coils are manufactured using a fully automated process that provides consistent output quality and repeatability. Former-less coil winding increases the winding “window” and brings a number of advantages to Pickering reed relays, including a much higher magnetic drive level and better magnetic coupling, due to the greater efficiency of smaller diameter inner turns (more turns per Ohm). The number of Ampere Turns (AT) is increased – Reed switches are usually rated in sensitivity by an Ampere Turn number, for example, an AT rating of 15AT is twice as sensitive as one with a 30AT. Because the 30AT switch needs more magnetic drive there is much more ‘restoring force’, which is the ability to open when the coil drive is turned off. This in turn extends the working life of the reed switch many times.
Pickering reed relays feature another patented technology, Mu-metal magnetic screening, which enables ultra-high PCB side-by-side packing densities with minimal magnetic interaction, saving significant cost and space. Devices are 100% tested for all operating parameters including dynamic contact wave-shape analysis with full data scrutiny to maintain consistency.
To make the selection of the correct relay easier for designers, earlier this year the company completely re-designed the datasheets for its entire range in a designed-for-digital format with additional information including environmental specs, mechanical characteristics and relay weights, plus RF plots for coaxial relays. A comparison table for each showing similar Pickering products was also added.