14 March 2011

Ampair 6000 update (III)

We had a query from bracken50 on the blog entry of 22 March 2010 asking about progress with the Ampair 6000. Firstly we’d rather that people were open about who they are and with luck bracken50 will trouble to tell us.

Anyway, back in March 2010 we had resolved the blade strength issue arising from the production process, and we were simultaneously trying to refit the installed units and move the factory. Ultimately we got through both those exercises and throughout the rest of the year we kept our heads down and slowly nibbled our way at the order backlog. As we did so we uncovered a series of other issues with the Ampair 6000 and progressively resolved them – not always an easy thing to do as some sites exhibited multiple problems simultaneously.

In mid year we had a tower failure and we carried out a very thorough investigation into why this happened. For a while we shut down some, and then all of the Ampair 6000 units as a precaution. Then we released some back into service with particular precautions. It took us several months to work through the failure investigation and we concluded that there was a design issue that needed a substantial change, and near the end of the year we requested all the units be shut down. We can only request as of course units belong to end-users and not to us. At that point there were about a dozen units out there in four countries, all within about 500 miles of our factory.

Since then we have been working through a design review process and conducting tests of various options. That included building some pretty substantial test rigs and complex computer models, all of which were major projects in their own right. Last week we decided which of these options we would go with and now we are working through the next round of detailed design and test prior to releasing units back to the field. Please excuse me if I do not go into technical details about which options we explored and why we took the decisions we did. In due course it will become clear when units go public and I am sure you can appreciate that we do not want to give free training to others.

Similarly please excuse me if I do not go through the commercial aspects of how we have handled the units in the field. We have to recognise that there are a series of distributors, installers, and end users and it is not our business to discuss their business.

Meanwhile we have settled into the new factory (yippee – flat floors, a roof that doesn’t leak, and some heating in the winter, plus enough space to move around and get work done in an efficient manner) and roughly doubled the number of staff. All the senior design engineers are dedicated to the Ampair 6000 project which receives pretty much their undivided attention. The remainder of the team runs the day-to-day operations with the mature product lines and carries out various other projects so as not to distract the senior engineers away from the Ampair 6000. Our sales for 2010 were substantially up on those for 2009 and one of the important things we are delivering to the 6000 team is space within which to work in peace so that they can take the right decisions in a methodical manner. That’s an important advantage of having real and ongoing business rather than just being a single-product company. Ultimately the Ampair 6000, and the wider business, will both end up stronger for the very thorough work that is going on.

I didn’t really want to post about the Ampair 6000 progress until I’d seen the results of some key tests that took place recently, and which were part of us taking the key decisions we took last week. Now I have seen those I feel confident enough to post this update and so bracken50's question is in a sense a welcome jogger as I've always got too much to do in my day. I think that’s enough for now but I’ll try not to leave it so long before I put up the next update. Also I didn't really want to talk about some of the other work we had going on until I was sure where we stood on the Ampair 6000, so maybe I'll say a little more about that in a while.

Before I forget we've just updated the website for the other arm of our business which manufactures and sells single to three phase converters. See www.boost-energy.com and I reckon the team have done a pretty good job.

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