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Made in Vaisala, or how the cleanroom is the key to robust technology.

 Chip manufacturing at Vaisala
Power Generation and Transmission

Robust science is about creating instruments that will work in the harshest environments – where longevity counts and zero maintenance is often a necessity. That is, for our clients and customers in their daily operations. This story takes us behind the scenes of creating the world’s most advanced and robust online DGA monitors.  

Full control over quality, full customization

Being able to create robust technology is based on a number of things: our own cleanroom, where our proprietary chips are built, our automated and robotic assembly factory, and know-how that goes all the way back to the 1980's and Vaisala’s deep R&D cooperation with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Which, in fact, has spawned a large part of the Finnish silicon industry. 

A truly unique clientele has always set high demands on us to push for further customization. To answer that call necessitates taking full control over manufacturing quality, and stepping away from relying on purchased chips as well as somebody else's manufacturing expertise. In that respect, building our own cleanroom and specializing in micrometer-scale manufacturing, or microtechnology, was a natural progression, that led e.g. to the thin films that form the heart of many of Vaisala’s sensors – literally built from the atoms up, right there in the very same cleanroom.

A person with protective clothing in a cleanroom preparing sensor wafers.

Microtechnology makes a DGA monitor tick

Microfabrication makes it possible to create disruptive technologies, such as the Optimus OPT100 online DGA monitor. This unique monitor has challenged the status quo of how gases dissolved in transformer oil are – and should be – monitored. It’s a robust technical wonder that keeps monitoring your power transformer constantly, giving you a to-the-minute readout and trending of the seven key fault gases that would indicate a serious fault is developing. What makes it tick, are three marvels of microtechnology.

The crown jewel — a Fabry Perot Interferometer. Stable, simple, robust, and – unique to Vaisala – with a filter adjustable between variable wavelengths. It’s this adjustment that makes it possible to measure multiple gases accurately and reliably. Which is what the Optimus OPT100 with the capability to measure seven fault gases excels in. 

The light source — our proprietary microglow. Small and optimized for robotic manufacture it is the other key component in making the Optimus tick. Instead of using a lamp, it’s based on silicon micromechanics, giving it an instantly longer lifetime and without the gradual degradation in performance of older light sources. The microglow’s longevity has been tested, re-tested, and subjected to heat hundreds of degrees above the usual operating temperatures, and has passed with flying colors.

The sensor packaging — a hermetically sealed package for the chips. It connects the Fabry Perot, the microglow and a thermopile detector to the optics and the rest of the instrument — and is made to last for decades.

Optimus DGA OPT100

In conclusion    

All this wouldn’t be possible without keeping chip manufacturing in our own hands. Manufacturing chips in our own factory means having full control over quality and full independence from the whims of third-party chip manufacturers. 

As it is such an integral part of creating robust technology based on science, the process is constantly optimized. The end-result? A uniquely optimized low volume / high mix manufacturing capability. Creating just the products our customers need. In the quantities they need. And at a quality they can trust to keep going for years and decades.


 


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Crafting a light source that makes all the difference

In optical DGA, the light source is critical. Whereas a more traditional light source will wear out in a few short years and its results will start to drift due to lamp degradation, the Vaisala microglow will not. Based on miniaturized chip technology, their operational life is counted in decades. In fact, thanks to this type of light source, the Optimus OPT100 DGA monitor is virtually certain to guard your power transformer until the end of its operational life, without needing a replacement light source. 

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