How it all began.
Today’s modern electronics go right back to the 1886 invention by Heinrich Hertz in Germany of the Hertz dipole (for the propagation of electromagnetic waves through space) as well as to their commercial use by Guglielmo Marconi following the invention of the radio in Italy in 1895.
The entire world could from then on listen to the radio: the industry’s rise was rapid.
Radio receivers and transmitters were built in great quantities, with so-called vacuum tubes in all versions. Even the first digital computers (the forerunners of today’s computers) had vacuum tubes as circuit elements and were as large as a small house.
The revolution came however with the invention of the semiconductor – the bipolar transistor – by Jacoletto and Johnson, and the invention of integrated circuits in the middle of the 20th century.
It was now possible to build electronical circuits that were much smaller and more powerful. First in RDL and DDL technology, later in TTL and CMOS technology, then with microprocessor chips up to today’s state-of-the-art technology.
The possibilities for the application of digital electronics were practically unlimited. The power/current consumption of these electronic apparatuses rose rapidly, however. At the beginning of the 1950s and 1960s the current for the entire apparatus was supplied by a central module that provided all the necessary voltage for the apparatus to function. It was soon however recognized that a decentralized power supply, i.e. individual small modules directly positioned at the point of consumption, was more advantageous.
In this way began the introduction of the small DC/DC converter modules as a “component” of modern electronics. In the 1960s the first modules were at that time still mostly imported from the USA. Soon however in Europe, especially Germany, new companies began to offer such DC/DC converter modules. The Electronica Fair in Munich in the 1960s saw some ten European companies offering such products. I too began to develop and produce DC/DC converters at that time. In 1969, on completing my studies in electronics at the University in Bologna, I formed my own company, “ELEKTRA” and began to develop and produce DC/DC converters in my “home lab”.
The orders were not long in coming, first from Italy for railway applications, then from Germany for industrial applications. Growth was spectacular, but the end of the 1970s saw the first problems arising. Converters from Asia (Korea) suddenly appeared on the market at prices we could simply not match. I did not have many alternatives: either to shut down, to move everything to Asia, or to find a new approach.
I decided for the third option and changed over my entire production from printed circuit board technology (PCB-FR4) to thick-film technology on a ceramic substrate. This technology made it possible to build devices of substantially better quality in respect of environmental conditions and higher power density (the same power with a smaller volume). The necessary investments were very large for a family business at that time, namely several million Deutschmarks. It soon became clear however that this was absolutely the right decision, as it opened up new and highly professional markets to us.
Business thus once more boomed until we encountered the next holdup at the beginning of 2000. It became more and more difficult to find the right staff, whether for normal production tasks or to work as development technicians. Once again an effective solution was found. The devices were redeveloped so that most could be produced automatically via robotic assembly. The ELEKTRA company can now look back on nearly 40 years of successful activity. It was always important for my corporate philosophy to be able to act absolutely independently, by which I mean not to be dependent on anybody and to be able to take all decisions alone. I have therefore acquired all of the necessary installations for development and production purposes. We purchased installations for EMV tests, vibration and shock tests, temperature tests, CNC milling machines for aluminum processing to produce housings for prototypes, etc.
We could thus always respond very quickly to requests as well as being able to adapt to new developments or make rapid adjustments. Many customized devices as well as second source devices were developed within a short time. For me it was also always very important to keep my company “small” and thus always to have everything under control, while remaining 100% independent. I have often been offered the opportunity to merge with other companies (above all distribution companies), which would have brought an increase in revenues.
Such offers have never interested me. Particularly thanks to the internet, in the last few years the world has become a “smaller” place, meaning that we now also export our products to India, China and the USA. In all these years as a family business my wife Hedwig, my sons Wilhelm and Stefan and my brother Edmund, who runs our office in Munich, have all been crucial in their commitment. I now very much hope that, in the not too distant future, my son Wilhelm (who has for over ten years now played a vital role in the enterprise) will successfully take over the leadership of the ELEKTRA company.
Finally I would like to mention that, apart from my work in the company, it has also been very important to me over all these years to find time for my family, for walking in the mountains and for playing the accordion.