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Firm upgrades device with help from NASA

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  • | 3:42 p.m. December 24, 2010
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When Clearwater-based Advanced Protection Technologies needed help developing a new type of surge protector, they looked to the skies for help — or at least eastward to Cape Canaveral.

The company participated in NASA's Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program, which provides free technical assistance to small businesses. The alliance includes more than 30 aerospace companies and universities involved in the U.S. space program.

APT, founded in 1985, needed to create a new class of surge protection device after regulatory changes three years ago rendered older versions obsolete. It filed a request for technical assistance with NASA, which connected the company with Yu-Ping Tang, an alliance partner at New Mexico State University.

“The enclosure design of this new device was a little outside our core competencies,” says Lou Farquhar, APT's vice president of engineering services.

Plans for the device were submitted to Tang, who drew a schematic for the enclosure in a software program APT didn't have and also put Farquhar in touch with another university that could create a prototype for a reasonable fee.

The resulting device, called SPDee, has a more compact design that can be installed anywhere within an electrical distribution system. Farquhar says the enclosure was key because it had to be able to fit so many different applications and be cost effective to build.

“The suppressor part was easy, the enclosure was not,” he says, adding that current SPDee sales are going so well that APT will soon release a special version for the photovoltaic industry.


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