Chapter 18: Beginnings and Horizons
About the Author
A versatile inventor, researcher and writer, Mr. Isidor Buchmann is the president, founder and CEO of Cadex Electronics Inc., located in Richmond (Vancouver), Canada.
Fascinated by electronics during his high school years, Mr. Buchmann took to inventing at an early age, designing a fuel-powered engine that was based on continuous combustion. His drawings and theory of operation were reviewed by Felix Wankel, inventor of the Wankel Rotary Engine, who kindly replied that while the design was indeed unique and original, manufacturing would be too expensive to be commercially viable. Further to his credit, Mr. Buchmann invented a broadcast radio that ran on no power — it required only an antenna and a ground connection (it didn’t even use a battery). Mr. Buchmann sold several of these radio receivers to his family and colleagues and later set up a workshop in the attic where he restored and resold old radios. After high school, a four-year apprenticeship as a Radio Technician brought him practical experience in a workshop environment as well as academic theory. Finally, his experience with radio communications in the Swiss army led to his decision to make electronics his life's work.
Realizing that conservative Switzerland would not satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Buchmann emigrated to Canada in 1966, eventually finding employment in the radio communications department at General Electric. There he realized that a major problem with two-way radios was the battery's short life and, as part of his job, tested a wide variety of customer batteries that came in. In his spare time at home, he continued to research and develop electronic devices in his spare time, developing a battery analyzer that featured a ‘recondition’ program which restored weakened nickel cadmium batteries.
To prevent a conflict of interest with his employer, Mr. Buchmann quit his job with GE and started Cadex. The first battery analyzer, the Cadex 450, was introduced in 1981 but failed to achieve the anticipated market acceptance. Still in his spare time, Mr. Buchmann designed the modular Cadex 550 battery analyzer. This model sold reasonably well at first but it soon became evident that manufacturing methods needed to be improved to make it cost effective.
In 1984, Cadex moved from a small room in Mr. Buchmann's residence to rented facilities. With increased overhead costs, a staff to maintain and sluggish sales, cash flow became tight. Bank loans for start-up companies, especially high-tech firms, were almost non-existent at the time, so Mr. Buchmann worked from home during the day looking after his growing children and spent time in the office during the evening. Happily, the company survived the slump and managed to add a number of new products. Profitability returned and the staff grew.
Knowing that the wealth of an organization is in human resources, Isidor resolved to provide an environment that was conducive to attracting good people with skills that complemented his own strengths and weaknesses. Spacious new headquarters in a park-like setting overlooking the scenic Fraser River add to a pleasant working experience. Under Mr. Buchmann’s leadership, new and innovative products were developed that generated rapid growth and created global recognition of Cadex.
Today, Cadex is a world leader in the design and manufacture of battery analyzers and chargers.
Cadex Electronics Inc. was established in 1980 in Vancouver, Canada. Isidor Buchmann, founder, president and CEO recognized that the full potential of nickel cadmium batteries was not being achieved and developed a battery analyzer to exercise and rejuvenate them.
In its early days, the company operated under the name Buchmann Enterprises Inc. Until 1983, all activities were conducted in a small room of the founder’s residence. In 1985, after the registered trademark for the name ‘Cadex’ was granted, the company changed the corporate name to Cadex Electronics Inc. Cadex is derived from ‘CADmium-EXerciser.’
The first product, the Cadex 450, entered the market in 1981. Only a few units sold. Mr. Buchmann then designed a modular battery analyzer that was able to service three batteries simultaneously, with expansion to ten. Called the Cadex 550, this unit sold reasonably well and became the workhorse for many two-way radio users, such as railways, public safety and oil companies.
The Government of Canada awarded Cadex funds to develop a new generation of battery analyzers and in 1988 the Cadex 6000 was launched. This new product was capable of servicing up to 64 batteries unattended. A private company then commissioned Cadex to develop and manufacture an intelligent fast-charger for the End-of-Train Unit, a device that replaced the caboose on a freight train. This charger was later expanded into a four-station battery analyzer called Cadex 2000. Packaged into a compact desktop housing, the Cadex 2000 provided a low cost alternative to the modular Cadex 6000 system.
Towards the end of the 1980s, batteries began to diversify and it became evident that a battery analyzer needed to adapt to a large pool of different battery models. With the help of the Science Council of British Columbia and the National Research Council of Canada, Cadex designed an open platform battery analyzer that was software driven similar to a PC. In 1991, the first user-programmable battery analyzer was introduced. Called the Cadex 4000 for its four independent stations, this instrument immediately gained the interest of many battery users, both in North America and overseas. Some of the main features were the interchangeable battery adapters that contained a memory chip holding the unique battery configuration code, ‘C-code’ in short. With a few key stokes, the user was able to program and reprogram the analyzer to fit virtually any battery type.
In 1992, as part of a five-year program for a US defense project, Racal Communications commissioned Cadex to build intelligent fast-chargers and battery reconditioners. During this partnership, Cadex was the recipient of several Racal awards. The Supplier Recognition Award for Outstanding Performance, which Cadex received on two separate occasions, was granted to only six of over one thousand suppliers.
In 1995, Cadex introduced the Cadex 7000 Series, an upgraded version of the Cadex 4000 battery analyzer. The Cadex SnapLock adapters allowed quick and convenient changes from one battery type to another. The Cadex 7000 Series analyzer became the company’s flagship and established a new global standard to which competitive products were compared.
In 1996, an agreement was reached with Medtronics, (then Physio Control Corporation) to design and supply intelligent battery chargers/ conditioners as part of a five-year contract. In the same year, Cadex received the British Columbia Export Award for outstanding achievements in export.
In 1997, Cadex published the book Batteries in a Portable World — A Handbook on Rechargeable Batteries for Non-Engineers. Many of Mr. Buchmann’s articles on battery technology also gained recognition by appearing in leading trade magazines. By then, Cadex had achieved international market recognition with a customer base of over 100 countries.
In 1998, Motorola and Cadex engaged in a partnership to manufacture battery analyzers for distribution through Motorola’s global network. In the same year, Mr. Buchmann was selected as a finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year program.
In 1999, Cadex received ISO 9001 certification. The company moved to the custom built headquarters in Fraserwood Industrial Park, Richmond, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. In the same year, Cadex Batteryshop™ was released. This high level software integrates the Cadex 7000 Series battery analyzers with a PC to bring battery testing and maintenance within the reach of the untrained user. The task of entering battery parameters was reduced to either scanning a bar code label or the ‘point and click’ of the mouse.
In the same year, Cadex released the SM1 and SM2+ intelligent battery chargers. The Cadex SM2+ charger features a target capacity selector that passes or fails a battery based on state-of-health (SoH). If low, the user is prompted to restore the battery by pressing the condition key. Today, these chargers service batteries for mobile computing, medical instrumentation and survey equipment.
In the year 2000, Cadex developed Quicktest™, a technique that checks the SoH of a battery in three minutes. The system works on a neuro-logic network based on fuzzy logic, is self-learning and adapts to new chemical combinations as introduced from time to time.
During the year 2001, Cadex will introduce a new generation of 7000 Series battery analyzers. A two-station Cadex 7200 has been added to serve smaller battery users. Retaining the powerful priming and reconditioning features of the previous models, the emphasis is moving towards quick testing, boosting and ultra-fast charging of batteries. These services take only minutes and can restore a battery on the run.
Working with Natural Beauty
The new Cadex headquarters is nestled in natural surroundings. The scenic Fraser River lies to the south, a public park to the east and the Coastal Mountains to the north. For joggers and cyclists, there is a nature path between the building and the river.
The interior of the building is designed with employee comfort in mind. It includes a snooker table, a gym, shower rooms, and several televisions. Balconies with a river view overlook the outdoor patio, which is used for summer lunches.
With the wonders of nature at its door, Cadex offers its staff a tranquil alternative to the noise and hustle of crowded city streets. And yet, the location is within easy reach of Vancouver’s downtown, is central to the surrounding suburban areas and is close to Vancouver International Airport. [18.1]
A manager who is in charge of manufacturing and warranties for a large mobile phone provider writes: “I feel that by having the ability to analyze and condition our customer’s batteries, we have also increased our battery sales. We now recommend that all customers stop by and allow us to condition their batteries at least once every six months. Many customers will buy another battery to use while their pack is being conditioned. The customers feel that the maintenance program enables them to achieve longer battery life. Providing battery conditioning service has helped us increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, which in turn helps our bottom line in this competitive industry.”
When setting up a battery refurbishing service, the quality of battery analyzers is of importance. A manager in charge of battery warranty with a leading mobile phone manufacturer commented: “With the Cadex 7000 Series analyzers, our team was able to achieve a 90 percent recovery rate for all warranty batteries, compared to just 60 percent before the Cadex analyzers were brought on stream. The savings were absolutely immense.”
Another Regional Service Manager for a mobile phone provider wrote: “The recovery rate of batteries has been far better than expected. We used to run them on our old equipment and if they failed we would then run them on the Cadex. Over 50 percent of the batteries would pass our target capacity of 80 percent. That in itself saved us a tremendous amount of expense. It enables us to return the batteries to the customer for further use.”
These above mentioned reports are mostly based on servicing nickel-based batteries. The recovery rate is expected to be lower with the Li-ion batteries, which are considered maintenance free. But to everyone’s amazement, lithium-based batteries enjoy a similar recovery rate, especially in the mobile phone market. Here, the cause of failure is not memory-based, especially during the warranty period. Lack of customer preparation and failure to understand the behavior of a battery as a portable energy source may be to blame. The true reason for the failures may never be known.
Cadex products are built with one goal in mind — to make batteries run longer. Cadex has realized the importance of battery care and is offering equipment to charge, test, monitor, and restore batteries.
Cadex’s core competence is engineering. Over 25 percent of the Cadex staff is active in the Engineering Department. Existing products are improved on a continual basis, and new and creative products are added to adjust to the changing demands of battery users. Key products include: [18.2] [18.3]
Cadex 7000 Series battery analyzers solve the common battery problems of uncertain service and short life. Pre-configured ‘Snap Lock’ adapters enable quick interface with all major batteries for wireless communications devices, laptops, biomedical equipment, video cameras and other portable devices. Irregular batteries connect by universal cables that can be programmed with the analyzer’s menu function. The analyzer supports Li-ion/Polymer, NiMH, NiCd and Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries.
The Cadex 7000 Series features the self-learning Cadex Quicktest™ program that performs an in-depth battery diagnosis in three minutes. Other programs include: ‘Boost’ to wake up low voltage batteries; ‘Auto’ to recondition weak batteries and ‘Prime’ to format new batteries. In addition, ‘Self-Discharge’ verifies charge retention; ‘CycleLife’ tests longevity and ‘Custom’ enables user-defined programs. The Cadex 7200 services two batteries simultaneously; the Cadex 7400 accommodates four.
The battery voltage is programmable from 1.2 to 15V with a current range of 100mA to 24A. If set high, the analyzer automatically reduces the current to remain within the 4A per station handling capabilities. With a printer, service reports and battery labels can be generated. The unit operates as stand-alone or with a PC. [18.4]
Cadex Batteryshop™ software provides a simple, yet powerful PC interface to control and monitor the Cadex 7000 Series battery analyzers. Running on Windows 95, 98 and NT, the software enables untrained staff to test batteries as part of customer service. In addition, Cadex Batteryshop™ schedules periodic maintenance for fleet owners and assists battery manufacturers with quality control.
Cadex Batteryshop™ includes a database of over 2000 common battery models. Each battery listing contains the configuration code (C-code), the data that sets the analyzer to the correct parameters. A growing number of the battery listings also include matrices to perform Cadex Quicktest™.
Point and click technology selects the battery and programs the Cadex 7000 Series analyzer. Scanning the battery’s model number, if a bar code label is available, also programs the analyzer. Cadex Batteryshop™ supports up to 120 Cadex 7000 Series battery analyzers. The test results can be displayed on screen in real time graphs and printed in customized reports. [18.5]
Cadex Smart Series battery chargers offer the consumer a continuous supply of freshly charged batteries. Conforming to the SMBus Level 3, the Cadex Smart Series chargers accommodate Li-ion, NiMH and NiCd batteries. The charge time is 2 to 3 hours. If faulty batteries are identified, the charge is halted. On compatible footprint, the chargers also accommodate ‘dumb’ batteries. Typical uses are mobile computing, biomedical and survey devices.
The Cadex SM1 charger is compact and charges one battery at a time. The Cadex SM2+ charger services two packs simultaneously and doubles as conditioner and quality control system. The charger reads the data stored in the SMBus battery, calculates the previous power delivered and compares the results with the target capacity setting. Adjustable to 60, 70 and 80 percent, the charger flags batteries that fall below the set capacity reading. [18.6] [18.7]
Cadex Universal Conditioning Chargers (UCC) offer battery users an alternate source of chargers to those provided by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Available in one, two and six bay configurations, the chargers feature intelligent battery adapters. This concept allows easy adaptation to a variety of battery types without compromising charge performance.
The adapters allow service of different battery types in one unit. Reconfiguration to other battery types can be done in the field; the one and six-bay chargers are desktop and wall-mountable. The two-bay unit also serves as a vehicular charger built to military shock and vibration specifications.
Custom Battery Chargers — Cadex designs and manufactures a wide variety of custom chargers to serve public safety, law enforcement, emergency response, healthcare, mobile computing, broadcast and defence applications. Cadex covers all aspects of product development, from circuit design to power supply, from plastic housing to mechanical battery interface, to testing and manufacturing.
Custom Battery Packs — Cadex completes the line of portable power source by offering specialty battery packs. To provide added safety, Cadex has the capability of designing specialty protection circuits for lithium ion chemistries and other battery systems.