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125 years of ABB - key milestones

1891 - Brown Boveri & Cie

Charles Brown and Walter Boveri get to know each other at work in Zurich in the engineering works of Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (which is acquired in 1967 by BBC). The young engineers decide to found their own company. The find a suitable location for their Brown Boveri & Cie in the small town of Baden, about 20 kilometers west of Zurich on the Limmat river. Here they also immediately win their first order: to construct generators for the new local run-of-river power plant.

Three-phase system
1893 - ASEA

In Sweden ASEA build the first three-phase system for commercial use. It extends 12 km from a hydroelectric power plant to a mining region in Grängesberg, where the electric current is used for lighting and motors. The system operates with a voltage of 9500 V, and the transmitted power corresponds to about 220 KW.

Rail technology
1899 - Standard gauge locomotive

BBC develops an electrically driven locomotive, after the company had already provided trams and mountain railways with electrical equipment. This locomotive is used in Switzerland beginning in 1899 by the Burgdorf-Thun railway, on the first electrified normal-gauge rail section in Europe.

1954 - 100 km high-voltage DC transmission system

ASEA builds the first high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system for commercial use. It supplies power to the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. The system comprises a 25 km overland section and a 70 km submarine cable section. On the mainland, the alternating current is converted into direct current and transmitted at a voltage of 100 KV to the Gotland, where it is converted back into direct current. This is achieved using the mercury vapor converters customary at the time.

1967 - Company research center

There is a growing shortage of space at the BBC research labs in Baden. The company decides to establish a company research center. It is built on a greenfield site in Baden-Dättwil, a few kilometers from the company’s headquarters. Today about 200 specialists from over 30 different countries are engaged in research work here in fields such as power electronics, power technology and materials science.

Transformer technology
1971 - 1300 MVA Transformer

Transformers for AC voltage conversion for the transmission of electric current for various grid levels were an important business segment for BBC early on. In 1971, the company sets a world record when it produces a transformer with an output of 1300 megavolt amperes.

1974 - Industry robots

ASEA develops the first robot electrically controlled with a microprocessor, the IRB 6. The first robot is built in 1974 by a small company in Southern Sweden, where it is used for polishing stainless-steel pipes. By 1992, ASEA has sold almost 2000 IRB 6s; the first one stands today in the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology.

1988 - ASEA and BBC form ABB

Effective January 4, 1988, BBC and ASEA merge to form ABB, hitherto the biggest merger in industrial history. The two companies complement each other in many areas and sectors. BBC was strong in Europe and the Middle East, while ASEA had bases in North America and Asia. BBC did not have any industrial robots itself, but was stronger than ASEA in power electronics.

Speed control
1995 - Frequency converters

Frequency converters adjust the speed of electric motors to the actual demand of the machine and thereby reduce the energy consumption of the motors as a rule by 20 to 50 percent. ABB has delivered millions of frequency converters for all kinds of applications in the widest range of sectors. The energy conservation potential in industry and utility industry is huge. Electric motors, which are in use worldwide, account for almost 70 percent of the energy consumed by industry.

2015 - YuMi®

ABB launches its collaborative dual-arm robot, YuMi. This provides for safe collaboration between human and robot, for example in the assembly of small parts. The design of YuMi is entirely focused on safety, making redundant the safety fences that are usually needed for industrial robots.

Rail technology
2016 - World's longest tunnel

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is opened, connecting all of Europe. The new Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest rail tunnel in the world, will be officially opened in June this year. A wide range of innovative and energy-efficient ABB technologies ensuring the power supply of the infrastructure and the ventilation are critical elements used in the new tunnel.

As a main partner of the project “Gottardo 2016” ABB is also supporting the celebrations surrounding the opening of this construction project of the century. To highlight this partnership, an ABB branded Lok 2000 will be running on the Swiss rail network beginning January 20.