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Electronic engineering

Innovative technical assistance

Equipment speedily detects problems and repairs modules in switching centers

eduardo cesarOn connecting the electronic board to the Sartme, the diagnosis appears on the computer screeneduardo cesar

The supply of telecommunication services in Brazil has registered an accelerated expansion over the last few years with the privatization of the public companies of the old Telebrás system. To administer the problems arising from this growth, there is more and more of a demand for new control instruments. The perceiving of this up-coming market was the starting point for the company Qualibrás Eletrônica of Campinas to develop the Automatic Reconfiguration System of Electronic Module Testing (Sartme in the Portuguese acronym). This system has become essential at this moment with the amplification and multiplication of switching centers, equipment that centralizes the telephone lines of a district or town and establishes the interconnections between the centers of other regions. The Sartme was developed for the testing and repair of electronic modules that make up these centers.

The big advantage of this product, in the opinion of the electronic engineer Gilberto Antônio Possa, the project’s coordinator and one of the directors of Qualibrás, is that it can be used with the electronic equipment of any manufacturer, the only requirement being the development of a software program for each type. Thus, in a technical assistance laboratory or production line of electronic products, the Sartme can be used in testing boards – where the chips and the other components of the electronic circuit are installed -, to diagnose defects and help in the location and correction of faults. It is sufficient to connect the electronic board to the device, choose on the computer screen the type of test desired and to verify on the screen if there is any defect and, if so, where it is located.

Qualibrás was established in 1990, when Promon, a company that manufactures the switches Trópico, leased out maintenance servicing and technical assistance of their products to third parties. In a short time, Possa and his three partners Carlos Henrique, Marco Bezzi and Fernando Ferreira – ex-employees of Promon -, realized that there was a major possibility of growth if the company was also to offer technical assistance to sectors of the telecommunications and electronics industries. The problem was that each manufacturer has its own specifications. Consequently, to carry out maintenance of the board of several types of telephone switching centers and on other equipment would be complicated and expansive.

Quality in space
The solution was to create a system that could carry out these tests and could be re-adapted to fit the types of electronic modules of each manufacturer. In March of 2000, after having obtained the support of FAPESP’s Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) program, the company began to develop Sartme, which has already caught the attention of the Aerospace Technical Center (CTA) of the Ministry of Aeronautics. They are interested in the system for use in the mounting of their Satellite Launch Vehicle (VLS in the Portuguese acronym), being developed in that institution. In this case, the system would be used as a quality control for testing the electronic equipment of the VLS.

In the opinion of Possa, the initial idea was only to widen the repair services offered by the company, carrying them out on a large scale. However, with the Sartme, the company ended up switching focus. From simply offering of services, it also started to develop technology. But its directors do not intend, at least for now, to change the profile of Qualibrás. The company will remain in the technical assistance and maintenance industry. As to the Sartme, it will be supplied, along with the adaptations of the necessary software for each application, for other maintenance companies and for manufacturers and those assembling electronic products.

For the directors of Qualibrás, the product is creating the basis for the development of new technologies. For Possa, Brazil is not yet strong in the area of large scale repairing of electronic and telecommunication equipment. In the United States, the largest world market in this sector, the technical assistance and maintenance industry is served by large companies, that offer repair services on a large scale.

In order to make possible the large scale production of equipment, Possa has been seeking o financing agencies in search of venture capital for his company. His first experience took place in April of last year, when he participated in a round of Venture Forum, a meeting organized by the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep) between entrepreneurs and investors. “It was through the support of the Brazilian Support Service to Micro and Small Companies (Sebrae) and the contacts made during the Venture Forum that i was able to give a new dimension to the company”, emphasizes Possa. He adds that, thanks to this support and to the explosion in the telephone sector last year, the company’s income more than doubled in two years. In 2001 Qualibrás had an income of R$ 3.4 million and had grown by 69% in relation to 2000, a year in which they had registered a growth of 34%.

Remote measuring
At the same time as they were completing the Sartme, Qualibrás prepared itself to look for resources for another product that is in evolution in a second company project, also financed through the PIPE program, but still in its first phase. This is a system that remotely transmits the consumption measurement, monitors and can turn on and off the electrical energy supply.

This information travels in the transmission line itself with the data sent directly to the energy distribution company. Besides the advantage of doing away with the installation of cables between these points, this system stimulates the use of technology and digital instrumentation in electrical systems. The project gained importance with the ending of power rationing, as the government is studying a reduction in the fee for those who consume energy outside of the peak periods – the so-called yellow fee (off-peak fee).

The prospects for the Qualibrás products demonstrate that the company is beginning to make its way down new paths. It has begun to widen the breadth of its interests at the exact moment in which it realized the need for a piece equipment to improve the service the company supplies. Even maintaining its original niche in maintenance and technical assistance for telephone centers, it has already incorporated into its trajectory the typical behavior of a company that invests in technological innovation in order to become more competitive.

The Project
Automatic Reconfiguration System of Electronic Module Testing  (nº 99/06287-0); Modality Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE); Coordinator Gilberto Antônio Possa – Qualibrás; Investment R$ 328,706.00 PAGES 80 to 82