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December 1st, 2020

Innovation can happen in the most unexpected times. Take a pandemic, for instance. But when three great industry partners bring their A-game to the table – literally – the extraordinary can happen.

Herman Miller, LOGICDATA and VoltServer recently teamed up, virtually, to adapt LOGICDATA’s Control Box (the “brains” inside Herman Miller’s height-adjustable tables/benches) from an AC (alternating current) power supply to a DC (direct current) power supply and have a new application UL (Underwriters Laboratory) recognized.

No easy feat to accomplish either milestone, especially within the span of eight months. But, that’s the beauty of relationships founded on trust, tenacity, and the ability to build upon each other’s strengths to achieve a one-of-a-kind solution for a client.

Plugging Into Opportunity

In this case, one of Herman Miller’s global clients approached its business solutions group – Herman Miller Options – with a special request as part of the installation of 225 motion-based workspaces: power the height-adjustable furniture via a DC power supply.  A “switch” to DC power from the industry-standard AC power supply could provide energy and component cost savings. This approach would translate into reducing the overall number of total components needed (i.e., no more AC to DC transformers in everyday products like monitors and laptops).

The challenge? There was no precedent established in making this switch; it would truly be a first for the industry given the many inherent roadblocks in such a conversion. That’s when Herman Miller Options, Don Janowiak, Senior Product Engagement Manager, turned to LOGICDATA, a Herman Miller Gold Supplier, and VoltServer to “amp up” a solution. Marco Randazzo, key account manager and electrical engineer at LOGICDATA, immediately sensed the atypical request; “no one does it this way,” he recalled.

“But that just made us more hungry to innovate; to seek a solution.”

Amping Up Solutions

In essence, DC voltage is used to power items, like your computer, but it requires conversion from AC voltage that you get from your wall outlet. This conversion is done with transformers, those small boxes power cables plug into (think of your cell phone charger). Imagine the reduction in cost and impact on the environment if these transformers were no longer needed?

The biggest hurdle to this question is how to deliver that DC voltage in a consistent manner. DC voltage experiences loss when traveling over distance. Even over a small distance, like one end of an office to another, voltages can drop enough to make it unusable. “AC is reliable; DC can be inefficient over long distances,” he said.

Randazzo was not swayed, however, and put his head together with the experts at VoltServer, Inc., the inventor of Digital Electricity™, to construct a blueprint for this new approach. On paper, the theory could work; “we mapped out the whole floor using DC power,” he said. Then we created, and tested, and re-tested…hundreds if not thousands of hours to perfect the model. But was the concept safe? Randazzo explained:

“We knew we wanted to achieve a solution certified to UL standards – the highest third-party safety certification achievable for commercial products”

Uncommon Solutions

By partnering on the problem, the team was able to obtain end-to-end safety certifications and using Digital Electricity™, full power at each desk at high efficiency at a range of up to 1000 feet. Today, the customer’s installation is 100% complete and company leadership couldn’t be happier with the results. “We cracked the code,” said Randazzo.

“We achieved our customers’ goals, and have helped them become pioneers of this future technology.”

And that’s why Janowiak continues to lean on partners like LOGICDATA and VoltServer. “Digital Electricity™ is a great enabler for digitally connected devices,” said Stephen Eaves CEO of VoltServer, “but we count on our ecosystem partners like LOGICDATA and Herman Miller to really deliver the full solution to the customer.  I also want to do a big shout-out to ISP Design for bringing the customer’s vision of a totally DC building closer to reality and to Legrand for their expertise in addressing the (often underestimated) intricacies of getting power optimally delivered to end-points in modern buildings.” Janowiak said:

“We don’t just buy a new part [from a partner] and call it a day. We build relationships, which in turn, fosters the confidence to innovate.”

Randazzo echoed similar feelings: “It’s not about the bottom line, but a partnership.” Added Dexter Weber, president of LOGICDATA North America; “We’re very proud of this accomplishment as it demonstrates industry collaboration and how we all came together to make something truly unique – without taking our foot off of the gas – during the pandemic.