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Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories starts production on new circuit boards

Feb. 28, 2023 Updated Tue., Feb. 28, 2023 at 8:44 a.m.

Electronics manufacturer Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories will begin producing circuit boards this week in a massive new facility in Moscow.

The company began building its $100 million, 162,000-square-foot production facility in spring 2021 to make printed-circuit boards, which are used to protect, monitor, control and automate power systems around the world, according to a company news release.

SEL spokeswoman Kate Wilhite said Monday that the company already started a soft launch but will officially start circuit board production Wednesday.

Edmund O. Schweitzer III, SEL’s president and chief technology officer, noted the major investment to upgrade the company’s production capacity was done without state or federal funding.

“We committed to each other to do it right, and now we are safely producing the highest-quality boards in the cleanest plant, using the least amount of resources that science and engineering afford us today,” Schweitzer said in the release. “This is $100 million of employee owners’ money well spent on creating our future right here at home.”

The circuit boards have a wide range of uses, Wilhite said.

“Basically, they become the carriers of other electronic components, sort of a brain of the electronic product,” she said.

The company has hired about 60 people to operate the facility. The jobs range from engineering roles working with chemical, mechanical, software and computer-aided manufacturing to equipment operators and maintenance workers.

The process to build circuit boards starts by layering fiberglass and copper to create a rigid and conductive base. That base board is then sent through a series of automated processes that include drilling, layering, copper plating and etching.

Ultimately, the finished circuit boards and added components will serve as the information centers for other SEL-made electronics, according to the release.

“So much research, learning and testing has gone into designing our fabrication processes and selecting the best equipment and tools for the job,” said Jessi Hall, SEL’s senior director of vertical integration. “We are excited to see everything come together and to really start realizing the benefits of these investments.”

The Pullman-based company, which was founded in 1982 when, as a doctoral candidate, Edmund Schweitzer invented the first microprocessor-based digital protective relay that he called the SEL-21.

The company now designs and builds systems that protect power grids around the world. The company manufactures products in the U.S. and serves customers in 168 countries.

Construction of the newest facility relied on several local construction companies who were able to complete the project on time despite challenges with the global supply chain, said Jana Schultheis, SEL’s vice president of property.

“Our construction teams are second to none,” Schultheis said. “It is a proud day to see this factory come online as a result of their ingenuity.”

This story has been updated. An earlier version misstated the cost of the facility. 

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