In 1878, a Budapest-based company named Ganz Works that evolved from building ocean liners to constructing lighting systems (competing with Westinghouse & Edison Company for the front spot in the European electric lighting market) established a department of electrical engineering headed up by a Hungarian engineer named Károly Zipernowsky. Under his direction, Ganz Works installed lighting systems throughout Europe which utilized a crude type of transformer based on two copper wires wrapped around an iron ring. Ladies and gentlemen, the world’s first electrical transformer core was in the making.
Enter Ottó Bláthy, a remarkable young mechanical engineer with no formal education in electrical engineering, but an avid reader of electromagnetic theory and the writings of James Maxwell. In the summer of 1884, he and another young engineer from Serbia named Miksa Déri set out to make improvements on Zipernowsky’s design and began conducting experiments to this end.
Together, the three Ganz Works engineers developed a new type of AC power distribution system based on the use of the first apparatus identified as a “transformer.” This device consisted of two coils arranged uniformly around an iron ring and was intended to step down high voltage AC power for use in incandescent lighting systems. The engineers first presented their system – which became known as the ZBD transformer – at the National Exhibition in Budapest in 1885.
This makes Ganz Works the inventors of the first high efficiency, closed core shunt connection transformer. After this invention, the “ZBD Transformer Team” went on to develop the modern power distribution system: Instead of former series connection they connect transformers that supply the appliances in parallel to the main line. Blathy invented the AC Wattmeter, and they invented the essential Constant Voltage Generator as well. It is fascinating to note that Ganz Works built the first transformers using an iron cover of enameled mild iron wire and started to use the laminated electrical core of today – way back in 1885.