The electric transformer we bought
The electric transformer we bought
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We bought Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's "SCX-4501K" multifunction laser printer to break it down (See related article).

We had to make the printer run to see whether or not it had inherent problems. So when we tried to plug it in we noticed that the shape of its power plug was unfamiliar. This multifunction printer was bought in Korea and as such, the shape of the plug was different from those found in Japan. And that meant that the voltage would be different as well!

The voltage marked on the printer was 220 to 240V. As embarrassing as it sounds, we were completely unaware that the voltage in Korea was different from that in Japan until we attempted to turn on the printer.

We scrambled to find a voltage transformer, but the only transformers we had were those to lower the voltage to 100V. This came as no surprise. When traveling overseas, in particular to Europe - where the staff members of our editorial office often visit on business - the voltage is higher than Japan's 100V. It was only natural that all we had were step down transformers to lower voltage to 100V.

I quickly went to Akihabara to get an appropriate transformer. Heading for a volume retailer first, I found the converter section among the items geared for international travel. Pricing for transformers depended on the specifications, ranging from thousands of yen to well over ¥10,000.

Looking at the specifications, I realized my carelessness again. I didn't know what capacity the printer needed. The only thing in my mind was the voltage as I ran out of the editorial office. Immediately calling a member of the disassembly squad, I found out that the multifunction printer's power consumption during operation is 350W.

I went straight to a sales assistant and he told me that a transformer needed to have "roughly 1.5 times more capacity than the device's power consumption." So I asked for a 550VA model. His reply, however, was, "Oops. Sold out. Sorry." I couldn't get the transformer I needed as easily as I had expected.

I reluctantly left the volume retailer and strolled deeper into Akihabara. Although the pretty waitresses dressed as maids that I saw on the streets constantly caught my eye, I went into any store that looked like it might have what I wanted. Despite this, I couldn't find a 550VA or even a model with a similar capacity. All they had were models with capacities of less than 300VA or more than 1,000VA. I couldn't afford a 1,000VA or larger capacity model, because they cost more than the budget we had.

However, there was no other way. Exhausted from walking, I began to think that I might have to buy a large-capacity model despite the price exceeding my budget. Just then I spotted a sign that read "Transformer-Specialty Store" in a multi-purpose building. That's world famous Akihabara for you!

A variety of transformers filled the small store, which I had found at last. Things were looking up. I told the shopkeeper what I had gone through that day. He listened to me quietly, but as soon as I finished talking, he suddenly asked me, "So, how much peak power do you need?" Excuse me? Did you say peak?

"No, the power is 350W..."

"I know, but I'm asking how much PEAK power do you need?

Uh-oh, I shouldn't have been satisfied with only asking for the power value. In fact, I wasn't sure whether 350W was the peak power or not. I stood there in silence and he said, "If you don't use an appropriate transformer that supports the device's peak power, it could lead to an accident. I can't sell you one unless you know the peak power."

"But I need to turn the device on today. So..."

As if anticipating what I was going to say he said, "Then I guess you will have to find out what it is."

Leaving the store behind, I called the disassembly squad member again. The data that the squad had was indicating that the average power during operation was less than 350W. I returned to the store and relayed that to the shopkeeper, who then recommended a 600VA transformer with 220 to 240V output. I immediately bought it. He gave me the transformer in a bag and it was really heavy. I muttered, "It's surprisingly heavy, isn't it?"

"That's because it's a transformer," he responded as if saying, "Why are you stating the obvious?"

Nevertheless, I heard him loudly shout, "Thank you very much," as I was leaving the store after getting my change and a receipt. I didn't know why, but it filled me with a warm feeling. It was as if all my efforts during the day had just been rewarded.

Once I returned to the editorial office, I connected the transformer to the multifunction printer and turned it on.

"It works!" I couldn't help shouting. Colleagues that didn't know what I had gone through were staring at me coldly.

Everything is ready (I hope). All we need to do now is to break it down with the help of an engineer.