Helping industry power ahead

  • Date 4 Apr 2013

The challenge was equivalent to compressing a bulldozer into a small hatchback. The client wanted a fully digital-controlled 10kW power supply crammed into a uniquely compact form factor. It had never been done before – until the client approached product development company Cambridge Consultants.

Eighteen months on from the client’s ‘mission impossible’, Cambridge Consultants has delivered an industry-leading switch-mode power supply platform for industrial applications – in a form factor of 19” x 2U. That’s a quarter of the usual size – and it’s combined with high resilience for critical loads where system downtime incurs considerable cost.

“The challenge was not only the size – we also had to take into account heat rejection, cost and weight as well as functionality,” said programme director Derek Wallis, of Cambridge Consultants. “The client had been told it was an impossible task. But we assessed and de-risked the problem, and built a multi-disciplinary team to come up with a solution.”

From a mains supply of 360-480Vac, the power supply platform can output 10kW over an output voltage range of 100V to 200V – which is fully programmable through its digital interface. The sophisticated control strategy enables up to 60 units to be connected in parallel to form systems of up to 600kW capacity. And the deterministic communication network of master and slave units permits redundancy – avoiding unnecessary downtime.

Each unit in the bank controls a proportion of the total load, as instructed by the master unit. In addition to controlling power transfer, the field-programmable gate array in each power supply monitors system health and maintains safe operating conditions. If any unit exhibits abnormal or fault conditions, it informs the master unit which then disables it from the bank and redistributes the power demand between the remaining units.

“This kind of high resilience is vital for critical loads like IT equipment, uninterruptible power supplies, manufacturing lines and process control, where system downtime incurs considerable cost,” said Wallis. “The solution eradicates the need for a large range of different power supply variants to be designed and maintained.”

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