DC Power Supplies / Lab Power Supplies
Power Supplies deliver electric power to a device or circuit (Electrical Load
), usually by stepping down a higher voltage. DC Power Supplies step down the voltage and convert it to DC. For example, 220 VAC to 12 VDC. Every power supply has an input or supply power and converts it by various methods to meet the demand from the electrical load. Power supplies are said to be Regulated
by controlling the output voltage or current to a constant value, even if the load demand current or the supply power varies. At the heart of any power supply is a Transformer
, which converts the supply power to the output power to the load.
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How to select an Adjustable Power Supply. Consider the following:
Know your input supply voltage
. Check to make sure the power supply will work with the supply voltage. Some are universal, meaning they will work over a large range like 100-240 VAC, others have an external or internal switch for 110 VAC/230 VAC operation. You may need to look in the instruction manual to be sure.
Consider a multiple output power supply
Consider a Programmable Power Supply
- Second and third (sometimes even fourth) output options reduce bench space and cost of having additional power supplies. When selecting multiple output power supplies, read the details of the specifications. The additional outputs may be limited by the overall wattage of the power supply (i.e. you may not be able to operate all channels at maximum voltage and current simultaneously).
- Look at whether the additional channels are adjustable. Often the third and fourth outputs are fixed or limited adjustment.
- Look at the convenience of using the display. Some models will display voltage and current for all channels simultaneously.
- Series and Parallel Operation permits the output channels.
- Tracking series operation doubles the Voltage capacity by internally connecting CH1 (Master) and CH2 (Slave) in serial and combining the output to a single channel. CH1 (Master) controls the combined Voltage output level.
- Parallel operation, for example, doubles the current capacity by internally connecting CH1 (Master) and CH2 (Slave) in parallel and combining the output to a single channel with CH1 controlling the combined output.
. Programmable power supplies can be remotely controlled by an input signal, trigger, or PC (by USB, RS-232, or GPIB communications) for automated use. They are often used in manufacturing and laboratory applications because of their flexibility. Some have multiple outputs.
Do you need a stepped pattern or PC communications?
If you use LabVIEW, consider getting a programmable power supply with LabVIEW drivers even if not required for the immediate application. Have the capability for future applications. Some offer password protections for settings useful in manufacturing and other applications to prevent changes.
For DC Power Supplies look at whether it is a Linear or Switching Power Supply
What is the difference between DC Linear and Switch Mode Power Supplies (SMPS)?
Check the analog or digital display; display resolution; accuracy; ripple and noise; and recovery time specifications.
Look for common power supply protections in the specifications
- Linear Power Supplies are a simpler design and lower in cost and efficiency. Voltage is stepped down, then rectified and filtered. At higher currents the step down translates to larger footprint and heavier components: transformers, heat sinks and cooling fans.
- A Switch Mode Power Supply has the AC supply rectified and filtered to obtain DC voltage. Voltage on/off switching at high frequency (10 KHz – 1 MHz) is what permits a switch mode power supply to step down the voltage transferring magnetic energy from the primary windings to secondary windings in the transformer with a smaller transformer and other components than a linear power supply.
- It also improves efficiency by up to 40%. If the load current increases, for example, the output voltage drops and the duty cycle frequency is increased to compensate and maintain constant voltage.
- The higher cost comes from the added complexity.
- Another negative is the electromagnetic interference (EMI) noise. Better switch mode power supplies do a better job in combating EMI noise.
. They will protect the power supply and the load being connected.
- Over current
- Over voltage
- Over temperature protection
- Reverse polarity
Checkout this helpful video on DC Power Supply selection
. Connections for one or all channels called remote sense terminals that compensate for voltage drops in the power supply leads. This helps to ensure that the correct voltage is delivered accurately to the load terminals of the DUT. Many multi-channel power supplies do not provide remote sensing, which degrades from overall system accuracy.
Learn More about Remote Sensing with Power Supplies in this video