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Whether it be a product’s composition or the introduction of innovative technology it is clear that one can never rest on their laurels when striving to push their business forward in the industry of power.
Bob Tapping, Managing Director of Eastern Transformers & Equipment (ETE), has been in the power game for over 50 years and can attest to the unbelievable advancement in technology that has occurred over the course of his career. There has been a substantial shift in consumer requirements during this time, with these changes really amplifying within the past 20 to 30 years, due to the rapid emergence of new technologies varying the type of power necessitated for numerous applications.
PAC-MAN, Hip-Hop, and AC Power
If we travel back in time to 1980s, and even the bulk of the 1990s, power products were primarily AC. Control panels were a prime example of this with components such as contactor-based transfer switches and protective trip relays relying on an AC supply.
Consequently, DC power supplies (PSUs) were not a highly sought after commodity during this period. This is not to say that AC input to DC output (AC to DC) power products didn’t exist however. Railways are an example of a system that has always used DC. Appropriately, AC to DC power products still had their place in the market; they were just, in comparison, less frequently required than their AC to AC counterparts due to a smaller number of applications requiring DC output at the time.
If DC output was required then linear PSUs were the product of choice. Big, bulky, and expensive, this form of PSU was far from ideal but was the only real option available. This, if anything, reflects the lack investment into developing AC to DC PSUs during this period owing to the shortage of any sizeable demand.
Switch-mode power supplies: The rise of DC power
Linear PSUs were the principal method of AC to DC power conversion until the emergence of switch-mode power technology in the late 1970s began to shake things up. The first commercially available switch-mode PSU was released in 1977 and the next 20 years would see AC to DC power go from strength to strength.
It was not all plain sailing for switch-mode power in the beginning. Switch-mode power utilises complex technology and, during the early days, had a relatively high failure rate as a result. Consequently, people were hesitant to switch over to this upcoming form of power technology as its worth was still to be proven. As time passed, the components were improved to maximise reliability to the point where, today, returns due to failure are almost non-existent.
Switch-mode PSUs run at much higher efficiencies than linear PSUs making them a much more economical option. ETE offer Mean Well switch-mode PSUs with efficiencies as high as 94.5%, a substantial improvement on standard linear options that generally possess efficiencies of around 60%.
Furthermore, switch-mode PSUs are conveniently designed for use anywhere in the world. Linear PSUs have a very limited input range in which taps must be changed for operation in different countries. Switch-mode PSUs on the other hand can be used from industrial China to the outback of Australia without need for any adjustments. This is due to them, generally, having a wide input range of 85V AC to 264V AC where any input between these voltages will get a stabilised output from the unit.
As demand for AC to DC power products has enhanced, the variety of switch-mode PSUs has grown exponentially. There are now hundreds of size and voltage options available at significantly reduced prices to years ago. Mean Well, the fifth largest DC output power supply manufacturer in the world, illustrate this perfectly with over 9,000 high quality DC PSUs available from 1 Watt to 10,000 Watts, with output voltages between 3.3V and 48V DC, all at very competitive prices.
AC power throughout the years
There has not been a huge amount of change to AC transformers throughout the years. The materials have become standardised and more sophisticated, there is a much wider temperature range available, and they are more aesthetically pleasing than ever before; nonetheless, the principles haven’t changed.
The fact that there are more temperature ratings available than ever before has given the buyer more choice. Temperatures can range from Class E (120 °C) to Class C (180 °C +) without performance, reliability, and safety being affected. Transformers won’t break down when working at higher temperatures, allowing the buyer to make an informed decision as to what temperature rating they require based on the application for which the transformer is being used. Consumers who are more cost driven could opt for a Class C transformer, whereas others might require their transformer to run cooler and select a Class E type.
The appearance of the transformer was an aspect that was swept under the carpet until relatively recently. As competition has grown, manufacturers have been looking for ways to make their products catch the eye. ETE are among the market leaders when it comes to the aesthetically pleasing look of their transformers with each being finished off with a visually appealing coloured varnish. Additionally, accessories, such as the clamps, are epoxy powder coated to create a truly striking professional finish to complement the highly reliable completed product.
DC to DC power products
DC to DC power products are becoming increasingly popular, with the development of electronics, resulting in the power consumption for many applications being lower than ever before. Advancements in computer technology is an example of this since old computers were colossal in size and drew a lot of power compared to their smaller and less power hungry modern counterparts.
The advent of switch-mode power has paved the way for a wide variety of DC to DC PSUs being developed. As the popularity of DC to DC power grows as will the different types of PSU needed to meet the requirements of the new applications using this form of power.
Power in the 21st Century
Power in the 21st Century is constantly developing and we now have the most precise and controlled form of power that has ever existed thanks to modern electronics and computer technology. Many of these contemporary technological developments can be found within current control panels, for example: programmable logic controllers (PLC), touch screens, digital metering, and inverter drives.
The demands of applications are growing as businesses and organisations increasingly rely more heavily on power. It is fundamental in the modern day to have power backed up since most operations are totally reliant on it. If power were to stop then the developed world would come to a standstill. We are using more power than ever before and our usage is only intensifying which is why it is fundamental that technology continues to advance and, most importantly, businesses keep up to date with the latest electrical developments.
Tony Harper is Marketing Manager for ETE, having originally joined the company as Marketing Assistant just over two years ago. Tony achieved a First Class degree in BSc Psychology from Coventry University and has been utilising the psychological principles developed, along with his creative flair, to manage all aspects marketing within his current position. Whether it be brochure design, website maintenance, or telemarketing his across-the-board prowess is continuously growing.
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