Equipment Manufacturers

Equipment manufacturers must focus on designing & manufacturing equipment that meets their market needs. Some products are relatively simple & some are complex—but all use electronics. Whether simple or complex, many equipment designs are now digital. Those that are still analog are quickly approaching digital designs. Equipment designers must focus on maintaining that competitive edge & reducing costs as their engineering staff continues to improve efficiency. One critical part of every equipment design that manufacturers often take for granted is power quality. According to the IEEE standard 1100-1992 (R1999, R2005), IEEE Recommended Practice for Powering & Grounding Electronic Equipment, power quality is defined as “the concept of powering & grounding electronic equipment in a manner that is suitable to that equipment”.

No source of power—AC or DC, is perfect & free of disturbances. The objective of A&E designers is to deliver power from the utility service entrance to a piece of equipment in the building they’re designing. At the end of the day, customers want their utility power to be compatible with their building electrical system (BES) & with every piece of downstream equipment. Compatibility is the concept of providing power to a piece of equipment that does not cause malfunctions & damage to that equipment, & vice versa—equipment that does not introduce disturbances into the electrical environment surrounding that equipment. It is not the responsibility of A&E designers to fully understand how equipment reacts to common everyday electrical disturbances & how operating equipment affects customer BESs. This is the job of PQ engineering experts like PBE Engineers—to aid A&E designers in this effort.

Manufacturers aim to design equipment that will provide the functionality required by their customers & don’t usually fully understand the real-world electrical environment the equipment must live in. With electrical environments & weather patterns changing so fast, matching designs to expected electrical threats can be challenging. However, the proper focus on ensuring compatible operation between the equipment & its intended present & ever-changing electrical environment is a hard target to hit.  Why?  This is because equipment designers are mainly focused on ensuring their equipment provides the expected functions for their customers. Yes, designers must follow domestic, international & specialty standards to ensure safety & aim for compatibility the best they can. But the reality is that standards are slow to develop & can’t stay in sync with changing electrical environments.

Designers may overlook some of the electrical threats critical of the reliability & performance of the equipment’s power supply & other “backdoors” that disturbances can enter to cause equipment problems. The power supply, whether AC or DC, is the critical electrical interface between the surrounding electrical environment (geographic location, site composition & building design) & the equipment’s function. It is the “buffer” between the equipment’s environment & its sensitive electronics. The power supply must “shield & protect” the equipment’s downstream electronics from the byproducts of today’s PQ phenomena—called electrical PQ disturbances.

PBE’s team of expert PQ engineers with equipment design experience can help manufacturers & their designers understand, identify, solve & prevent (UISP) any power & environment-related equipment malfunctions, damage, or failures. With 70 to 80% of all PQ problems caused by wiring & grounding errors internal to building electrical systems, end-use equipment is constantly exposed to existing & new electrical PQ disturbances which will eventually render it inoperable. PBE Engineers are knowledgeable regarding power supply design topologies, how they react to all types of PQ disturbances occurring in facilities & how their operation can impact the performance of a BES which can impact other equipment in that same building.

PBE’s approach to understanding the PQ emissions & immunity performance of end-use equipment is based on the PQ phenomena that occurs in customer facilities. PQ disturbances that occur in customer facilities involve the building’s wiring & grounding system, the disturbances that occur in that system & those that designers & customers don’t expect to get in. While the disturbances defined in standards are important when attempting to understand the basic PQ immunity performance of equipment, they do not represent all of what can occur in the real-world electrical environments in customer facilities.

PBE’s expert PQ engineers use expert PQ data management & analysis software to identify the underlying PQ immunity issues lurking in an equipment design waiting to cause customers headaches & extensive problems. When a power supply has a negative reaction to a disturbance, downstream electronics can also be damaged. Ironically, damage caused by disturbances incident upon equipment can be “accumulating” in the equipment over a long period, waiting for a latent failure to suddenly occur. Many pieces of equipment use “plug-in” power supplies which can be easily replaced. However, if a latent failure downstream of the power supply occurs, a replacement power supply won’t solve the problem.

Unfortunately, manufacturers too frequently experience a rash of malfunctions & failures upon product entry into the market. Malfunctions & failures can easily get into the 1,000’s of dollars, & in some cases cause financial losses into the hundreds of thousands & millions of dollars in some customer markets.

PBE’s vast knowledge of power supply & equipment designs & PQ immunity performance, places us at the top of the list with respect to PQ consultants experienced in identifying weak links in electronic equipment design. PBE can “peel away the layers” of an equipment design to determine how & why disturbances cause equipment malfunctions & failures. “Peeling away the layers” in a power supply & equipment design allows PBE engineers to understand the dynamics of the power supply, its downstream components & systems & why designs react to PQ disturbances. We demonstrate to designers the types of “perfect storms” that occur to cause unexpected costly equipment problems for their customers.

The real-world PQ immunity testing approach that PBE applies to power supplies & equipment designs exposes them to the PQ phenomena that occurs in real-world electrical environments. Our approach for determining which disturbances to apply depends on how the front-end protection is designed & implemented as well as methods to achieve grounding within the equipment. Identifying the weak links in power supplies & equipment extends PQ immunity testing above that defined by IEEE & IEC standards. Application of today’s PQ immunity standards will determine only the basic PQ immunity performance of manufacturers’ designs, leaving the underlying immunity issues untouched. Application of PBE’s real-world PQ immunity testing will find the “hidden” issues that might otherwise show up in front of the customer when the equipment is supposed to be operating correctly in the customer’s facility.