3 Key Trends in Industrial Power in the Age of Industry 4.0

Kevin Parmenter, Excelsys, an Advanced Energy company



We hear many thoughts on Industry 4.0, the Industrial IoT (IIoT), and 3D printing regarding their impact on manufacturing. Each new innovation, regardless of of where it occurs production process or in the processing, will need power electronics to make it all happen. The industrial market has been a steady one over the years, posting continued growth while the rest of the electronics market is in flux.  With all the changes brought on by Industry 4.0, what are the key trends in industrial power that can make or break an enterprise’s Industry 4.0 implementation?

First, industrial power specifications are changing.  Specification 60950 is being integrated into a new specification, 62368, which is more of a risk-based approach to safety. The PSMA Safety and Compliance Committee recently hosted a presentation from UL on 62368-1, which has been archived on the PSMA website at no charge, and can be found at http://www.psma.com/technical-forums/safety/presentations. This standard, 61010, and the legacy UL508(A) and 60950 are the most often referenced requirements for industrial power supplies.  Humidity can be a concern so conformal coating of the power supply might be requested from time to time depending on the application. 

The other trend in industrial power is a focus on resiliency, specifically the ability for a power supply to sustain more severe line surges and transients – 300 volts for 5 seconds with no damage and the ability to withstand line transients and spikes to the K.21 level, IEEE C62.41-1991 or equivalent is not uncommon.  

A third trend is that legacy instrumentation systems, which used linear power supplies, now need to convert to switching power supplies.  It was thought that the very low noise offered by linear power supplies made it impossible for switchers to be used in many of these applications.   This belief has been entrenched in the engineer’s minds for so long, they did not even try to replace linears with switching power supplies in certain applications.  We now see commercial linear power supplies being discontinued, and the tap switching fuse holders to support these power supplies also being discontinued. These discontinuations are forcing conversion. The additional size, weight and heat of the linear, coupled with the inability to automatically adapt to line voltages all over the world are also key factors in converting.   Using filtering techniques, careful grounding, and shielding schemes can allow switching power supplies to replace linear supplies with all the associated benefits.   New fanless power supplies also offer the ability to have sealed boxes so as not to pull in contaminants in along with cooling air inside the systems as well as eliminating the noise and vibration associated with a fan.  Some industrial applications, such as analysis instrumentation and measurement systems resolving nanometers, do not deal well with vibration from any source including fans.  Subsequently, it is incumbent upon power providers to make power conversion more efficient so we can remove fans and seal products.