Semiconductors and Components

New applications drive new capabilities in programmable power supplies

19 April 2023

If it’s been a while — like five to 10 years — since you’ve purchased a programmable power supply, AMETEK Programmable Power expects that you’ll notice some significant changes in terms of what’s currently available. Both AC and DC devices have seen increases in power density translating to rack space savings, along with added flexibility in power, current and voltage ratings that can help users future-proof their test systems to meet changing requirements.

Over the past five to 10 years, what’s available in programmable power supplies has seen significant changes, as evidenced by the breadth of AMETEK’s product lineup. Source: AMETEK Programmable Power Inc.Over the past five to 10 years, what’s available in programmable power supplies has seen significant changes, as evidenced by the breadth of AMETEK’s product lineup. Source: AMETEK Programmable Power Inc.One trend in programmable AC sources, AMETEK notes, is the increasing demand for higher power ratings. Just a decade ago, 5- to 10-kVA was considered high power. Today, requirements for half a million VA are common, driven partly by the need to test grid-scale renewable-energy equipment. Modern AC models offer regenerative and electronic-load capabilities that are a fit for high-power applications, along with emulation capabilities that can smooth the transition from legacy sources.

Named for a star in the Canes Venatici (Hunting Dogs) constellation, the California Instruments Asterion AC product lineup includes 1U, 2U, 4U and 14U chassis versions offering output ratings from 500 VA to 18,000 VA. 14U versions can also be paralleled for 36,000 VA. The series also provides flexibility, offering both AC and DC outputs with low and high voltage ranges of 200 or 400 V AC and 250 or 500 V DC.

AMETEK offers a quick calculation to compare the 4U Model AST6003, which delivers 6,000 VA, to a legacy source providing 5,500 VA at an 8.71-in.-high (equivalent to 5U) configuration: The AST6003 delivers a power density of 1,500 VA per rack unit versus 1,100 VA per rack unit for the legacy source — a 36% improvement.

Entries in the high-power AC-source range, meanwhile, include the Sequoia, a full four-quadrant AC source with electronic-load capability, and the Tahoe, an economical two-quadrant option. Both employ silicon-carbide (SiC) devices to boost switching speeds and improve efficiency, and both are available in three form factors — 15 kVA, 22/30/45 kVA, and 90 kVA — all of which can deliver the same power rating in DC mode. Units can be also connected in parallel to produce significantly higher powers — a dozen connected 90-kVA units, for instance, can produce a 1.08-MVA maximum rating.

In the DC world, the Sorensen Asterion DC ASM series packs 5,100 W into a 1U chassis through three independent, isolated 1,700 W channels, replacing legacy systems that previously required three separate 1U chassis. The series is designed for telecommunications, commercial, military, aerospace, semiconductor and automotive applications requiring low profile, light-weight power supplies, and it offers nine different fixed-range output-voltage options that extend from 40 V to 600 V.

Or, for optimal flexibility in output voltage and current ratings, consider the Asterion DC ASA series three-channel supplies: Each channel delivers a 600 W autoranging output in which maximum output voltage varies inversely with maximum output current — a fit when your required maximum voltage and current ratings may change with successive devices under test.

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