Is Your Factory Power Source Corrupting Your Product Testing?

When it comes to product testing new electrical and electronic equipment, having a consistently reliable source of AC power is of paramount importance
While you may feel confident that the AC power lines in your manufacturing plant or design facility are reliable in terms of consistent availability, when you really think about it, you may feel somewhat less than certain that these sources are providing the power quality needed for accurate product test measurements.

Even an occasional power quality problem can disrupt your operations. All it takes is sufficient deviation from norms in the power supplied from your factory’s AC main during a product test to cause obvious operational problems in the equipment being tested. The symptoms of poor power quality caused by surges and spikes, transients, blackouts, noise and sags are often readily apparent, leading to such problems as equipment failures, safety hazards, process interruptions and shutdowns. Often, though, there are more subtle fluctuations in voltage that do not result in such obvious problems. Nevertheless, these can wreak havoc on product performance and efficiency test measurements.pf1351

AC-main voltage fluctuations in a typical production facility often result from the wide variety of heavy-duty machinery in use throughout the facility at different times of the day. Such varying power usage can cause large swings in voltage at a factory’s individual circuit locations, rendering them unable to provide the AC power necessary for accurate and consistent test measurements.

Designs of AC motors, solenoids, levers and actuators must have predictable performance characteristics that engineers can rely on to achieve design goals. The inability to accurately measure incremental differences in the performance of each design change of a product, or to verify stated product specifications and efficiency, can result in a number of problems for manufacturers. In addition to the potentially huge costs associated with additional engineering and testing (and the resulting delays in getting a product to market), final product performance and reliability may be compromised or unpredictable, the need for repairs may increase, the product may not meet its published specs, efficiency ratings may be reduced and, ultimately, customer satisfaction will be negatively impacted. In a worst-case scenario, a good product design can be unnecessarily scrapped.

Selecting the right power supply can make a difference for any manufacturer experiencing AC-related problems. A power supply for a production test facility must be robust and rugged enough to handle the demands of a factory environment, while being able to deliver clean, regulated AC output regardless of input fluctuations. Variable voltage and frequency capabilities should be included to enable testing at high and low limits. A motor-test option with fold-back/soft-start capabilities can deliver significant time and cost benefits, and remote-control or computer-control features for automated testing can be invaluable in a large production test facility. (Behlman’s Motor Test option has high peak current capability and a fold-back feature used to soft-start motors.)

The bottom line is that the right AC power supply can ensure absolutely predictable and consistent power for equipment testing, which can save a tremendous amount of time and money, as well as perhaps even the reputation of a manufacturer.

[Portions of this post are adapted from previous articles written by the author for Behlman Electronics.]

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