When designing a system, many engineers lean towards making products smaller and cutting development costs. Often, the mechanical optimisations are made with developing smaller PCBs, more compact cooling components or minimising dead space between circuits. System design has become a delicate art of managing the size of a product and the cost of producing said system.
Where system designers fail however is by ignoring the importance of power components in achieving their mechanical goal. If the selection of the power supply is left to be made late in the product development cycle, it may be challenging to find the right power component to fit both your physical constraints and electrical load requirements. This may result in the selection of the wrong power supply, for example if your system is too small for an off-the-shelf power component meeting your power output needs, you may be forced to opt for a component that delivers less power, hurting the performance and efficiency of your machine.
The hurdle most system designers stumble at is the cooling needs of the power components they select for their systems. Often, in the interest of meeting tight size requirements, system designers do not take into proper account how the power component will need to be cooled. Your system’s longevity can be seriously damaged by inadequate airflow for cooling, as excess heat can damage both your power components and other circuits in your systems.
There are three main methods power supplies use to dispel excess heat:
· Forced Air
Sophisticated power supplies can blend two or more of the above methods to create a hybrid cooling system.
A convention power supply requires no fan cooling. But, where system designers often misunderstand convection cooling is assuming that without the need for a fan, there is no need for airflow to operate the component.
Convection cooling works on the transfer of heat by the circulation or movement of hot air. As hot air rises, cool air is drawn from the sides of the component, providing the cooling required for operation.
It is therefore important to ensure that there is adequate space for air to be down from the sides and system designers developing compact systems should keep mindful of the airflow clearance when selecting convection cooled power supplies.
Forced cooled products rely on external cooling fans to operate. These are relatively easy to implement as they rely on maintaining an adequate ambient temperature. Forced air power supplies can reach higher power outputs if powerful external fans are used, so are perfect for high power applications.
The degree of cooling is important to maintain high performance and operating life. Often, it is a cooling fan that is the first to fail, and any fall in cooling performance will lead to adverse effects on a system’s reliability. Therefore, fan performance should be monitored during operation to avoid failure. Also, as a mechanical component, fan cooled forced air components have an added noise element from fans spinning.
Conduction power supplies, like convection cooled components, do not require fans for cooling. These power supplies instead rely on a cold plate to remove the waste heat via heat conduction.
Conduction can dispel more heat than air convection – allowing for higher power outputs – whilst removing the requirement for a noisy and failure-prone fan. Conduction supplies also allow for greater ingress protection for dust and water by being fully enclosed.
We at Components Bureau understand that mechanical cooling methods have a direct correlation to the size, reliability and cost of your systems. That’s why we’ve uniquely positioned ourselves to help you find your optimal solution given your power requirements. Get in touch with us today for independent advice from our experts.
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