Automation has found application in a huge range of industries, it is often taken for granted as it has become a standard feature and in our day to day lives. Within the manufacturing industry it has been applied for a long time but it is constantly evolving, initially it was applied in high volume high production rate manufacture such as those found in the automotive industry, chemical processing and chip manufacture. As the technology and machine learning advanced to become both more reliable and flexible it has found use in a variety of end user applications such as ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems), agriculture, safety systems used in aviation and rail.
Automation makes use of many technological advances, but a few key drivers in advancing the technology have been artificial intelligence (AI), the test and measurement, communications, and robotics industries. These advances have allowed the industrial internet of things (iIoT) to find relevance in the sectors mentioned above, reducing manufacturing times and costs while improving reliability.
As we grow more reliant on autonomation for various processes, we also become dependent on the systems reliability and integrity to rejecting faults. Autonomation processes often rely on feedback loops which integrate sensors to provide information to the control system so that it can adjust its output. Most of these sensors provide a voltage or current signal, the magnitude of which corresponds to the value of the parameter being sensed. For example, a pressure sensor will exhibit a voltage that corresponds to how much pressure is applied to the pad, the resolution of the sensor is often in the single digit millivolt range. Sensors are often designed without electromagnetic compliance (EMC) consideration, as they are designed to be as compact as possible and rely on the final application design of the customer.
Careful consideration must be taken when designing these systems incorporating high resolution sensors, as electromagnetic interference (EMI) can induce a voltage into the signal. These interferences can have adverse effects on performance, can cause data corruption or even cause the entire system to behave unexpectedly. In a manufacturing environment these effects can be further worsened by operating conditions such as vibration and temperature swings.
As the industrial market shifts towards smart manufacture more electronics, such as switched mode power supplies, motors, and communication systems will be used in production lines. This is also the case across several other industries such as the automotive, aerospace and agriculture markets. These electronics can all be sources of EMI and are susceptible to interference themselves. For safety critical applications that operate at a high bandwidth such as those found in ADAS (Advanced driving-assistance systems), the effects of poor EMI management can cause scenarios where there are serious risks to end users.
While system design is a crucial aspect of mitigating these risk factors, the requirement for compliant and reliable power supplies to integrate with these applications becomes ever more important.
The power delivered to a system is often a great indicator of how the system is performing. Modern day power supplies offer a variety of communication protocols to allow for remote monitoring, both through a hardwire connection and wireless interface through the cloud. These monitoring systems allow the system operators to adjust parameters on the go, and helps ensure the system operates as expected. In a more complex system these communication features can be used to feedback data to a digital controller where the output is automatically adjusted to meet the application requirements. In a manufacturing environment this may be adjusting the output of a laser to cut through materials at an optimal rate, in an electric vehicle safety system it may apply DC injection breaking to assist in bringing the vehicle to a complete stop before an accident occurs.
Power converters are a key component in any electrical system and as several industries increase their reliance on electrical power, they will be applied in more applications. These converters are often in the field for a decade or more, with the current rate of advancement futureproofing for increased power handling capabilities is something to consider. Here at Display Technology we offer a variety of industry proven modular and scalable power supplies, these have been used in agriculture, medical, and industrial applications.
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