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Cambridge Consultants claims industry first for critical power supply design

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 18:36 -- Ruth Williams

UK developers Cambridge Consultants is claiming a global industry first after creating for a client a fully digital-controlled 10kW power supply crammed into a uniquely compact design.

Eighteen months on from the client’s request, Cambridge Consultants has delivered an industry-leading switch-mode power supply platform for industrial applications – in a form factor of 19” x 2U. The firm say that it is a quarter of the usual size and is combined with high resilience for critical loads where system downtime incurs considerable cost.

“The challenge was not only the size – we also had to take into account heat rejection, cost and weight as well as functionality,” said programme director Derek Wallis, of Cambridge Consultants. “The client had been told it was an impossible task. But we assessed and de-risked the problem, and built a multi-disciplinary team to come up with a solution.”

From a mains supply of 360-480V AC, the power supply platform can output 10 kW over an output voltage range of 100V to 200V – which is fully programmable through its digital interface. The sophisticated control strategy enables up to 60 units to be connected in parallel to form systems of up to 600 kW capacity. And the deterministic communication network of master and slave units permits redundancy – avoiding unnecessary downtime.

Each unit in the bank controls a proportion of the total load, as instructed by the master unit. In addition to controlling power transfer, the field-programmable gate array in each power supply monitors system health and maintains safe operating conditions. If any unit exhibits abnormal or fault conditions, it informs the master unit which then disables it from the bank and redistributes the power demand between the remaining units.

“This kind of high resilience is vital for critical loads like IT equipment, uninterruptible power supplies, manufacturing lines and process control, where system downtime incurs considerable cost,” said Wallis. “The solution eradicates the need for a large range of different power supply variants to be designed and maintained.”