Designing High Power Electronics for Optimal Manufacturing

No reasonable person can argue that there aren’t times when habits, rituals, and opinions that have been followed, performed, and held for long periods should be changed. However, any wise person can also recognize that some traditions should be continued because they are based on or promote ideas that are timeless. One tradition in my family has been participating in the Boy Scouts of America, which strives to build character in young men and women through physical activities, community involvement, and public service. This organization has and should continue to be an asset to families and communities by empowering youth with the tools necessary to be productive adults because of its foundational ideal. That is to “be prepared.”

Today, industrial production is undergoing a change from tradition. This change is in fact a revolution, known as Industry 4.0. And factories must prepare their manufacturing operations to be competitive during this technological advance. This means optimizing manufacturing such that products are ready and available when needed. Meeting this requirement means having reliable and efficient equipment and processes, which cannot be done without high-quality high power electronics that drive the machinery and equipment. Let’s take a look at how high power electronics are used in industrial environments and then how following good design guidelines for high power PCBAs can help ensure production is optimal.

High Power Electronics Applications

High power electronics may be components, devices or PCBAs. Components include resistors, capacitors, inductors, transformers, diodes, transistors, other amplifiers, switches and other discrete elements that accept, transmit or process high power signals. Devices include ICs, transmitters, receivers, antennas, power supplies and relays. High power circuit boards are comprised of these components and/or devices, as are larger electronics systems.

PCBAs in many products may include high power electronics. For example, in commercial electronics, such as stereo equipment, boards may consist of high power amplifiers. Aerospace, military, medical devices, and automotive systems may also consist of high power electronics boards. However, industrial production facilities or factories exhibit by far the most common usage of high power electronics PCBAs as embedded products in machinery, drivers for electric motors and other equipment and as controllers for lighting and other facility units. Typical applications in industrial manufacturing include the following.

Applications of Industrial High Power Electronics

  • Power Distribution

Power distribution is a major concern for industrial equipment as many systems have different power requirements. For example, a single machine may consist of motors, robotics, sensors, monitoring equipment, and data processing capability all of which must be managed or controlled. To supply these functions adequately may require linear or switching power supplies and accurate voltage and current output distribution.

  • Switching

Silicon-controlled rectifiers (SCRs), insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), MOSFETs, Shockley diodes and other components are common switches used on high power electronics PCBAs to perform conversions; such as rectification or inversion, or other essential timing functions for industrial processing systems.

  • Lighting Control

In factories, adequate lighting can be critical. On assembly lines where inspection is required insufficient lighting may result in imperfections being overlooked and/or bad products being shipped. Notwithstanding, the growing utilization of energy-efficient LED lighting, warehouse lights still may be high-voltage (hundreds of volts) or high current and must be controllable (or dimmable), which requires high power electronics.

In order for industrial production facilities to meet the optimization levels required to compete with Industry 4.0 factories, the high power electronics boards for the above applications need to be of high-quality and reliable. Let’s take a look at how you can design to meet these objectives.

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High Power Electronics Design Guidelines

When designing industrial boards, which are PCBAs intended for use in production facilities, it is imperative that the environment in which the boards will be installed and operated be considered. When these PCBAs are high power electronics, there are design guidelines, listed below, that can aid your contract manufacturer (CM) in building the best boards for utilization in even the most advanced industrial manufacturing operations.

Design Guidelines for Industrial High Power Electronics PCBAs

  • Adhere to industry regulations and standards

Generally, production facilities are not subject to extensive regulatory control as compared to some specific product types. For example, aerospace and medical devices. However, there are NEC standards that do apply to high power electronics. These should be followed based on the class your board’s circuitry falls under.

  • Choose environment-specific materials

High power electronics usually come with high temperatures. Moreover, many industrial environments will only exacerbate the heat your board may be exposed to. Therefore, it is critical that you select materials that can withstand the range of temperatures that it may be subjected to. This is in addition to performing simulations to ensure that your board meets thermal dissipation and distribution requirements.

  • Design for electromagnetic compatibility

High power electronics boards almost always contain switches and EM radiators. Therefore, designing to achieve electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) with the board’s industrial environment is a mandatory design consideration. For details on how to achieve this balance. see Designing for Electromagnetic Compatibility in Power Electronics.

  • Make safety a priority

Just as industrial facilities prioritize safety to protect their employees, you should make safety a major consideration for your design. This means ensuring to use heavy copper for high current boards, following good design rules for high voltage boards and using protection circuitry on your PCBA.

High power electronics are the drivers of industrial production equipment. Building circuit boards that are comprised of high power components require that you incorporate special requirements into your design to ensure these boards will meet acceptable quality and reliability levels for the environment in which they will be deployed. Tempo Automation, the PCB industry leader for fast, high-quality prototyping and low-volume production manufacturing, is committed to the highest quality standards and experienced in building boards that meet or exceed industrial environment standards.

Tempo‘s Industry 4.0 Custom PCB Manufacturing Services
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600 and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Agile manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 3 days.
  • High precision, complex PCB fabrication and assembly capabilities.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time and help with component security.
  • Specialization in fast prototyping and low-volume production.
  • Standard quality testing; including X-ray and inline AOI.
  • Advanced QC testing; including flying probe, time domain reflectometry and ROSE.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on high power electronics or designing for industrial environment optimization, contact us.

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