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AC-DC Power Supplies Are Shrinking

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Ann R. Thryft
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It sure took awhile
Ann R. Thryft   2/21/2013 2:25:35 PM
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Thanks for reporting on this. I remember hearing about 20 years ago that power supply designers were trying to make their products smaller, but it was a tough job to make that happen. Looks like progress has been made since then.

mrdon
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Re: It sure took awhile
mrdon   2/22/2013 1:30:26 AM
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Ann, As pointed out in the article, todays electronics are getting smaller in size but the power requirements are going up. It's great that power semiconductor manufacturers like International Rectifier are developing technologies that meet both design requirements. I agree, its nice to see the arrival of this semiconductor technology in power electronics.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It sure took awhile
Ann R. Thryft   2/22/2013 11:43:09 AM
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mrdon, those are exactly the reasons I was hearing 20 years ago that power supplies needed to get smaller, let alone more efficient. IR has long been in the forefront of advances in power supply design and manufacturing. At one time (maybe more than one?) industry pundits have said that power supplies were a major roadblock in advancing the state of electronics.

mrdon
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Re: It sure took awhile
mrdon   2/22/2013 4:30:07 PM
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Ann, You and TJ are absolutely correct about small size vs cost. One of my biggest challenges in developing LED Lighting fixtures while working at Hunter Fan was power supply efficiency, small size, and cost.To achieve a quality power supply,  efficiency cost is part of the Product Development financial equation. I was able to obtain superb power supply efficient (99%) and small size using good PFC based components and proper  PCB thermal management techniques, but the cost was something the Bean Counters couldn't stomach. Unfortunately, efficiency was the design parameter they could leave without.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It sure took awhile
Ann R. Thryft   2/22/2013 4:42:11 PM
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mrdon, it's bad enough that commoditization means cheaper--often too cheap--materials and/or construction. But when the very thing that's one of a product's key characteristics--in this case a power supply's efficiency--is sacrificed by purchasing/accounting, that just beggars belief. I mean, trading off specs and features is part of the process but sounds like you had an exceptionally bad experience.

mrdon
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Re: It sure took awhile
mrdon   2/22/2013 4:47:44 PM
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Ann, Yes that example story is one of many challenges working with an OEM who's life line was soley dependent on outsourcing to Chinese Manufacturers to save a buck.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It sure took awhile
Ann R. Thryft   2/22/2013 4:52:28 PM
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mrdon, how did I know you'd say that? :)

mrdon
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Re: It sure took awhile
mrdon   2/22/2013 5:03:10 PM
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Ann, Only folks with common sense and experience can see things for what they are! :)

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It sure took awhile
Ann R. Thryft   2/25/2013 12:47:47 PM
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mrdon, I heartily agree. Both seem to be in short supply sometimes.

TJ McDermott
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Full UL listing
TJ McDermott   2/22/2013 10:23:34 AM
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For OEMs, a power supply that has a full UL508 listing will always be preferable to one that is only UR (recognized).

OEMs definitely want smaller, but not at the cost of the UL tag.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Full UL listing
Ann R. Thryft   2/22/2013 11:44:24 AM
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TJ makes a good point about price, of course. On a different price note, back when, some power supply designers said they could make advances closer to what was needed in size and efficiency, but that it would cost an arm and a leg to do so.



William K.
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Power supplies are shrinking
William K.   2/22/2013 3:30:12 PM
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Not only are the power supplies getting smaller, but many of them have become commodity items, with the result thatr there is a lot of price pressure. Unfortunately that tends to lead to a reduction in quality from many suppliers, while others chgarge a bit more for a better product. Consider that some of the better suppliers are able to sell a supply for amost twice the price of what others offer, a product with similar size and power ratings. So evidently in some areas quality and robustness still matter.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
Cabe Atwell   2/22/2013 4:08:03 PM
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Lower power/smaller size is only expected. What is troubling about the trend for the DIY/learning crowd, how does the average human place a 0603? Not easily. Will through hole components stay, or will pre-mounted small form factor take over? I am sure the price or old-style components will increase. The size and style of the through-hole resistor hasn't changed in decades, and they stay relevant.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
Ann R. Thryft   2/22/2013 4:37:40 PM
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William, that's exactly what's been needed--for power supplies to become commodities so they'd be cheap enough and small enough. At least that was the push 20 years ago. But at that time, I didn't hear anyone complaining about what would happen when components were cheapened to reach that goal. Now I think we're all aware a lot more, as both designers and consumers, of the effects of this problem, whether it's cheapo plastic gears in clocks or sub-efficient power supplies.

William K.
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
William K.   2/24/2013 8:54:43 PM
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What I find is that to provide the quality in my product that justifies the price I need to use a power supply that is quite a bit more expensive than the cheapest one that would work. But the adequate margins abd better construction have meant that no failure have occured in ten years. That has been quite good for the products reputation. It IS INDEED cheaper to do things right the first time.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
Ann R. Thryft   2/25/2013 12:48:50 PM
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William, I agree. But apparently the math needed to figure that out is too complicated for some companies, or they are too short-sighted. In this case, one hardly needs 20/20 hindsight to come to your conclusion.

William K.
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
William K.   2/25/2013 10:06:46 PM
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Ann, there are a whole lot of products that are simply not worth repairing. Others aren definitely worth repairing and happen to be conveniently repairable. THAT did not just happen: designing for repairability is cloesly linked to designed for assembly. Only just a bit more effort. 

But it also has an extra benefit, which is a design using components available from multiple sources. So that when I can't get parts frpom one maker, I can use parts from another maker. That is quite handy.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
Ann R. Thryft   2/26/2013 12:29:52 PM
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William, I was speaking sarcastically; perhaps that didn't translate.

William K.
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
William K.   2/26/2013 9:04:04 PM
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Ann, sorry about that. I don't do much sarcasm, nor irony. Quite possibly I am way to serious about things. 

I am quite critical of both laziness and stupidity, though. I do catch grief for that on occasions. 

Really though, there are a whole lot of companies that appear to be successful that have products that are very challenging to even diagnose, let alone to service. Some of them get into the "made by monkeys" section of this fine publication, some don't.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Power supplies are shrinking
Ann R. Thryft   2/27/2013 11:40:59 AM
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But sarcasm and irony are so much fun :)
I'm also very annoyed by products that don't work as they should and/or or difficult/impossible to repair. It makes you wonder why anyone ever bothered to make them in the first place.



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