Although oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers have flashy features, and get most of the attention, there is no instrument more useful to an electronics engineer than the lab DC power supply. It’s used for nearly every design, prototype, and test activity, and a supply that doesn’t have the right features, can not only hinder your productivity, but compromise your designs as well. That being the case, it might be a good idea to take a look at the lab supply that you’re currently using and think about upgrading.
Here is what you should consider when choosing adjustable DC power supply features:
Linear output regulation
Watt for watt, switching supplies are smaller than linear supplies and offer more control features, but linear supplies are often a better choice for benchtop work. On the bench, power density is usually not an issue, and linear supplies have lower output noise specifications than switching supplies. (For more information on this topic, see “Are linear supplies or switching supplies the best choice for your test system?”)
For many applications, you’ll need more than one output, and while you can connect multiple supplies to a system or circuit under test, that can be kludgey. When buying a supply with multiple outputs, look for one that has isolated outputs, so that they can be operated separately or in parallel. Another useful feature for a multiple-output supply is a tracking mode that lets you control both outputs with a single control.
The easier it is to set up a power supply, the more productive you will be. Separate controls for voltage and current is a must on a lab DC power supply, and the voltage control should either be a multi-turn control or there should be a separate fine tune control. These controls should allow you to quickly set the output voltage to exactly the value required.
Another useful feature is the ability to lock the voltage and current settings at specific values. This prevents you or a technician from accidentally bumping the controls and changing the settings while you’re debugging or running a test.
Another safety feature is the ability to set the span of the voltage output control. Setting the min and max values of this control gives you more precise control of the output voltage and protects your system or circuit by preventing you from setting an output voltage that’s too high.
With this feature, you can switch the output on or off without turning the supply off completely. With this feature, you can set up the supply without worrying how your adjustments will affect the load.
PC control functions.
For many benchtop applications, PC control is not really necessary, but if your lab DC power supply does have remote control capability, you will be able to automate many of the repetitive tests you run in your lab. In many applications, doing this will improve your productivity.
The Sorensen XEL Series offers all of these features and more. For more information on the XEL Series and AMETEK Programmable Power’s other benchtop supplies, you can send e-mail to email@example.com or phone 800-733-5427.