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Interpreting Complex Data Sheet Specifications For Power Supplies–Part I

The operating and safety specifications for power supplies have become more complex, adding to the length, level of detail and complexity of data sheets. Nowadays, the data sheet for a product series has to include everything from voltage combinations to mechanical drawings—oftentimes for dozens of different models. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, reading one can be a daunting task.

In the next series of blog posts, we’ll dig into some of the specifications you can expect to find on today’s power supply data sheets, including:

Electrical. To keep up with new technologies on the market, power supply manufacturers have had to add more output voltages to their devices, as well as widen the input voltage ranges. At Polytron, for example, a product series that used to have only 15 models now has well over 50 to account for all the new voltage combinations.

Thermal. Despite the demands for higher power and wider ranges, customers still want small packages. As a result, engineers have to come up with creative ways to avoid overheating, including adding heat sinks or fans to transfer heat away from the device. The addition of these components adds to a data sheet’s length and level of detail.

Packaging. In the past, power supply manufacturers typically offered only two mounting options: chassis and PC. Nowadays, however, products must be available in a variety of other mounting options, including screw terminal, vertical mount, DIN rail, surface mount, open-frame and enclosed types—to name a few. All of these require extra drawings that must be included on data sheets.

Safety. Many of the safety certifications listed on data sheets require rigorous testing—especially for medical applications. Many products, for example, require a CE mark, indicating they have met all safety and performance requirements for medical devices in Europe. Passing this certification now requires EMC testing, which typically takes several months, as samples need to be sent back and forth between the manufacturer and testing house. Data sheets are required to indicate all new certifications, testing procedures, special model numbers and designations.