mobile | classic
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology Magazine





Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn


Search...

Electronics Buyers' Guide

Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook 2019


 

Power designers are being challenged by spec changes
21 February 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick, Power Electronics / Power Management

Today, engineers are asked to find creative solutions to deliver more power from less space and with higher efficiencies. This makes power system design an increasingly important part of developing technologically advanced electronic equipment. Research by Vicor found that these engineers are facing a myriad of challenges meeting cost and schedule targets.

The research found that power system developers around the globe perceive the biggest challenge to be changes in specifications for the power system during development. Although it may be surprising that this was the biggest problem, rather than technical challenges associated with meeting the system’s requirements, in fact changing specifications make it even harder to deliver a project on time and on budget.

The accompanying graph summarises the responses given when power designers were asked to identify their biggest challenges.

Main problems faced with power system development.
Main problems faced with power system development.

The challenge of changing specifications

Changes to specifications during development was the biggest issue that power system designers surveyed must overcome, with almost all (87%) struggling to deal with this challenge. Changes in specifications mean project delays and increased cost, due to the additional work required to modify the design to meet the new requirements.

It’s clear that these changes do have a major impact on projects, as most of those surveyed (65%) said that changes to product specification are a major contributor to delays in power system development. Although two thirds of power engineers already see the negative impact of changes on their projects, the problem is likely to get worse, as the majority (67%) believed that changes were becoming more common.

The impact of these changes can be dramatic. Almost all (80%) engineers surveyed are struggling to meet project time scales, with a similar number (79%) seeing the time given to each project reducing, and three quarters (72%) having to increase the rate of innovation due to shorter product life cycles. The changes to specifications can only increase the time pressure.

Delayed projects can have a large financial impact. To put it into perspective, take an example of an application that an OEM’s business projections show as starting to pay back within two years of the new system’s five-year product life. The project development in this example takes eight months. If there is even just a two-month delay, the return could reduce by as much as 20%. For a development of $1 million the loss of contribution could exceed $350 000, when one takes into account the reduced product life, as well as the increase in associated development costs. Additionally, these costs would typically be passed to the customer, reducing competitiveness. With half (48%) of respondents experiencing delays of two months or more, it’s clear that reducing, or eliminating, overruns would result in a significant improvement to profitability.

The impact can also be personal, eroding the morale and confidence of engineers who struggle to chase the moving specification goalposts. In Vicor’s experience, it’s likely that specification changes are a factor causing power developers to, on average, rate their power expertise as only 59/100, especially when three quarters of them say they have insufficient in-house expertise to manage the changes.

Causes of specification changes

As the survey findings highlight, changes to specifications are pretty much inevitable for most engineers (87% of our respondents said this was a problem). In Vicor’s experience, changes are most frequently driven by technical issues, particularly when the exact power budget is not known at the start of the project, loads are changed or restrictions are placed on thermal management due to space restrictions. External market or competitive forces can also cause a change to specification because: customer demands change; there are changes (or will be changes) to the legislative landscape; or a competitor launches a new product. All of these factors may cause an organisation to re-evaluate what the market now needs.

The impact of these changes will vary, depending on the length of product life cycle, market leadership and other internal market forces and levels of risk. But what’s important to note in the context of this survey is that engineers have little or no control over what is happening, they can only look to find ways to ameliorate their impact. Whatever the causes, Vicor meets with an increasing number of power developers who are having to deal with the specification changing after they have begun designing.

Dealing with the inevitable changes

If changes to specifications are inevitable, then there is little point in trying to avoid them. Power system designers should instead look at strategies that mitigate the impact of changes.

An inflexible approach to power design will make it harder to deal with changes in specifications. This is particularly the case when a custom power system is developed using discrete components or purchased from a vendor. In this case, any changes to the inputs or outputs require complex and time-consuming redesign work. At worst, discrete designs might need a different technology to meet the new requirements.

New, flexible approaches using modular power components (termed the Power Component Design Methodology by Vicor) may provide a way forward to enable power developers to accommodate changing specs without incurring significant delays. This approach uses small, easily interchangeable products that allow changes to be accommodated quickly and easily. Using power components also increases the certainty of performance: it’s much easier to accurately forecast the size and performance of power systems developed using this approach.

Engineers typically use online tools when implementing the Power Component Design Methodology. Vicor’s PowerBench offers a suite of free tools that not only allow systems to be designed and optimised quickly and easily, but also allow for revisions to meet new specifications quickly and easily.

Conclusion

Changes to specifications after development has started are the biggest challenge for power system designers, and the problem is getting worse. Conventional approaches to power system design, using discrete components, were developed when specifications were less fluid, and their lack of flexibility makes adapting to the inevitable changes difficult, time consuming and expensive.

Using modular power components offers several benefits, particularly the flexibility to make modifications to power systems quickly and easily, making it far more effective in today’s unpredictable design environment. Switching to this new approach may not stop power engineers’ bosses changing their minds, but will reduce the stress and cost of the new requirements.


Credit(s)
Supplied By: Supreme Electro Magnetics
Tel: +27 10 591 3500
Fax: 086 617 6830
Email: info@semcc.co.za
www: semcc.co.za
  Share on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn    

Further reading:

  • The ultimate wireless mesh for Industrial IoT in SA?
    29 May 2019, Altron Arrow, This Week's Editor's Pick, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    Analog Devices’ SmartMesh could help with predictive maintenance of the largely metal and concrete buildings which include industrial plants, data centres, commercial buildings, bridges and tunnels.
  • Passive RFID using UHF delivers long-range benefits in the IoT
    29 May 2019, Avnet South Africa, This Week's Editor's Pick, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    In order to support the use of UHF RFID as an IoT solution, a global alliance was formed in 2014 by Google, Intel, Impinj, Smartrac and AIM.
  • To ICASA or not to ICASA wireless modules?
    29 May 2019, Otto Wireless, This Week's Editor's Pick, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    When selecting a wireless module, purchasing an ICASA approved device or module from the approved supplier is critical.
  • Using a COTS-based SDR platform for streamlined 5G development
    29 May 2019, Rugged Interconnect Technologies, This Week's Editor's Pick, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    The latest SDR products offer solutions with integrated I/O, ARM processors, and large FPGAs that include intellectual property (IP) for accessing, routing and processing digital data.
  • Is the supply chain broken?
    30 April 2019, Electrocomp, Diel Met Systems, ExecuKit, NuVision Electronics, RF Design, This Week's Editor's Pick, News
    The world’s insatiable demand for electronic goods has created a monster: a supply chain that spans the globe and relies on the entirety of our collective knowledge and experience in the pursuit of industry.
  • Choosing the right connector for harsh environments
    30 April 2019, TRX Electronics, This Week's Editor's Pick, Interconnection
    While connectors are sometimes left to last in a system design, they are essential components, and you need to get their selection right.
  • Taking control the easy way
    30 April 2019, Otto Wireless, This Week's Editor's Pick, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    As a wireless supplier, Otto Wireless Solutions is very often drawn into assisting clients when it comes to integrating our routers into final products. There are a few common questions we get asked, ...
  • Continued success for Zetech’s stencils division
    30 April 2019, Zetech, This Week's Editor's Pick, News, Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services
    Best known for supplying SMT (surface mount technology) equipment and consumables for printed circuit board assembly for 33 years, Zetech is enjoying success with its more recently established stencils ...
  • Avnet hosts another successful technical seminar
    27 March 2019, Avnet South Africa, This Week's Editor's Pick, News
    The event gave delegates the opportunity to learn about some of the latest technologies available from Avnet and its suppliers, and to network with representatives of the company and with each other.
  • Load shedding’s toll on electronics manufacturing
    27 March 2019, Technews Publishing, Barracuda Holdings, Phahama Systems Development, TraX Interconnect, Production Logix, This Week's Editor's Pick, News
    Dataweek asked some of the local players how the week or so of load shedding in February this year affected them, as well as their forecasts for the future.
  • How to analyse blind via hole failures
    27 March 2019, This Week's Editor's Pick, Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services
    It has become common practice to use blind, filled and stacked vias in many portable electronics products. Experience has shown that this method of interconnection is reliable, provided the fabrication process is well defined and controlled.
  • PCB microsectioning – paying attention to detail
    27 March 2019, Cirtech Electronics, This Week's Editor's Pick, Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services
    In our high-tech world, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the humble printed circuit board (PCB). Buried in each electronic gadget or appliance there’s always at least one PCB and each one has ...

 
 
         
Contact:
Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronics Buyers’ Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Other
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual





 

         
    Classic | Mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.