Power supply trends and innovations

Electronics Sourcing magazine quizzed Sunpower Electronics & Power LED’s group CEO, Russell Parr, about trends in the power supply chain

From a purchasing perspective, what are the major changes or trends in the power supply chain?

For the most part, supply chain lead times have returned to pre-pandemic levels. There are a few exceptions but they are easily managed. In some cases, given the state of customers’ overstock, manufacturers are reducing minimum order quantities (MOQs) to maintain ongoing production plans. As the situation is remedied and overstock reduces, it is likely that MOQs will return to higher levels.

If buyers are sourcing bespoke custom power supply units, what questions should they be asking suppliers?

The range of available power supplies can make it challenging to choose the right solution—and the right supplier. Firstly, buyers must look for power supply providers who really understand power and are prepared to entertain bespoke solutions. In many cases, suppliers lack the expertise or desire to entertain bespoke or modified solutions. 

Thus, buyers should be investigating suppliers—rather than product specification—as the quality, reliability and performance of the latter will be determined by the former. Supplier specifications should include: how long the company has been trading; who their key suppliers are; history of bespoke solutions; internal expertise; and whether they take a consultative approach. Essentially, their approach should start by determining what the customer is trying to achieve, rather than just thinking about power or cost.

That said, other factors to consider when optimising a power supply’s performance include: voltage, current ratings, power capacity, compatibility, efficiency and reliability. 

Additionally, higher-grade components should be non-negotiable as they ensure power supplies: offer good thermal behaviour, meaning all facets function safely; can withstand voltage spikes, which pose a particular challenge for control gear; boast a reduced ripple value, which serves as a solid performance indicator; have no-load, overload, thermal and short-circuit protection to resolve potential installation issues; and are EMC compliant, with appropriate testing and certification.

What advances can we expect from power supply manufacturers over coming years? 

Manufacturers are increasingly looking at how more recycled material can be used during the manufacturing process, plus what percentage of a power supply can be recycled, especially as the industry continues to embrace the circular economy. 

The drive to deliver better power factor and efficiency is ever-evolving and will become increasingly important in future purchasing decisions. As the world moves toward renewable energy, manufacturers need to ensure that current and future solutions are capable of managing power from various inputs and that remote performance reporting is available, given some renewable sources can be very remote.