Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Should I Use a Switching or Linear DC Power Supply For My Next Test System? (part 4 of 4)

Part 4 of 4: Making the Comparison and Choice
In the first three parts of this post we looked at the topologies and merits of linear DC power supplies, traditional and high-performance switching DC power supplies, and common mode noise current considerations of each. So now in this final part we have reached a point where we can hopefully make an informed comparison and choice. Tables 1 and 2 summarize several key qualitative and quantitative aspects of all three DC power supply types, based on what we have learned.
Table 1: Qualitative comparison of DC power supply topologies

Table 2: Quantitative comparison of DC power supply topologies

So what DC power supply topology is the best choice for your next test system? In the past it usually ended up having to be a linear topology to meet performance requirements in most all but very high power, lower performance test situations. However, high-performance switching DC power supplies have nowadays for the most part closed the performance gap with linear DC power supplies. And, at higher power, the favorable choice may come down to selecting between several different switching DC power supplies only, due to their cost, size, and availability. So the answer is you need to make a choice based on how well the power supply meets your performance, space, and cost requirements, rather than basing the choice on its topology. Except for the most demanding low power test applications, like those needing the performance of a source measure unit (SMU), chances are much higher these days that the next DC power supply you select for your next test system you will be a switcher (and you possibly may not even realize it). What has been your experience?

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