The current limit setting in a power supply is primarily used to protect the device under test (DUT) from excessive current. You should set your current limit setting higher than the maximum amount of current you expect your DUT to draw, but low enough so that if your DUT fails as a short or low impedance, it does not draw an amount of current that can damage wires, connectors, or the DUT itself due to excessive current. The power supply will limit the current at the current limit setting and reduce the voltage accordingly. If you want, you can turn on over-current protection (OCP) and then the power supply output will turn off if the output transitions into constant current (CC) mode. For previous posts on this topic, click here and here.
Current limit plays an important role in protecting your DUT. But you should also know that the current limit setting can affect the voltage response time, specifically the up-programming speed. Voltage up-programming speed is the time it takes the output voltage to go from a lower voltage to a higher voltage. For example, the up-programming output response time for an Agilent N5768A power supply (rated for 80 V, 19 A, 1520 W) is specified to be no more than 150 ms with a full load (settling band is 1% of the rated output voltage). This spec assumes the current limit is set high enough to not limit the current. The output capacitor of this power supply will draw current as the voltage on the cap rises (Ic = C * dVc/dt). The output current and the cap current flow through the current monitoring resistor which is where the current is measured and compared to the current limit setting. See Figure 1. Therefore, the output cap current adds to the output current and can cause the power supply to momentarily go into CC mode as the output cap charges. If this happens, the output voltage will rise more slowly than if the power supply stayed in constant voltage (CV) mode the entire time the output voltage was rising and charging the output cap.
So, the current limit setting can slow down the voltage response time if set too low causing the power supply to momentarily go into CC mode as the output voltage is rising and the output cap is charging. This effect is shown in Figure 2 for various current limit settings on the N5768A power supply. As you can see, the lower the current limit setting (Iset), the longer it takes for the voltage to reach its final value.
If fast up-programming response time is important to you in your power supply application, make sure you set your current limit high enough to provide current to your DUT and to charge the power supply’s output capacitor without going into CC mode. Once the output voltage reaches its final value, you can always lower the current limit again to properly protect your DUT.