Sunday, August 31, 2014

How do I transfer files from my DC Power Analyzer to my PC?

Hi everybody!

I got back from my vacation just in time to get my August blog post out.  We typically try to shy away from product specific blog postings here at Watt's Up but this is a topic that I get a bunch of questions on in my support job and this is a great place for me to address it.

The Keysight N6705B DC Power Analyzer has an internal flash drive that stores information such as datalogs and scope waveforms.  When we first came out with the N6705B, it had a 64 MB drive (it is crazy how small that seems today).  Present N6705Bs have a 4 GB drive in them.  Since you can create datalogs of up to 2 GB in size, even a 4 GB drive can get full.  Today I am going to talk about how to get a file out of the internal drive of the N6705B and onto your PCs hard drive.

The way that I see it, there are three ways to get a file off the N6705B:

  1. The old fashioned way: You use a thumb drive and manually transfer the files that way.  The disadvantage here is that you need to have a thumb drive and there is no way to automate the process.
  2. You can use the N6705B LXI web interface.  There's a utility there that can transfer files bwtween the N6705B and your PC.  The disadvantages of this are that you cannot automate it and you can only do this if you are connected via LAN.
  3. There is a command (MMEM:DATA?) that will read back the contents of a file so you could write a SCPI program to do this.  This disadvantage here is that you need to write a program.  Luckily, I have done this in the past myself and I am more than willing to help!
Quite a few years ago, I wrote a VB 6 program that does number three.  The binary data for the file is in IEEE binary block format.  I find that the easiest way to read and write data in this format is to use Keysight VISA-COM and use the ReadIEEEblock function.  Here is a screen shot of my program listing:

As you can see in the program, I basically read the contents of the file default.dlog into filedata which I have dimensioned as  a byte array.  After I read all the data in, I kill any null data in the array and then copy it into a file that I have stored on my hard drive.  All in all, if you use this method it is pretty easy.

That's all I have for this month.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if you have discovered another way to transfer files.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What can cause a power supply output voltage to exceed its setting?

We have done a number of posts on power supply protection topics covering both voltage and current issues:

Safeguarding your power-sensitive DUTs from an over power condition

How does power supply overvoltage protection work? 

Protect your DUT from over-current in more ways than one

What is a power supply’s over current protect (OCP) and how does it work?

Overvoltage protection: some background and history

Protect your DUT: use sense leads for overvoltage protection (OVP)

Types of current limits for over-current protection on DC power supplies

Protect your DUT with power supply features including a watchdog timer

And just last week, on August 20, 2014, my colleague and fellow Watt’s Up? blog contributor, Ed Brorein, presented a live webcast called “Protect Your Device Against Power-Related Damage During Test” which was recorded and can be accessed here. Before he presented the seminar, Ed mentioned it here.

Many of these posts talked about how the power supply responds to an overvoltage or overcurrent condition. Today I want to talk about what causes an overvoltage condition. I’m defining an overvoltage condition as a condition that causes the power supply output voltage to exceed its setting. Let’s take a look at some of the things that can cause this to happen.

Causes of power supply output voltage exceeding its setting

User-caused miswires
These miswires should be found and corrected during test setup verification before a device under test (DUT) is connected to the power supply. Possible miswires and their effect on the power supply output voltage are:

  • Shorted sense leads – the output voltage will rapidly rise above the setting. Keysight power supplies will prevent the output from rising above the overvoltage protection (OVP) setting.
  • Reversed sense leads – on most power supplies, the output voltage will rapidly rise above the setting and on Keysight supplies, it will be stopped by the OVP circuit. On our N6900/N7900 Advanced Power System (APS) power supplies, this condition is caught sooner: OV- is triggered when the output reaches about 10% of the rated voltage, so the output does not have to rise to the setting and above.
  • Open sense leads – If your power supply does not have protection for open sense leads, it is possible for your output to rapidly rise above the setting if one or both sense leads are open. Keysight power supplies have built-in sense protect resistors which limit the output voltage rise to about 1% above the setting. The voltage will continue to be regulated there. In addition to limiting the output to about 1% above the setting with an open sense lead, Keysight N6900/N7900 APS power supplies have a feature called open sense lead detection. When enabled, open sense lead detection will cause a sense fault (SF) status about 50 us after open sense leads are detected. This status does not turn off the output, but it can be configured to turn off the output using the advanced signal routing capability.
  • Special note about N7900 power supplies (not N6900): these models have output disconnect relays that open upon a protection fault. These mechanical relays take about 20 ms to open. Before they open, the output downprogrammer circuit is activated for about 2 ms and draws about 10% of rated output current to reduce the output voltage. The N7976A and N7977A (both higher voltage models) also have solid state relays in series with the mechanical relays. Upon a protection fault on these 2 models, the downprogrammer activates for 2 ms followed immediately by the solid state relays opening and then the mechanical relays open about 20 ms later.
Inadvertent wiring failure
  • Sense leads inadvertently become shorted – power supply response is the same as mentioned above under shorted sense leads
  • Sense leads inadvertently become open – power supply response is the same as mentioned above under open sense leads
  • Sense leads should never become inadvertently reversed, nevertheless, the power supply response is the same as mentioned above under reversed sense leads

Power supply fault (circuit failure)
Note that Keysight’s overall power supply failure rate is very low. Since the below mentioned failures are a subset of all failures, they are very rare. This means that failures that cause the output to go to a higher-than-desired value are a small percent of a small percent, and while not impossible, they are extremely unlikely events.
  • Power element fails (shorts)
    • Series regulator – when a series regulator power element shorts, the output very quickly rises above the rated voltage of the power supply. The only way to limit this is to trip OVP and either fire an SCR across the output to bring the voltage back down or open output relays. For example, the Keysight N678xA models use a series regulator. When OVP trips on N678xA models, output relays are opened to protect the DUT. Solid state relays very quickly open first followed by mechanical relays about 6 ms later.
    • Switching regulator – when a Keysight switching regulator power element shorts, the output will go toward zero volts instead of rising since Keysight switching regulators use power transformers and no power can be transferred through the transformer without the switching elements turning on and off. For example, all N6700 and N6900/N7900 series models use switching regulators except the N678xA models (series regulators).
    • Note that if a power element fails open using either power regulation scheme, the output voltage will fall, not rise, so this condition is not a concern when looking at excessive output voltage possibilities.
  • Regulation circuit failure (bias supply, DAC, amplifier, digital comparison processor, etc.)
    • There are various circuits that could fail and cause the output voltage to rise in an uncontrolled manner. Keysight power supplies have OVP designed to respond to these failures. In series regulators, an SCR across the output can fire to reduce the voltage or output relays can open. In switching regulators, the pulse width modulator is turned off to prevent power from flowing to the output, downprogrammers are activated to pull any excessive voltage down, and output relays are opened (when present) to disconnect the output from the DUT.
    • Multiple parallel failures – if both a regulating circuit fails that causes the output to rise AND the OVP circuit fails, there would be nothing to prevent the output voltage from rising above the setting. While this is possible, it requires just the right combination of multiple circuit failures and is therefore extremely unlikely.
Output response to load current transients
  • It is possible for the output voltage to temporarily rise above the setting for short transients in response to fast load current changes (especially unloading). If the voltage excursion is high enough and long enough, it is possible that the OVP will activate and respond as outlined above.

External power source
  • It is possible for an external source of power (such as a battery, charged capacitor, inductor with changing current, or another power supply) to cause the voltage to go above the setting. The OVP will respond to this condition as outlined above. If the external power source can provide more current than the rating of the power supply and an SCR circuit is used in the power supply, it is prudent to put a fuse in series with the external source of power to prevent damage to the power supply SCR and/or output circuit from excessive current.
So you can see that there are a number of ways in which the output voltage can rise above the setting. Luckily, Keysight design engineers are aware of these possibilities and have lots of experience adding protection circuits to prevent damage to your DUT!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some differences between constant current (CC) and constant resistance (CR) loading on your DUT’s performance

Most electronic loads provide constant current (CC), constant resistance (CR) and constant voltage (CV) loading. Some also offer constant power (CP) loading as well. The primary reason for this is this gives the test engineer a choice of loading that best addresses the loading requirement for the DUT, which invariably is some kind of power source.

Most usually the device should be tested with a load that reflects what the loading is like for its end use. In the most common case of a device being predominantly a voltage source the most common loading choices are either CC or CR loading, which we will look at in more detail here. Some feel they can be used interchangeably when testing a voltage source. To some extent this is true but in some cases only one or the other should be used as they can impact the DUT’s performance quite differently.

Let’s first consider static performance. In Figure 1 we have the output characteristics of an ideal voltage source with zero output resistance (a regulated power supply, for example) and a non-ideal voltage source having series output resistance (a battery, for example).  Both have the same open circuit (no load) voltage. Superimposed on these two source output characteristics are two load lines; one for CC and one for CR. As can be seen they are set to draw the same amount of current for the ideal voltage source. However, for the non-ideal voltage source, while the CC load still continues to draw the same amount of current in spite of the voltage drop, not surprisingly the CR load draws less current due to its voltage-dependent nature.

Figure 1: CC and CR loading of ideal and non-ideal voltage sources

CC loading is frequently used for static power supply tests for a key reason. Power supplies are usually specified to have certain output voltage accuracy for a fixed level of current. Using CC loading assures the loading condition is met, regardless of power supply’s output voltage being low or high, or in or out of spec. Non-ideal voltage sources, like batteries, present a little more of a problem and are often specified for both CC and CR loading as a result, to reflect the nature of the loading they may be subjected to in their end use. Due to a battery's load-dependent output voltage, trying to use one type of loading in place the other becomes an iterative process of checking and adjusting loading until the acceptable operating point is established.

Let’s now consider dynamic performance.  CC loading generally has a greater impact on a power supply’s ability to turn on as well as its transient performance and stability, in comparison to CR loading. When the power supply first starts up its output voltage is at zero. A CR load would demand zero current at start up. In comparison a CC load still demands full current. Some power supplies will not start up properly under CC loading. With regard to transient response and stability, CR loading provides a damping action, increasing current demand when the transient voltage increases and decreases demand when the transient voltage decreases, because the current demand is voltage dependent. CC loading does not do this, which can negatively influence transient response and stability somewhat. Whether CC or CR loading is used depends on what the power supply’s specifications call out for the test conditions. Batteries have some dynamic considerations as well. Their output response can be modeled as a series of time constants spanning a wide range of time. This presents somewhat of a moving target for an algorithm that uses an iterative approach to settling on an acceptable operating point.

This is just a couple of examples of how a load’s characteristic affects the performance of the device it is loading, and why electronic loads have multiple operating modes to select from, and worth giving thought next time towards how your device is affected by its loading!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Upcoming Seminar on Protecting Your Device against Power-Related Damage during Test

Here on “Watt’s Up?” we have provided a good number of posts about various protection features incorporated into system power supplies to protect your device against power-related damage during test. Just recently my colleague Gary posted “How Does Power Supply Over-Voltage Work?” (Click here to review) Here he reviews inner workings of different OVP implementations.  I recently posted “Safeguarding Your Power-Sensitive DUTs against an Over-Power Condition” (Click here to review) Here I go over a method to protect your DUT against excess power when other power supply features like over current protection may be less than ideal.

The reason why we frequently share power-related protection topics here is protecting your DUT is extremely important, there are a lot of different capabilities incorporated in system power supplies for this purpose, and there are a lot of practical considerations when putting them to use.  

Hopefully a number of you have found our posts on protection-related topics of help. Because this is a very important topic and there is so much more you should know about it I will be giving a live web-based seminar “Protecting Your Device against Power-Related Damage during Test” on August 20th, just a few weeks away from today. I will be going over a number of protection-related topics which we have not yet covered here on “Watt’s Up?”.  One of my objectives is to provide a more holistic view of the many ways a system power supply is able to better safeguard against power-related damage as well as what is practical to expect when using these various capabilities incorporated in the power supply.

You can register online at the following (Click here for description and registration page) In case you are not able to attend the live event on August 20 you will be able to register and listen to seminar afterward as well, as it will be recorded.

So if protecting your device against power-related damage is important to you I hope you are able to attend the seminar!