Friday, December 5, 2014

Why does the response time of OCP vary on the power supply I am using and what can I do about it? Part 2

In the first part of this posting (click here to review) I highlighted what kind of response time is important for effective over current protection of typical DUTs and what the actual response characteristic is for a typical over current protect (OCP) system in a test system DC power supply. For reference I am including the example of OCP response time from the first part again, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Example OCP system response time vs. overdrive level

Here in Figure 1 the response time of the OCP system of a Keysight N7951A 20V, 50A power supply was characterized using the companion 14585A software. It compares response times of 6A and 12A loading when the current limit is set to 5A. Including the programmed OCP delay time of 5 milliseconds it was found that the actual total response time was 7 milliseconds for 12A loading and 113 milliseconds for 6A loading.  As can be seen, for reasons previously explained, the response time clearly depends on the amount of overdrive beyond the current limit setting.

As the time to cause over current damage depends on the amount of current in excess of what the DUT can tolerate, with greater current causing damage more quickly, the slower response at lower overloads is generally not an issue.  If however you are still looking how you might further improve on OCP response speed for more effective protection, there are some things that you can do.

The first thing that can be done is to avoid using a power supply that has a full output current rating that is far greater than what the DUT actually draws. In this way the overdrive from an overload will be a greater percentage of the full output current rating. This will normally cause the current limit circuit to respond more quickly.

A second thing that can be done is to evaluate different models of power supplies to determine how quickly their various current limit circuits and OCP systems respond in based on your desired needs for protecting your DUT. For various reasons different models of power supplies will have different response times. As previously discussed in my first part, the slow response at low levels of overdrive is determined by the response of the current limit circuit.

One more alternative that can provide exceptionally fast response time is to have an OCP system that operates independently of a current limit circuit, much like how an over voltage protect (OVP) system works. Here the output level is simply compared against the protect level and, once exceeded, the power supply output is shut down to provide near-instantaneous protection. The problem here is this is not available on virtually any DC power supplies and would normally require building custom hardware that senses the fault condition and locally disconnects the output of the power supply from the DUT. However, one instance where it is possible to provide this kind of near-instantaneous over current protection is through the programmable signal routing system (i.e. programmable trigger system) in the Keysight N6900A and N7900A Advanced Power System (APS) DC power supplies. Configuring this triggering is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Configuring a fast-acting OCP for the N6900A/N7900A Advanced Power System

In Figure 2 the N7909A software utility was used to graphically configure and download a fast-acting OCP level trigger into an N7951A Advanced Power System. Although this trigger is software defined it runs locally within the N7951A’s firmware at hardware speeds. The N7909A SW utility also generates the SCPI command set which can be incorporated into a test program.

Figure 3: Example custom-configured OCP system response time vs. overdrive level

Figure 3 captures the performance of this custom-configured OCP system running within the N7951A. As the OCP threshold and overdrive levels are the same this can be directly compared to the performance shown in Figure 1, using the conventional, current limit based OCP within the N7951A. A 5 millisecond OCP delay was included, as before. However, unlike before, there is now virtually no extra delay due to a current limit control circuit as the custom-configured OCP system is totally independent of it. Also, unlike before, it can now be seen the same fast response is achieved regardless of having just a small amount or a large amount of overdrive.

Because OCP systems rely on being initiated from the current limit control circuit, the OCP response time also includes the current limit response time. For most all over current protection needs this is usually plenty adequate.  If a faster-responding OCP is called for minimizing the size of the power supply and evaluating the performance of the OCP is beneficial. However, an OCP that operates independently of the current limit will ultimately be far faster responding, such as that which can be achieved either with custom hardware or making use of a programmable signal routing and triggering system like that found in the Keysight N6900A and N7900A Advanced Power Systems.

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