Power Quality Product Engineering

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Equipment Design Review

Our whole purpose in PQ is to determine and help ensure that PQ disturbances, whether they’re generated by the utility, or by the customer, does not cause malfunctions or permanent damage to electrical and electronic equipment. It is vital to facility PQ, and when ensuring that equipment is operable in common every day electrical environments that PQ be managed. Part of managing PQ is focused on the equipment:

  • How much PQ immunity is designed into your equipment?
  • How will your equipment respond when PQ disturbances occur?
  • Did your equipment undergo proper PQ immunity testing? If so, what were the results and how should they be interpreted?
  • Is your equipment PQ-ready for industrial electrical environments? Equipment designed for the PQ disturbances occurring in commercial electrical environment will likely fail if proper measures are not taken to ensure it’s immune to disturbances occurring in industrial environments.

Electrotek’s PQ emissions and immunity testing of 1000’s of pieces of equipment always reveals unexpected results regarding equipment performance. Manufacturers often miss important PQ immunity criteria and need assistance from PQ experts in understanding test methods and interpreting test results. One common mistake manufacturers make is not understanding why a test must be done, and which immunity limits to apply. As we tell all of our manufacturers, it’s much more cost-effective to experience PQ malfunctions and damage to equipment in the Electrotek PQ Testing Laboratory, as opposed to having the customer experience these problem in their own electrical environments. The costs for not ensuring that an equipment design has the right PQ immunity performance is often very costly in terms of equipment re-work costs, equipment re-install costs and lost productivity due to equipment downtime ... read more

Pre-Compliance Testing

All products, electrical or not, are required to undergo standardized compliance testing to ensure that they perform according to US and international product standards. Customers want to know they are paying for equipment that will perform properly in their environments. Compliance testing in the US, Europe, and in other countries has matured significantly over the past 20 years. Harmonization amount US and IEC standards continues at a steady pace. Engineers in the US and Europe have a lot to contribute regarding the development of standards that both regions can apply towards their success in providing equipment that performs as expected for their customers.

There are, however, a few problems with compliance testing using US and European standards. The problems arise from:

  • The development of new PQ phenomena as the grid ages, as more non-linear loads are being added and as equipment designs continue to mature.
  • The slow development of US and international standards, which is on the path of improvement, but still slow in terms of how fast equipment and environments change.
  • The long path that’s required to achieve successful compliance certification.

Manufacturers are constantly having to endure shorter equipment design cycles with increasingly strapped development budgets. Not all manufacturers have the luxury of having their own compliance testing laboratories in house. Even the ones that do still suffer from delayed testing schedules, misapplied test methods, and failure to include all test methods to properly determine if a design is really hardened to the right level for compliance and performance in residential, commercial, and industrial electrical environments.

Manufacturers must find ways to shorten design cycles and achieve compliance in shorter time frames with smaller budgets. Investments in compliance testing are still too large for the results obtained, as manufacturers still experience an unacceptable failure rates too often. Manufacturers can benefit significantly be engaging in Electrotek’s pre-compliance EMC and PQ testing program. Under this program, manufacturers can get an Initial Compliance Design Report (ICDR) which allows them to see how well their product is prepared for compliance performance. Electrotek’s PQ Digital Library is used to ensure the design can handle common every day real-world PQ disturbances in residential, commercial, and industrial environments, as opposed to the “text-book” disturbances defined in product standards. This report will point out areas of concern in the product’s design where additional engineering focus is needed to achieve actual compliance.

Electrotek expert EMC and PQ engineers can explain the results of the ICDR enabling design engineers to resolve performance issues earlier, so a shorter time-to-market can be achieved. Once design enhancements have been made, the product can be submitted to Electrotek again for a 2nd level Pre-Compliance Testing. Compliance tests to achieve acceptable levels of EMC and PQ will be performed here, allowing design engineers to begin focusing on achieving a very good level of compliance. Higher levels of compliance can be used to enhance product offerings, and achieve multi-level performance in a series of products. This enhances the value of the product and its performance while maintaining a low cost on compliance testing. Once the final performance issues have been identified, Electrotek engineers will work with product design engineers to resolve any remaining compliance issues, or  enhance current levels. After this cycle of pre-compliance testing, the product is ready for actual compliance testing.

Electrotek maintains a relationship with several compliance testing houses to aid manufacturers in achieving final compliance, without the need for repeat testing. Electrotek can prepare Final Pre-Compliance Test Reports which are very helpful during the actual compliance process. An expert Electrotek compliance engineer will accompany the manufacturer to a compliance test house to facilitate the compliance process .... read more

Forensic Analysis

Electrotek’s knowledge of equipment performance and reactions when subjected to common and real-world PQ disturbances and the 1000’s of customer PQ investigations allows us to provide a Forensic Analysis service to our customers. Any entity engaging in powering equipment from the grid and from building electrical systems will benefit from this service when they experience equipment malfunctions and failures.

Electrotek can apply its forensic analysis approach for PQ and determine what types of PQ disturbances and PQ problems likely caused an equipment failure. The amplitude, wave shape, and frequency of PQ disturbances introduces different effects of failure into electronic equipment. In some cases, PQ monitoring data accompanies failed equipment when a forensic analysis is needed. In other cases, Electrotek installs PQ monitoring equipment to capture critical details in facilities where failures are still occurring.

Electrotek has conducted forensic analyses for 100’s of customers including utilities, manufacturers, building designer, end users, insurance companies, and legal firms. Our forensic analysis services provides highly detailed reports of failed electrical and electronic equipment of all types after failing in all types of facilities at any operating voltage level and geographic location ... read more

Product Test Specification Development

Most manufacturers are still gaining knowledge regarding power quality and its value when designing, manufacturing and installing electrical and electronic equipment. Many manufacturers simply use the product standards published by IEEE, ANSI, NEMA and the IEC to carryout EMC- and PQ-related tests. Most of the product standards present challenges to manufacturers when trying to interpret their methods and limits. Some manufacturers take bits and pieces from product standards and add some of their own test methods and limits to come up with an internal corporate test procedure designed specifically for a certain product(s). In most all cases, the specifications that manufacturers apply for their own internal EMC and PQ testing fall short in terms of matching the electrical threats occurring in today’s customer electrical environments.

Electrotek has worked with 100’s of product manufacturers to review their current product test specifications and recommend and verify enhancements to their test methods and limits. This is a critical step for manufacturers who offer competitive products as they strive to maintain performance levels higher than their competitors. Electrotek also reviews the process by which tests in a specification document are applied to a product. In some cases, manufacturers need help to re-order their tests as well as enhance their methods and strengthen their limits to ensure proper performance levels matched to a specific electrical environment are achieved well before the product launch and marketing phases.

Manufacturers who have worked with Electrotek to enhance their product test specifications have enjoyed reduced failure rates, shorter design cycles, improved customer relations, and higher product standards ... read more

Development of Electrical Specification

To help educate product specifiers, purchasers and users, manufacturers must provide technical product specification documents. The electrical specifications are always a primary part of each product specification. Because manufacturers are still learning about the importance of understanding and applying power quality to their products, they haven’t yet grasped how to properly specify the PQ emissions and immunity performance on their product specification documents. Mention of voltage surge performance, typically the combination wave, is one PQ performance metric that has found its way onto specification documents. This is because the average person assumes that voltage surge is the only cause of PQ problems with products. This is not true!

There are multiple types of voltage surge disturbances which can cause a product to malfunction and fail. In fact, a surge voltage doesn’t have to be higher than the amplitude of the sinewave to cause product failure. Other types of surge voltages can cause failures. Moreover, other types of PQ disturbances can cause failures.

It is important to manufacturers, as well as the companies specifying, purchasing, and using their products, to clearly understand what types of PQ immunity a product has. Proper specification of the PQ immunity for other disturbances likely to cause failures will help the customer determine if a product is suitable for their electrical environment. Specifiers, purchasers, and users, will likely want to compare the PQ immunity performance metrics on a product specification document to ensure they are selecting the right product for the right environment for the right investment.

Electrotek expert PQ engineers are well-versed in writing product specification document language and designing specific graphs and charts to help educate specifiers, purchasers and users of electrical and electronic equipment ... read more