Decentralised power supplies for smart manufacturing: the heart of the system continues to evolve…

Author : Bernhard Erdl | Founder, CEO & chief developer | PULS Power

01 October 2020

PULS-Power-FIEPOS In Situ_580x280
PULS-Power-FIEPOS In Situ_580x280

Demand for flexible, modular systems is transforming the world of manufacturing engineering as we know it, with the decentralisation of industrial system components shaping up to be a major development in this regard.

This article was originally featured in the October 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Decentralisation can speed up the system planning process, simplify maintenance tasks and facilitate straightforward system expansion. As Bernhard Erdl, founder, CEO & chief developer at DIN rail power supply specialist, PULS Power tells us, more and more system components are being relocated from the control cabinet directly into the field now – and are therefore required to be provided with a degree of environmental protection from IP54 to IP67. As a result, central control cabinets can be made smaller than ever, or else dispensed with entirely.

The power supply has traditionally been the heart of any industrial system. This is a role it has held for decades now, working tirelessly away in the background from inside the cabinet. Recent years, however, have seen the power supply expand beyond this modest role. The broad variety of applications – and the requirements that go with them – are driving this evolution. In addition to its essential function as a power converter, there is growing demand for complete power supply systems, featuring integrated communication, redundancy and protection functions. And then, of course, there is decentralisation, which also has a crucial role to play with regard to power supply and current distribution.

If we want to meet this demand with standard products, a flexible product platform is essential to form the basis for implementing the various solutions. This platform must also provide the fundamental qualities of a power supply, which include outstanding efficiency, a compact design, exceptional reliability and long service life.

Figure 1. Centralised power supply, located in the control cabinet
Figure 1. Centralised power supply, located in the control cabinet

Decentralised, cabinet-free power supplies

So, what trends are we seeing for the power supply in decentralised systems and machine engineering? The products currently available on the market basically follow three different strategies:

1. No decentralisation of the power supply – The power supply is not included in the decentralisation process and remains in the central control cabinet. In order to supply power to the remote peripheral devices in the field, long cable harnesses have to be installed, using costly large cross-section wire to minimise losses, and the system power supply has to be oversized to compensate for the loss of performance caused by the long cables.

2. Power supply in decentralised on-site cabinets – The power supply, together with other standard components, such as electronic fuses or switches, is taken out of the central cabinet and placed directly onto the machine in smaller, decentralised IP67 cabinets. System builders often handle the planning and assembly of these cabinets themselves.

Figure 2. Decentralised power supplies, located directly on the machine in the field
Figure 2. Decentralised power supplies, located directly on the machine in the field

3. Customer-specific solution – A customer-specific, decentralised solution is developed especially for the power supply. The size and mechanics are also specifically tailored to the individual system, along with the electrical specifications.

Benefits of a decentralised power supply

Many systems integrators have already taken action, after recognising the benefits of a decentralised power supply: it starts with the system planning process, which offers greater freedom. There are many applications, such as conveyor belts or production lines, which can be supplied with energy much more efficiently and flexibly on a decentralised basis. The power supply no longer has to be oversized, and the individual system parts can be put together on a modular basis, allowing them to be extended, maintained and converted more quickly and effectively than ever. By making the cabinets smaller, or even doing away with them entirely, the newly gained space can also be used to expand added-value system components. Power cable lengths and cross-sections can also be reduced, which in turn saves on the costs of copper.

Past obstacles on the road to decentralised power supplies

Figure 3. The PULS FIEPOS decentralised field power supply system
Figure 3. The PULS FIEPOS decentralised field power supply system

The cost of implementing a decentralised power supply does however remain high, using currently available solutions. Even straightforward, decentralised on-site cabinets, for example, often comprise more than ten components. Each of these must be purchased, stored and ultimately combined into a system by a technician. As for developing customer-specific solutions, this is even more time-consuming, expensive and only worthwhile in larger volumes. Until now, there has not been a decentralised standard power supply that is available to order ex stock, is easy to install and flexible enough to offer a viable alternative in all three of the above scenarios.

Straight from the cabinet to the field  

Relocating the power supply from the control cabinet directly into the field provides an all-in-one power supply system for decentralised systems engineering. It is then possible to use shorter cables and smaller cable cross-sections. This not only saves on the costs of copper, but also on installation work for the cabling. Local on-board set up and diagnostics makes system commissioning, troubleshooting and maintenance simpler.

PULS cabinet-free power supply system as a solution

PULS is closing the gap in decentralised applications with the development of its FIEPOS power supply product family. This opens up new possibilities for systems designers by providing cabinet-free planning of their systems and machines.

Figure 4. FIEPOS – an alternative to decentralised on-site cabinets
Figure 4. FIEPOS – an alternative to decentralised on-site cabinets

The compact FIEPOS range is based on 1-phase and 3-phase IP54–IP67 power supplies with 300 W or 500 W output power. It also features an IO-Link or output OK signal as a communication interface. Various versions are based on this platform, with numerous connector configurations, as well as optional safety and redundancy functions.

PULS classifies the devices into two FIEPOS product series of Basic and eFused. The devices in the Basic series have a single output, for which the various plug connectors, such as M12-L/-T/-A, 7/8”, or the HAN-Q series are available. In addition, the Basic version is also available with an integrated decoupling MOSFET on the output side and a soft output regulation characteristic. These two functions make the devices particularly useful for assembling reliable redundant systems outside of the cabinet and help to increase performance by establishing parallel connections.

The FIEPOS eFused series comes complete with up to four internally protected outputs. Thanks to the built-in current limit, these devices can easily be used for selective current distribution and protection. The outputs are configured and monitored via IO-Link, or via the practical human-machine interface located directly on the front panel of the device.

So no matter whether you are looking for a centralised or decentralised solution, PULS is set to ensure that the power supply remains the reliable heart of your system for the foreseeable future.

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