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Designing power electronics for manufacturing

08 Feb 2013  | Zoran Mihailovic

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The two-loop feedback control concept has been demonstrated in three platform applications at Jabil: A permanent magnet AC motor drive, a grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) power system and a bi-directional grid-tied battery management system (BMS). The PV power system has a boost, while the BMS has a bi-directional DC/DC converter incorporated. The control is based on proportional-integral (PI) feedback control regulators in inner current and outer voltage/speed loops.

Generally, there are application-specific components around the PI control loops in each algorithm. However, they all share the same model for the PI controller and core two-loop concept embedded in the source code and peripheral micro-processor architecture.

At this year's IEEE APEC and ECCE conferences many examples of new concepts, derived from classic H-bridge topology were presented by academic and industry speakers. All concepts were designed to target the emerging markets mentioned above.

A power electronics platform's major role is to serve as a proof-of concept reference for such new design ideas. It is much faster and easier to focus on such design verifications when regular system integration challenges have been addressed before the project launches.

The chances that a new design will succeed in mass-production depend on the market demand, cost, development time and manufacturability. While the first factor is market driven, the others are not. Finally, some of the new designs can prove to be generic enough to replace corresponding sub-systems in next-generation platform. Consequently, the platform templates will keep pace with technology advances.

An example is given in figure 4, which describes the power stage of Jabil's current platform solution. There, a three-level bi-directional converter has replaced the DC-DC converter from figure 2. DC bus capacitor voltage has been balanced through the inverter/rectifier control, and the motor drive has been advanced from single-phase to three-phase, enabling it to drive three-phase PM motors.

Figure 4: Jabil's current power electronics platform power stage topology.

Conclusion
The emerging world of electric power generation, distribution and consumption is quite different from what we are used to, and it puts formidable challenges in front of power electronics engineers. Diverse power electronics applications can leverage the same or similar core components and control concepts to create fully integrated system platforms to serve as templates for new designs. Each of these applications in a platform can be represented as a sub-system of high and low power, intelligence and thermo-mechanical modules.

Rather than reinvent future systems from the ground up, designers might upgrade or simply tweak these modules and sub-systems to create new, yet proven prototypes that have been optimised for improved efficiency, cooling, power density or other key performance features. In addition to saving time on front end-design, taking a modular approach to system design, using a fully operational platform as a template, can help mitigate supply chain, assembly and manufacturing issues to reduce overall production cost and time-to-market.

About the author
Zoran Mihailovic is a lead design engineer at Jabil Circuit, Inc. Over the last two decades, his interest in power electronics and motor drive designs helped him land lead and senior engineering positions at Black & Decker, BAE Systems and Advanced Energy Industries before joining Jabil. He earned his Engineering degree from the School of Electrical Engineering of Belgrade University in Serbia, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at Virginia Tech.

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