August 25, 2008

First Generic Power Supply Standard

Despite the fact that practically every electronic device needs a power supply unit (PSU), its requirements have not yet been standardized. Although some industries do have power supply standards (such as PICMG spec 2.11 for CompactPCI Power Interface and Power Supply Design Guide for Desktop PCs), these standards are for specific applications and do not have general usage.

IPC standard IPC-9592 is the electronic industry's first attempt to come up with a generic power conversion standard. The draft was initially developed by the IPC Power Conversion Subcommittee that included Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems, Alcatel Lucent and Apple. This document standardizes the performance parameters for power conversion devices for various applications such as computers and telecommunications. It sets the requirements for design, qualification and conformance testing, manufacturing quality processes, and regulatory requirements. The document particularly lists applicable EMI standards and provides components derating guidelines. Although this standard is not mandatory (just like all IPC standards), due to the participation and support of major power supply users, one can expect its widespread acceptance.

In preparation for the standard release, IPC is planning a conference on November 6, in Irving, Texas, to discuss the details of the specification and outline the ideas that went into developing this standard.

Note that unlike Intel's Computer PSU Guides, IPC-9592 does not include any functional requirements such as voltages, currents, timing, connectors, etc. This is actually good for us, power supply designers. If our fellow digital engineers and system integrators would come up with a scalable power supply standard and would design their systems around standard PSU "bricks", OEM power supplies would become a commodity and would be primarily designed and built in the Far East. As a result, many of us designers, would have to become salespersons. But for as long as our fellow engineers choose to design their systems the way they please and then look for a custom PSU because their electrical and mechanical requirements can't be satisfied by off-the-shelf models, we, designers are in business. (-: