Power Supply Testing & Failure Analysis: Engineering the Best PSUs (2020)

by birtanpublished on September 10, 2020

We've already walked through the process of how a power supply is made but that only covers the manufacturing and assembly of power supplies before the power supply ever reaches that stage it can be years of research and development for one new brand new platform to be

Built this process leverages multiple floors of equipment and teams of electrical engineers to get everything right and it's one that we got to see firsthand with a leading power supply factory that supplies coolermaster and

Several of its competitors in this factory tour we'll be looking at radiation testing equipment climate control that thermal and humidity chambers wave runners and the Scylla scopes load generators and more the

Equipment in just one of these labs totals in the hundreds of thousands of dollars most of it is industry-leading technology but we occasionally see old reliable analog equipment like the

Temperature and humidity sensor that writes to real that one can substitute for toilet paper in a time of need today we're touring the Rd facility for power supplies and learning about how they're designed before that this video is

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Funding has been going straight into maintaining our testing quality learn more at the link in the description below as stated we previously toured the manufacturing and mid production testing of power supplies to cue up that video

Or any of the other dozens of factory tours that we've done in the series click the factory tour playlist linked in the description below the first step of the R&D process comes from the customer that'd be a company like

Coolermaster EVGA a corsair or any number of others in the industry just as examples will keep this section short cooler masters first step is to define the spec before approaching this factory for help internally the company will

Discuss the target audience companies normally look at sales and gauge when they're starting to dry up for existing lines or when a competitor might be pulling sales away and then they'll figure out the price point on the user

Base for the new product this is the same time when the team might try to figure out what marketing plays it might want to make for example a couple years ago of course there made a huge deal out of its gallium nitride PFC a small part

That allowed about a two millimeter length reduction and some very minor efficiency increases in the total power supply cooler masters marketing plays could include things like consideration of passive or fanless power supplies

Advancements in the fan blade passive thermal solutions that allow reduced noise or similar iterative steps power supplies are well defined so to really get creative the manufacturers might have to approach the factory and ask for

Recommendations on new technology and even then it's tough to market a power supply it typically takes Coolermaster or the other companies about three months to design the new product its identity and to outline its spec plus an

Additional one to two months to add a new wattage spec for an existing power supply we have a lot of footage from tooling factories that we can show for this part part of the design process includes designing the chassis if a

Chassis has to be retooled the tooling can be seven thousand to twenty thousand dollars per iteration so it's important to get it right in one go for perspective tooling for a full computer case can cost upwards of 1 million

Dollars USD but it's typically a few hundred thousand dollars still much more expensive than a power spike case which is relatively simple since it's just a square in our previous tour of third-party tool and suppliers in China

Last year we captured footage of how tools are made in industrial machine shops that are often grungy but very function first these tools eventually go into the chassis manufacturing plants either automated or manual where they'll

Make anything from networks which boxes like at liam lee it's a full-on computer cases like the cosmos at coolermaster as for the power supply factory it takes two to three years on average to complete a ground-up brand-new platform

For a power supply and get it into production most power supplies though take closer to six to eight months because the company can iterate on some already known good topology that it designed to

Previously the factory manager told us that power supplies aren't especially high-tech and so much of the time is spent trying to increase efficiency decrease size or move to simply newer better components from third-party

Suppliers time to move into the R&D rooms we asked how much of the design work boiled down to math versus experience and we were told that it's math electrical engineering teams are broken into individuals who specialize

In very low level parts so you might get someone whose entire job is to specialize in the Transformers or someone whose entire job is to work in signal integrity and so on this all gets worked out on paper before it ever gets

Put down and testing or trial and error and the first Rd room are greeted with temperature and humidity chambers that look familiar they're used for stress testing prototypes and they're pretty common

This lab employs 20 people and hosts about 10 million NTD new Taiwan dollars and equipment or about 331 thousand dollars USD for this room alone the temperature and humidity chambers are typically run at about 40 degrees

Celsius with humidity at about 65 percent the company uses 40 degrees as its baseline because it expects the average system case ambient temperature will be 40 degrees in our own testing and we've also found this to be true

These chambers are sometimes tested up to 95% humidity or as low as 20 to 30% but it depends on where the power supply is intended for use some of these are used for ul certifications while others are just for research and development

The power supplies that go into the thermal chambers are manually wired up with 40 to 100 K type thermocouples anyone who's ever wired thermocouples and secured them onto tiny part notice how absolutely infuriating that would be

It's not easy work it's very slow it's up close it's skilled labor that requires knowledge of which parts need to be logged and it takes forever one skilled technician here it requires about 10 hours to wire up the power

Supply with thermocouples up to a hundred k types on the board we had a chance to watch one of the technicians doing all the wiring work and we're somewhat relieved to know that there really isn't a better way to do this

Just like in our lab thermocouples are wiry they're entangled and they're difficult to work with once you get past the first couple cowan points of measurements include transformers resistors MOSFETs and capacitors as for

What they're checking the factory ensures that all the parts run within the recommended specs set on the datasheet for the integrated circuit supplier remember the power supply factory doesn't make these service mount

Devices or the other components that end up in the power supply they instead figure out to use and how to wired it all together so the power supply factory has to make sure everything works as designed the

Power supply has to be run in this chamber the thermal chamber for 48 hours during the dvt stage of development these are tested for standby high load PCIe 12 volt and high total load during the 48 hour period we spotted a water

Tank tucked under a desk attached to this machine by a pipe which is a jury-rigged solution that is used for humidity control most tests though stay at 65 percent humidity as for figuring out where to put the thermocouples well

A lot of thats done later in the process which we'll talk about later in this video typically involving a thermal camera so you can get thermographic imaging to figure out the hot spots to just make

The work a little bit easier but we'll talk about that more later next to the thermal chamber is a Croma rack this one is for chroma 8,000 snps autotest systems chroma is a brand name supplier of power

Supply load generators and test equipment and it fills this factories QC lines as well a chroma 61 604 programmable AC source is used for the bench looking closely at the model 8000 rack we can see that they're running a

Lot of 12 loads alongside a couple of 5 volts and 3.3 volt loads rather than using a real system using a chroma rig or a similar competing brand allows for programs at controlled load generation for the power supply tunable for each

Power supply that comes through the power module is on the far left of the model 84 91 chroma rack are 20 amps 500 volt modules for LED driver and delight testing another service that this factory provided in the past these racks

Also include oscilloscopes thermocouple readers and WaveRunner or wave surfer brand devices for logging or analyzing component performance the thermocouple readers are wired up again with 40 to 100 probes from the power supplies

Internal components then their logs for data analysis later with 48 hours of data per device there's potentially millions of lines of data to align against load generation ambient temperature and humidity in the charting

Software mounted to a wall is a DDC panel for a burnin testing room that's been converted into a warehouse the burnin room used to be a heat controlled environment for age simulation and longevity testing of components it's

Adapted though because they need more storage space the next room has testing equipment for power supply fans which aren't made here but are assembled with the power supply in this location the fans come from a different supplier and

Are tested during the EVT or the engineering stage before progressing to the DBT stage this lab uses a tachometer wired to a data logger but it's not the kind of laser tag that requires a sticker the most standard kind instead

It's a sensor and a wire alone that costs $1,500 and that's before the cost of the data logger that they're hooked up to fans are tested for the RPM range so that speeds and noise targets can be complied with later in development the

Industry standard for fan rpm variants is plus or minus 10% and that's the same here the next room we went into showed how low level the testing procedures can get using a wave surfer 24m xsb oscilloscope an engineer was testing the

AC side bridge diode for an upcoming power supply model this test looks at the inrush spike so technicians wire up sense lines to the PCB and then turn the power supply on and off rapidly to evaluate the inrush on the oscilloscope

Depending on the spec defined for the customer or for the platform as a whole this stage can help shape early development as with many other factories good old Windows XP is used on the systems for data export and analysis you

Don't need anything special to pull data off of a scope and these machines have been in service since the lab was set up with the testing equipment to begin with and most of them aren't connected to internet we also saw an X Tech 7450 500

Volt amp dielectric analyzer for the high pot test or a high potential test it in the factory stage later in the process which we showed in our previous video iPod testing is used for a high amperage and a high voltage test designs

To ensure that the power supply meets the spec for the product the factory side tests are for 1,800 volts at 10 milliamps for 1 or 25 amps at a lower voltage for the other at this stage the test runs for one minute for initial

Design all of this testing every single thing done in the lab needs to be done against a known and logged ambient temperature and humidity this is where that analog temperature and humidity sensor comes in the sensor only costs

20,000 NTD or about 660 to u.s. dollars which is extremely cheap for lab equipment it's been around for about a decade now and they've never had a part fail it uses needles to write data to a big reel like a seismograph

And with each reel they're able to store one month of data if anyone has to go back to figure out what happened with a weird test result they can unroll it and look at the analog data as for why analog the team told us that it's more

Reliable and it never needs replacing digital meters need replacing regularly or part fixes and this meter never goes bad it hasn't had defects in the years and years since it was deployed and all tests conducted in the lab require a

Ambient temperature and humidity log to make sure they're valid so if you use a meter that goes bad in the middle of testing everything done in the lab during that period would have to be redone the cost is too high so they just

Use analog because it's reliable although not in use it's kind of fun to look at some of the reserves of equipment that this lab has they've got shelving units full of AC sources load generators oscilloscopes benchtop power

Supplies line leakage testers touch current testers and other testing equipment that's either not actively used anymore or is redundant for failures the next room had even more testing equipment this room tests

Everything even the tape that's used for transformer isolation and other tests when the factory buys equipment like tape freezing its testing process it validates that the tape works as the seller advertises the same happens for

Thermocouples it has to make sure they work and that they're calibrated with typically an ice bath it seems the approach is to trust nobody as any bad link in the chain could cost millions and damage if product development goes

Wrong the test rigs shown here tests the tape by pinching the tape between two rods and attempting to pass electricity through it if anything makes it through beyond the spec the tape reel fails and the tape is returned the next table is

More familiar to us these are our test benches for real-world benchmarking featuring applications like FIR mark Unigine Valley Final Fantasies storm blood of all Thane's and 3dmark applications these tests are to check

For coil wine and power supplies but also to check for OCP and other protections to see that they work as intended in a real environment the factory insists that power supplies shouldn't affect coil

Wine coming out of the motherboard the GPU or other components on the board and that they only test for power supply noise if a power supply does exhibit coil whine which is the result of coils vibrating with in the inductor shell the

Factory can add extra costs and steps by gluing the coils to stop the high-frequency vibrations from creating the irritating noise continuing to the next floor up we were faced with even more testing equipment these acrylic

Chambers are small thermal test environments for power supplies there are a lot less sophisticated than the others but since the other chambers are so financially and spatially expensive and time expensive to use these are

Needed to ensure no time restrictions antastic these chambers are done the old-fashioned way they use the light bulbs in the bottom to heat up the chamber to about 1500 watts these are used for the EBT or the engineering

Stage of development while the more elaborate chambers are used for the DBT stage of development these chambers have been through enough torture that the acrylic is starting to show signs of age from the rapid heating and cooling

Cycles but they're still useful the power supply is seated on a shelf inside of the chamber while a fan at the bottom is used to simply circulate the air within the test environment this room is where most of the engineers involved in

The earliest stages of the pipeline end up working which is made obvious by the rows upon rows of bins of small service mount components it's also in this room that the engineers help prepare the thermocouple wiring that's done later by

Technicians using thermo graphic imagers the engineers identify hotspots on the power supply and then they wire j-type thermocouple to the hottest spots for secondary measurements this data is saved for later stages where the power

Supply gets wired for the thermal chamber that we saw earlier in this video all the thermocouples and thermal cameras are calibrated by a special team that visits on timed intervals we're told that the equipment in this room is

Used to make early changes and decisions on the design the major components for consideration are the AC in the bridge buck capacitors transformers protections like OCP standby and the PFC and PWM there are 27 key components total but

This short list is what gets the most consideration in early stages that wraps our power supply factory tour for the R&D lab if you'd like to see the physical assembly process of the same factory you can check our factory tour

Playlists below you can also watch our other factory tours like those covering metalworking case manufacturing and more thanks for watching subscribe for more go to store like Aaron's axis top mat or patreon.com slash gamers Nexus to help

Us out directly we need the support directly from the community to fund these types of factory tours they are not cheap adventurers but it's some of the most unique content you can get on the subject matter thanks for watching

We'll see you all next time

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