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The best way to deal with harsh environments

The term “Industrial Internet,” reflects a trend of making industrial tools, equipment and processes more intelligent by generating and capturing meaningful operational data. GE estimates 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020. All those electronics will need to be powered safely, reliably, efficiently and economically. Many of these devices will be in harsh environments.

The harshest environments for components arise from operating conditions such as extreme temperatures or where contaminants such as dirt, dust and humidity are present. Extreme heat can cause components to exceed their maximum operating temperatures, resulting in immediate failure or slow degradation. To mitigate these high temperatures, applications such as enclosed cabinets require the use of cooling solutions to ensure proper, reliable functionality. Installing an appropriate cooling arrangement, such as a heat sink, cold plate, conduction cooling and/or air cooling solution, can help to tackle this issue.

Extreme cold, though not as damaging as extreme heat, also can result in abnormal operation of the components—causing slow start up time, high ripple, instability etc. In most cases, as a device starts up, the component temperature rises, bringing the operation within specification after few minutes. In some cases, the device can be warmed up by an external heating coil so that the components perform within the specification at all times.

In addition, dirt, dust and humidity can cause damage to the components in the form of arcing between high-voltage component leads. This can be prevented by using a conformal coating or by providing sleeves to the leads. In extreme cases, the device can be fully sealed to prevent the ingress of contaminants.

Lastly, damage from electrical surges can be prevented by choosing the right component for the application. It is essential to make sure the component meets/exceeds appropriate ratings to ensure that it can tolerate the expected surge levels during device operation. Special protection devices like fuses and/or metal oxide varistors also can be used to protect against electrical surges.

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