Welcome to my circuit protection blog! My goal is to share my experiences and insights in this often over-looked area and hopefully engage you in a dialogue that enlightens both of us. Most folks working in circuit protection didn’t choose it as a specialization in engineering school. You may have encountered a circuit that is exhibiting reliability issues or a design is required to meet some regulatory surge requirement. Once faced with a circuit protection issue, resources can be very limited. I hope that, in some small part, I can offer some perspective and inspiration to help you find protection solutions.
In this first post, I would like to talk a bit about the need for circuit protection in general. My view is that electronic devices should all have immunity to common surge events. That is to say, electronic devices should never fail due to ordinary and foreseeable electrical disturbances – be they ESD, induced lightning surges or incidental contact with AC power lines.
There’s a green angle here: Disposing of electronic devices is a bit delicate due to the lead content in solder and glass that are still commonly used in their manufacture. One way to reduce the amount of electronic devices headed to landfills is to assure that they never fail due to a common surge event. They should survive in the user’s application until a component is worn out or until the consumer decides to toss the device for their own purposes.
Including circuit protection in most designs costs just pennies. However many designers are pressured to cut to the bone. The cold fact is that CP doesn’t bring any additional features or functions to the product. It only activates when the equipment is threatened. I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories that manufacturers are employing a type of planned obsolescence, but CP does get squeezed out of many designs as they head for production.
Perhaps what is needed is a “Surge Star” program. This would be similar to the US “Energy Star” program but would signal to consumers that a piece of equipment was certified to withstand a series of ordinary surge events designed to simulate, say, 10 years of use in a typical threat environment. Those specifications would be formulated in a manner similar to the Energy Star program.
The life expectancy of electronic devices can be extended indefinitely for just pennies. It is true irony that Mother Nature’s surges are currently allowed to drive under protected products into landfills where they may do her some harm!
Kelly Casey is VP of Engineering for FM Technical Consulting, and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nebraska, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Previously, Mr. Casey has held various roles at Bourns, Littelfuse, and Teccor Electronics.
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