Taking Advantage of Power Conditioning
Power conditioning has emerged as a significant issue in automation
by Christopher Keuling, Associate Editor
Power has the essential role in the operation of a factory since no machinery can run without it, but power isn’t a guarantee. Companies performing industrial automation lose up to millions of dollars and hours of production time annually due to power anomalies. There are two types of power anomalies: natural phenomena which are harder to control and internal anomalies which are easier to control. The power anomalies can be controlled and mitigated using a variety of solutions.
We decided to take a look at the practice of power conditioning in industrial automation and see how the components that are out there can help. We spoke with five different companies to get their perspectives on power conditioning.
Before calling these companies, we devised a set of questions intended to be flexible enough so the experts could provide specialized answers. These questions are:
1) Why should today’s engineers be concerned about power conditioning?
2) What applications do you feel will benefit most from power conditioning?
3) What are the best approaches for power conditioning?
Rob Loomis, president and chief operating officer, SoftSwitching Technologies 
SoftSwitching Technologies’ Dynamic Sag Corrector (DySC) is a battery-free UPS that runs from 0.25 to 2000 kVA using double conversion inverter technology that protects against the voltage sags and momentary outages that account for 30% of all manufacturing downtime.
“Ninety-eight of all power anomalties are voltage sags lasting less than two seconds and 60% lasting under one-tenth of a second. Power conditioning becomes a valuable asset when you’re production constrained, scrap expense is excessive or time constrained. Virtually every process tool in semiconductors is vulnerable to voltage sags, and the cost is damaged wafers or lost production. Segment loads can be put into four categories: life support (use a UPS with a GEM set), emergency/safety shutdown (use a UPS with 10 minutes of runtime), dirty power/voltage sags (DySC) and ‘we don’t care’ (no solution).”
“Voltage sags are the principle problem. An electronic solution without batteries, trickle charge, disposal expense and maintenance expense is the best way to go, and industries are moving in that direction. People have equipment to detect power in a factory, but it typically doesn’t tell where problem came from. If there’s a grid problem, all you need to do is restart the factory without blaming anything.”
Frank DeLattre, chief marketing officer, VYCON 
VYCON’s flywheel technology stores energy kinetically, while constantly spinning to convert the kinetic energy to electrical energy in the motor generator in anomalies under eight seconds.
“Even the smallest power glitch will reset the control system and a less than one second outage stops lots of production that cannot be made up. Millions of dollars of material can be lost. Applications with a high amount of scrap value, a continuous process or a process that can’t recapture production time need power conditioning the most.”
“EPRI studies found that 99% of all power interruptions in the U.S. were less than eight seconds in duration. It’s not uncommon to have power outages for as long as four to five hours in newly built factories, and they should look into getting a standby generator since our flywheel won’t protect for outages longer than 20 or 30 seconds in duration.”
Carl Cottuli, vice president, America Power Conversion’s  Data Center Science Center
APC develops a variety of products for back-up power and surge protection, such as UPS systems and data line protectors.
“Platforms are embracing electronic systems in the form of sensors, node-based processors and main CPU's with a higher level of sensitivity to poor power quality. The utility grid is continuing to supply more load across a power hungry nation, which leaves power quality susceptible to increasing problems.”
“The largest benefit for power conditioning in industrial platforms would be the systems that are the hardest to recover, such as a process control company that has an automated platform that cannot be shutdown in the middle of a process run. The amount of loss dollars as compared to the cost to buy and operate a power conditioning platform will provide some real good indication on the ROI for such a decision.”
“In a process automated system like "Pick Pack Ship warehousing", it’s possible to just maintain the control platform electronics. In a paper printing application, the loss of clean energy would ruin an entire shift of news print and would be a candidate for conditioning across the entire automated process.”
Russell Shetler, director of engineering, Liebert AC  Power Business of Emerson Network Power
Liebert AC Power Business’ UPS systems use passive standby, line interactive and double conversion topologies. Their online double conversion systems provide better protection because they isolate sensitive electronics from the incoming power source, remove a wider range of disturbances and provide a seamless transition to battery power.
“Load interaction will affect power quality downstream. If the loads don’t interact well, the quality of power is in danger. Any datacenters or servers that are supported by clean power that can’t sustain anomalies by supplying back-up power to the load are good candidates for a power conditioning device. A dual conversion online UPS takes the utility power, does conversion from AC to DC and the DC power is converted back to AC. The DC source (battery) is parallel to the output inverter for the AC power.”
Michael McCook, senior principal, SurgeX  and Empower 
SurgeX’s SeriesMode technology blocks and contains surge energy without the use of any sacrificial or diversionary components.
“Very specific power anomalies are taking place consistently, such as lighting, that leaves everything susceptible to damage, power line fluctuations from local power generation companies doing grid switches between residential, commercial and industrial, electromagnetic and RF interference, that are proximity-effected man-made issues, and smaller surges including motors turning on and off.”
“Microprocessor-based systems are the most vulnerable to anomalies because everything is being controlled by microprocessors, and there’s more risk for damage with smaller components. The fundamental key to power conditioning is a non-sacrificial surge elimination device designed to solve surge related events on branch circuits since a power supply will suffer damage in surges with a sacrificial device. Industrial-grade EMI and RFI filtering can be completely reliable with the use of a non-sacrificial device.”