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MTBF and the Quality of Your Power Supply

Posted by MEGA Electronics on Aug 1, 2017 8:35:00 AM

Few things are more important to your power supply than reliability. From individual products to massive production lines, no one wants to deal with a breakdown that’s the result of failure.

In this week’s blog post, we’ll look at the connection between MTBF and power supplies and how improving it can improve quality and power supply reliability.

Power supply repliability is crucial to production lines. A failure can wreak havoc.

Few things are more important to your power supply than reliability. From individual products to massive production lines, no one wants to deal with a breakdown that’s the result of failure.

In this week’s blog post, we’ll look at the connection between MTBF and power supplies and how improving it can improve quality and power supply reliability.

What is MTBF?

MTBF is the Mean Time Between Failures, and is a parameter used to establish the reliability of a power supply. It’s often misunderstood: it does not mean the minimum guaranteed time until failure.

Rather, MTBF represents the elapsed time between two failures, and should not be confused with MTTF, or Mean Time to Failure.

MTTF represents the time from the beginning of operation until the first failure. A power supply’s MTTF value is the time at which 63 percent of samples under testing experienced their first failure. This figure is typically used to determine the number of units to have on hand as replacements.

According to an article in BatteryPower Online, MTBF can best be explained by the total functional life of a power supply, divided by the number of failures. This, in turn, can be used to measure the reliability of the component.

The bathtub curve

While MTTF might seem like the more reasonable method of identifying how long a power supply will operate, there are good reasons why MTBF is used so frequently.

To understand this, we need to consider the “bathtub curve,” a method of measuring reliability.

The curve is made up of three regions:

  • Region 1 – Initial failure rates of a product, caused by defects in components or manufacturing.
  • Region 2 – The operating life of the product, and the section in which MTBF calculations apply.
  • Region 3 – There wear-out time for the product, in which it no longer performs, or just performs at the bare minimum.

It’s in the second region that the models for MTBF and MTTF unite, but again, this doesn’t mean a power supply will automatically be reliable.  The probability of failure can be calculated through life testing.

Boosting reliability

Power supply reliability must be a key focus during design and development. Otherwise, the ability to identify and assess problems can’t be addressed when the design concept takes shape. By the time you’ve reached the end of development, it’s become too late to contemplate reliability implications.

Simplicity and power supply reliability go hand-in-hand. A design that strives for simplicity will lead to a power supply that is more dependable than a more complex system.

The preliminary stages of developing a power supply should focus on two key pieces: critical applications – those that will cause it to cease working – and non-critical, or auxiliary, applications.  In addition to simplicity, failure rates can be reduced by paying attention to the factors that cause stress in electronic equipment, such as temperature, voltage, average load rate, and vibration. When testing power supplies, the MTBF should be tested at a temperature that mirrors the operating environment of the component.

To address life hour limitations, designers and manufacturers can utilize a redundancy scheme where two power supplies are connected.  Since the capacitors in power supplies don’t have an indefinite lifespan, this redundancy ensures continuous operation if one power supply fails. A trustworthy manufacturer should be able to provide you with detailed specifications that show that all factors have been considered, ensuring the reliability of your power supply.

For more than 20 years, MEGA Electronics has designed, manufactured and delivered power supplies to clients around the world. We are dedicated to delivering quality products and seeing your project through for the entire life cycle of your power supplies.

Contact MEGA today to learn more about how we can help you with your next power supply project.

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Topics: Reliable Power Supply