Electronic Loads

What is an Electronic Load?

They are electronic devices designed to provide a load to the outputs of a power supply, usually capable of dynamic loading, and frequently programmable or computer controlled.

Real loads are complex and deviate from being purely resistive, inductive or capacitive. The electronic load mimics the real load that a power source sees in the actual application, but unlike the real load which can be unpredictable and random in value, the electronic load provides an organized, contained and a fully controllable load.

Electronic loads allow users to simulate easily and quickly various power states. Using an electronic load, large ranges of power sources such as converters, inverters, UPSs and electromechanical sources such as batteries and fuel cells may be tested. For varying loads, electronic loads are easier to use and provide a much higher throughput compared to fixed-resistors. It is important to use a suitable electronic load for testing.

An electronic load usually consists of a bank of power transistors, power MOSFETs or IGBTs mounted on a suitably sized heat sink, and cooled with fans. An electronic circuit governs the amount of current that the power devices can draw from the power supply on test. To protect the power devices from damage, electronic loads usually have a pre-settable power limit. The manufacturer usually provides a power curve for the safe operation of an electronic load. The user must be aware of the simultaneous maximum voltage and current that can be applied to the electronic load to ensure the electronic load is not overpowered.

Electronic loads are available for both ac and dc supply testing and help designers to test electronic power products and ensure quality, reliability, and performance.

Types of Electronic Loads
• Benchtop: Entry level, inexpensive, but are limited in range and accuracy.
• Slot: Measures a single set of variables, similar to benchtop
• System: For near-continuous duty, consists of an integral transient generator, provides a variety of features, more expensive.
• Modular: Consist of a computer chassis and designed for dynamic loads. These vary depending on the number of loads per chassis. The modular loads are capable of testing several different supplies connected in parallel, in just a single pass. (i.e. a computer power supply with multiple outputs)
• Design verification
• Power supply and converter testing
• Current modulation
• Voltmeter fuse
• Troubleshooting devices for repairs

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