Last Updated on October 24, 2023 by Kevin Chen
PCB power module Image source Freepik
Every electronic device or even application has a power system. In most applications, this system is a printed circuit board (PCB) module. Basically, this power management component exists in the form of a printed circuit board.
The component is responsible for all the power-related roles in an electronic application. These roles may include generation of power, distribution, storage, and even regulation of the electric current.
A PCB module comprises a host of electronic components that perform different roles, all of which are directly connected to power and energy management. These components are carefully chosen and embedded onto the printed circuit board. Also, the PCB must be carefully designed before the component’s placement.
So, what are the functions of the PCB power modules? How are they able to perform their respective roles? Which PCB power module should I choose for my application? Keep reading as we answer all these key questions that you may be having about PCB power modules. You will also learn the essentials of buying the best PCB power modules for your device.
What are the functions of PCB power modules?
Why are PCB power modules used and what do they do? Here are some of the basic functions of these power modules in electric applications:
Regulation of power
PCB power modules are responsible for regulating the flow of power in electric devices and applications. They achieve this by limiting the amount of current and voltage that is flowing through different circuits. Regulation plays a role in guaranteeing the stability and efficiency of an application. It also protects different components from the dangers of high power, which is known for causing serious damage to devices and components.
This is another key function of PCB power modules in electrical applications. They are able to provide maximum protection by regulating the power that is flowing through the devices. They shield sensitive components from the impact of high current and voltage. Also, they prevent incidences of current leakage, which are known for causing various forms of electric damages in different applications.
PCB power modules have features that are responsible for heat management in devices and appliances. Most electronic components tend to generate heat energy in the course of their operation. If not well-managed, the heat can affect the normal performance of the device. Sometimes it can even cause both physical and electrical damage to the device.
PCB modules are embedded with thermal management features such as heat sinks which play a critical role in facilitating proper heat dissipation.
Performance and efficiency
Power has a direct impact on the performance of any electric device or appliance. With proper power management, you should expect an application to perform to its optimum levels. This is where the importance of PCB modules comes in. By ensuring that there is proper power management in a device, they guarantee the best performance and efficiency. For example, the modules ensure that each component in a device gets the required amount of current and voltage.
In most devices, users are able to determine and control the performance or the output. Do you know that PCB modules are also involved in the control and as well as monitoring of the performance of a device?
Let’s say an application has an electric motor and you would like to increase the speed at which the motor is spinning. The control function will entail varying the amount of current that is flowing through the motor circuit. A power module will have to be involved in doing this. The act of switching a device on and off is also based on the PCB power module.
These are just a few of the many functions of PCB power modules in electronic applications. Most of these functions tend to vary depending on the device and what it does.
How PCB power modules work
From the functions of PCB power modules, it is easy to tell that several components are involved to ensure that the modules function perfectly.
It all starts at the power supply subsystem of the module. This is where a component is connected to a voltage source, which can be a wall socket, battery or even directly to a power grid.
There is an array of activity that takes place at the input stage of the power system. One of them is conversion. Electric energy had to be converted into a form that can be used by the device. Power modules are responsible for converting the AC energy form into DC form and the reverse is true.
Other than energy forms, PCB modules are also responsible for changing the levels of energy. They can convert current from high to low or low to high depending on the requirements of the application. Let’s say the input voltage is low yet an application needs high voltage. Using components in a power module such as a transistor, the module will raise the voltage level to ensure that the component or application runs smoothly without any issues. And if the application requires low voltage yet the input voltage is high, the module will have to step down the voltage level.
Control or regulation is another key working mechanism of the PCB power modules. Here, the modules ensure that the current and voltage levels remain within a specified range. How do they achieve this function?
Well, each component that makes up a power module has a defined electric specification. Whether it is a resistor, transistor, or diode, it has a maximum current or voltage rating that should not be exceeded.
PCB power modules also control the flow and distribution of current in electric circuits. Diodes, which are critical components in the power module determine the direction of current flow. They prevent the electric current from taking an unintended path.
It is through the control operations that PCB power modules are able to play their protection roles. By regulating the current that goes through components, the modules provide protection against overcurrent or overvoltage. Also, by determining the direction of the current flow, the modules are able to shield sensitive components from electromagnetic interference and other forces.
PCB power supply design
One of the most important functions of PCB power modules is in the power supply system of a device. When choosing this module, you have to consider the type of power supply that you would wish to use on your device. The module may be designed to convert the unregulated AC power from the source to the DC voltage that is needed to run the device. This module may also have a regulator that will smoothen the power supply waveform to enhance the consistency of the device.
Two key principles are used in determining the power supply modules. These are the linear regulators (linear-mode regulators) and the switching regulators (switch-mode).
Linear power supplies are known for their simplicity. They have a few components that are mounted on the PCB to make up a supply module. The main issue with these modules is they are prone to power losses in the form of heat. They are not suitable for the heat-sensitive applications.
On the other hand, switch-mode power supply modules tend to have more complex designs and structures. They tend to host more electronic components mounted on the PCB. While complexity may sound like a serious challenge, switch mode PCB power modules are more efficient especially when it comes to the issue of heat management. The only problem that may be caused by the switch mode power module is electromagnetic noise since many components are positioned close to each other. This noise may affect the normal operation of other components and circuits. The good news is PCM power module manufacturers have come up with various ways of minimizing the impact of noise on their applications and devices.
Thermal management in the PCB power modules
Other than power management, PCB power modules are also designed with power management in mind. Proper heat management guarantees the operational integrity of the target device. Keep in mind that most electronic components that are mounted on the PCB are likely to emit heat when electric current passes through them. The level of heat dissipated will depend on several factors including the power level of the component and power specifications of the components used.
Since heat dissipation in the PCBs is not even, thermal vias are included in the circuits to direct heat away. Cooling techniques such as the use of heat sinks and as well as heat pipes may also be deployed.
Power management is a critical aspect of any electronic device and application. As we have seen PCB power modules are highly important in all the aspects of power management. They directly impact the performance and reliability of devices and appliances.
When choosing PCB power modules, you should ensure that their designs and specifications will meet all your application requirements. Find the right PCB power module distributor who will guide you in the whole buying process.
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