Thursday, June 21, 2012

Small details make a big difference: Power Supplies

-Deacon Wardlow

Protection and cost savings. Sometimes it comes down to a small component called out on an otherwise “standard” build or a 15 cent process-add to coat a PCB (Printed Circuit Board). These are small details in the overall manufacturing process, but they mean a lot on after-service for your system. For example, two case studies of power supplies:

Case 1:
The manufacturer specifies an off-the-shelf power supply (standard built) from company X (a leader in the industry with fairly reliable systems).

Case 2:
The manufacturer specifies an off-the-shelf power supply with custom adds from company X. The LED sign manufacturer provides a higher-grade capacitor in place of the standard part and specifies ALL PCBs in the power supply are to be conformally coated. The changes add up to about 20 cents in additional time/material per unit.

Both displays are installed in a northern New England location. Both displays are LED message centers mounted on poles outside of businesses on the same street a few hundred feet apart from each-other.

The area is a well traveled road which receives a lot of snow and gets heavily salted. Along with the heavy salting and snow, the spring weather brings fog and the summer is hot and humid. A harsh environment for any outdoor system.

In areas with high humidity and harsh environments, condensation can build up in the power supplies causing shorts in the systems. The high heat mixed with heavy humidity causes power supplies to work harder to distribute even AC-to-DC power conversion and this is where the extra protection and specified component pay off.

Case 1: sees a couple of power supplies fail. This requires:

  • a service call by the sign company - $75/hr - $125+/hr.
  • Setup/takedown for service is about 20 minutes
  • Service for two power supplies will be 20 minutes
  • Add in the 1 hour trip (each way) and you’re looking at a service bill of $225 - $400.

If two power supplies went quickly (within the first year) you can be sure there will be more failures resulting in more service calls. 

Case 2: Still working fine thanks to a small amount of foresight on the manufacturer’s-end.

The details on the front-end can save hundreds, if not thousands. After-service can’t be an afterthought. The money CASE 1 saved up-front ends up costing YOU time, money and your reputation. Make sure the manufacturer you’re dealing with pays attention to the details up front and spends that extra dime or two to ensure you get the best product possible.

*Always feel free to comment here and/or email me directly with requests at Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (, please check it out when you have a moment. Advertisements/promotion for your business and inappropriate comments will be deleted.. Thank you!

**Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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