Motor Drive Development – Still innovative after 20 years!!

Recently our Commercial Partner (Ms Patricia Elliott B.Eng) was kindly given an item by the company she used to work for (Nidec SR Drives Ltd.).  It was the last product she worked on before she left to set up Smart Power Solutions with our Technical Partner (Dr. Charlie Elliott). It is a high-power commercial vacuum cleaner unit used in larger homes and hotels in the US.

In order to keep size down and allow for long-life, a high-speed 2-phase Switched Reluctance Motor was used. To minimise input current whilst keeping cost low, a valley-fill power-factor improvement circuit was used. The control was implemented in a sub $1 microcontroller. As far as we are aware, nobody else has ever implemented such an innovative motor drive for this application since. When it was powered up in our lab, it worked after being sat in storage for almost 20 years!!

SPS is very well positioned to carry out motor drive development on all conceivable motor types. It has experience from low power 20W fans all the way up to 1MW mining applications. You won’t be surprised to hear that SPS is heavily involved in electrification of transport projects for both on and off-road use.

Innovative Motor Drive

SPS awarded Premier Design Partner Status Again

We are delighted to be able to report that SPS has yet again been awarded the status of Premier Design Partner by Microchip Technology. We use their parts (mainly 16 bit dsPICs + analogue parts) on the majority of the work we carry out due to the excellent performance, choice, cost and availability of their parts. Being a Premium Partner also means we get priority technical support and advance notification of new parts and technology. Both of these things are very important to provide the best possible service to our customers. Not wishing to be big headed, but SPS is the only Premier Design Partner with Motor Control Expertise in Europe and the only one worldwide with this ranking for both Motor Control and Functional Safety.


Succesful External ISO9001 Audit

Today was our annual external audit by BSI for our ISO9001:2015 quality management system. I am pleased to report that we passed with flying colours with no non-conformities at all. We did have an interesting discussion with our auditor on the subject of collaborative working. For certain this is the manner in which we prefer to work with our customers as it benefits both parties. He kindly told us about the Institute of Collaborative Working and the fact there is a specific standard and accredition (ISO 44001:2017) available. Perhaps something to consider for the future!! Meanwhile our training program will continue to make sure out staff have the relevent skills required.

EV SiC-based Inverter Project Update

SPS has just started testing the latest version of the highly challenging PCB it has designed for an automotive SiC-based EV inverter. The PCB not only implements all the required gate drive but integrates many other essential sensing and other auxiliary features to ensure electrical and functional safety. The space available for the PCB is very tight, the DC voltage high (up to 900V) and it has to press-fit to a power module where all the connection locationss are already set. The combined effect of this is that it has really challenged our most experienced PCB layout designer who has 25+ years experience.

The entire development of the PCB has been done in-house including the validation testing and manufacture of prototype PCBs. Given SPS’s senior staff have been working on xEV systems for well over 20 years, it is not surprising that our end customer has also asked us to assist with many other areas of their development. This includes advice on electrical / functional safety, EMC mitigation measures and thermal management. SPS has also carried out critical testing of the inverter system including full double pulse switch testing over the entire range of voltages, current and temperatures. This is an essential aspect of power electronics development that is unfortunately either skipped entirely or not done thoroughly by many other companies. This can result in an unacceptable amount of unknown risk in a product leading to reliability problems in the field. Most certainly not an option for an automtive product!! Please do contact us if our facilities and experience could be of use to your company.

Functional Safety

The control of electrical power is fundamental to what SPS does and has inevitable safety implications not just in its raw form but also in terms of what it allows you to do to effect motion etc. It is something that SPS takes very seriously in all aspects of what it does to protect its staff, customers and end users. This is epecially so in certain sectors such as automotive, medical, railways and industrial where over the years formal functional safety standards have evolved.
SPS has recently been officially recognised by Microchip as having sufficient experience in this area to become one of select few functional safety design partners. SPS uses Microchip products to implement all of its embedded control partly as they have products with the required features and tools/libraries available to aid meeting safety requirements. A summary of their capabilities can be found here.
We will be continuing to expand our expertise in this area by investing in training and the relevant processes and software tools especially with respect to software development and testing.

June is Training Month at SPS

Not quite sure why it has worked out like this but June seems to be the month for Training this year. First of all one of our Principal Engineers (Peter Moriarty) went on a 4 day course run by Ridley Engineering on Power Supply Design. This is a world reneowned course run by one of the leaders in the SMPS industry which is both theoretical and hands on.
Next our production staff are renewing their IPC qulifications in IPC A-610 – Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies and IPC WHMA-A-620 – Requirements and Acceptance for Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies
All of staff have a target of doing at least 1 day training a year. Sometimes this is in the form of internal mentoring but where possible we try to find external courses so we can expand our knowledge within the company. This is one of our stated QMS objectives.

External ISO9001:2015 Audit Success

We had our first external audit of our ISO9001:2015 QMS by BSI since we made the 2008-2015 transition yesterday. I am pleased to announce that we passed with no issues at all, not even a minor non-conformance. Well done to all involved. Two “Opportunities for Improvement” were made that we will be taking on board in due course. We will publish the new certificate when it comes available on our quality page.

MISRA C 2012 Training

As part of our ongoing software quality improvement initiative, our Technical Partner (Charlie Elliott) and one of our Principal Engineers (Mark Berry) are going on a two day training course on MISRA C 2012 next week. This is being run by one of the top software QA tools vendors (LDRA) at their offices in Liverpool and will be presented by members of the MISRA working group. For those of you who are not aware, MISRA C is set of “good practice guidelines” for C and C++ developed by a consortia of (mainly) Automotive engineers . MISRA stands for the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association and was set up to promote good practices within that industry for C/C++ code portability, safety, security and reliability especially within embedded systems. These same guidelines have now been adopted across many industries and as such MISRA C is generally accepted as THE set of guidelines to use on many applications that SPS is involved in.

Transition to ISO9001:2015 Complete!!

Yesterday we had our ISO9001:2015 external transition audit by BSI. We are delighted to report that we passed with flying colours with no non conformities!! This is a great reflection of the hard work and dedication of our Quality / Production Manager (Alan Yarker) in particular. We are expecting our updated certificate in due course and will update it on the site when we have it. At the same time we are also going to post some of the key aspects from our QMS (scope, policy and objectives) so that you can get a better understanding of our company.

Transition to ISO9001:2015 – Update

We have now had our readiness review for ISO9001:2015 with our external auditor from BSI. The outcome of this was very favourable with just a few areas requiring some improvement. This has now been carried out and we are looking forward to our first external audit which is booked for the 11th January 2018.