Smart needs to remain smart or get smarter
Today’s world is as smart as it is thanks to the extensive use of electronic components of all types. To ensure that devices and systems retain that "smartness" throughout their entire life cycle, these same components have to work flawlessly. There only needs to be one faulty component out of hundreds or thousands to cause malfunctions that can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences.
Smart Grid environments rely heavily on ICT (Information and communication technology) for transmitting and processing signals and data smoothly and providing communication between devices or systems. They also depend on power electronics for the conversion of electrical power.
The role of power electronics
Power electronics is the phrase used to define the application of solid-state* electronics for the efficient control and conversion of electrical power. Power electronics comes into play whenever there is a need to modify voltage, current or frequency. In modern systems the conversion is performed using semiconductor switching devices such as diodes, thyristors and transistors.
Power electronics is used in a wide range of applications, including:
- Industry: motor drives, electrolysis, electroplating, induction heating, welding, lighting and arc furnaces and ovens
- Transportation: trains, subways, buses, magnetic levitation, electric vehicles, automotive electronics, ship and aircraft power systems
- Utility systems: HVDC (high-voltage d.c.) transmission, flexible a.c. transmission, custom power and power quality control, renewables (wind, photovoltaic, fuel cells) and energy storage systems
- Power supplies for electronic equipment: telecommunications, computers, office equipment, electronic instruments, portable or mobile electronics
- Residential and home appliances: lighting, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, cooking, cleaning and entertainment
Many consumer electronic devices, such as cell phones, personal computers and battery chargers, contain an a.c./d.c. converter, probably the most popular converter of all. In industry a common application is the VSD (variable speed drive), which controls induction motors. The power range of VSDs goes from a few hundred watts to tens of megawatts.
Trust is essential
Manufacturers and suppliers of electronic components and manufacturers of electronic devices and systems have to ensure that their products are of the highest quality and performance. For their part, retailers who sell devices and equipment need to make sure that they are safe and reliable – and the consumers who buy them will also want to know this.
For those consumers, trust is essential here. One way to build that trust is through testing and certification. IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, is a major player and a leader in this field, working relentlessly to develop Schemes that cover not just electronic components but also associated materials, assemblies and processes.
IECQ – a building block
As a worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ provides a certification system that enables manufacturers and suppliers to provide independent verification that the claimed specifications (including International IEC Standards) have been met. This gives end manufacturers the reassurance of knowing that suppliers holding IECQ certification do not need stringent second party assessment or monitoring.
The plethora of electronic components and processes covered by IECQ are used in all kinds of technologies, from the smallest device to the most complex piece of equipment. IECQ’s contribution to a safer and more reliable world can only increase with the development of new technologies and state-of-the-art electronic devices.
IECQ offers several Schemes for specific industry sectors or that address issues that raise concerns. Recent additions to the System’s portfolio include a Programme for the automotive industry - AQP (Automotive Qualification Programme) – which utilizes power components and highly depends on the reliability of the thousands of electronic components that are integrated in ther vehicles; and another – CAP (Counterfeit Avoidance Programme) – that tackles counterfeiting, a hot topic nowadays in this field.
The IECQ Schemes and Programmes available today are:
- IECQ AP(Approved Process)
- IECQ AP-CAP (Counterfeit Avoidance Programme)
- IECQ AC(Approved Component)
- IECQ AC-TC (Technology Certification)
- IECQ AC-AQP (Automotive Qualification Programme)
- IECQ Avionics
- IECQ HSPM (Hazardous Substances Process Management)
- IECQ ITL (Independent Testing Laboratory)
The IECQ Schemes help facilitate trade, reduce industry costs and eliminate duplication of assessments because certificates are recognized globally in the member countries. This means that once a device has been tested by a recognized certification body, the certificate is valid everywhere, making it highly valuable. It also provides those components, processes and materials that have been certified with the potential to access international markets.
To learn more about IECQ and its Schemes, please visit: www.iecq.org
* Many years ago, mercury-arc devices were utilized for the rectification of a.c. to d.c. or the inversion of d.c.to a.c. However, today’s rapidly growing usage of power electronics results from the development of the solid-state power devices that succeeded them.