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Power supply prototype failures

I remember my very first power supply. They threw me in the deep end in 1981 building a multi-output 1 kW power supply. I was fresh from college, thought i knew everything, and consumed publications voraciously to learn more. Exciting times.

But nothing prepared me for the hardware trials and tribulations. We built things and they blew up. Literally. We would consume FETs and controllers at an alarming rate. The rep from Unitrode would come and visit and roll his eyes when we told him we needed another dozen controllers since yesterday.

The reasons for failure were all over the map . EMI, heat, layout issues, design issues, bad components (we had some notorious early GE parts - they exited the market shortly afterwards.)
Some of the issues took a few days to fix, some of them took weeks. We had two years to get the product ready, which was faster than the computer guys were doing their part, so it was OK.

90% of the failure issues weren't talked about in any paper, and to this day, most of them still aren't.

So, fast forward to today, 32 years later. I still like to build hardware - you can't teach what you don't practise regularly, so I keep at it.

With all the benefit of 3 decades of knowledge I STILL blow things up. Everything progresses along fine, then i touch a sensitive circuit node, or miss some critical design point and off it goes. I'm faster now at finding the mistakes but I still find there are new ones to be made. And when it blows up with 400 V applied, it's a mess and a few hours to rebuild. Or you have to start over sometimes, if the PCB traces are vaporized.

So my first prototype, while on a PC board, always includes the controller in a socket because I know I will need that. Magnetics too, when possible, I know I'll revise them time and again to tweak performance. PC boards will be a minimum of two passes, probably three.

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