For a self-described ‘bunch of engineers’ who started a business to make a difference, On-systems is doing just that – and winning awards for its innovative power supply technology developed with NATEP support.
NATEP-backed technology developed to improve the way aircraft distribute and use electricity is winning awards for its developer in unexpected places.
On-systems achieved a “game-changer” with its NATEP project, concluded in 2017, which succeeded in putting more power into a smaller, cooler package. But despite further developing the technology, it proved difficult for the SME to quantify and qualify its total system benefits.
However, said On-systems commercial director Mike Harvey, “we saw a way to exploit the technology as a means of reducing the size and weight of portable AC-DC power supplies used for equipment such as laptops.
“We launched Pebble in 2018 predominantly for the defence market, a new sector for us. It won the 2018 Elektra Power Supply Product of the Year award.”
On-systems also won bespoke power supply designer of the year in the 2019 Technology Innovator Awards.
Novel approach to switching
The company, which designs and manufactures power supplies and conversion equipment for harsh environments, led a 15-month NATEP project that took a novel approach to switching technology, simplifying the process and introducing a “massive step-change” in the DC current frequency.
On-systems and its industry partner Peregrine Semi-conductors demonstrated technology that cuts the size and weight of power supply units (PSUs), reduces electromagnetic interference (EMI) and harmonics, and increases AC-to-DC conversion efficiency to 95 per cent or more – outcomes that potentially could change the whole architecture of onboard power.
Said Harvey: “We now have a smaller PSU switching at 96 per cent efficiency. It no longer needs a forced air cooling system so you can put power supply anywhere in the aircraft.”
Reducing the burden on cooling saves on power, pipes and components used for that purpose; replacing a high-power centralised PSU with local supply saves on copper wiring.
All-aircraft SVVP model
To quantify and validate the benefits to aerospace, On-systems is working with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to develop an all-aircraft server visualisation validation programme (SVVP) model. Harvey said the model “will allow us to change electrical switching aspects to understand the implication of change, and the effect of change to cable routing and cooling systems.” ATI will make it available to SMEs once it’s fully developed.
Harvey said it was obvious the technology had possible land, marine and commercial applications “anywhere there’s an AC power source.”
On-systems has integrated the technology into an LED lighting driver for studio lamps, which means the power supply can sit in the lamp rather than being cabled to the lamp from the floor. “This is a game-changer for one innovative customer who might install 300 lamps in a single studio set-up,” said Harvey.
The technological innovation is driving growth in On-systems’ business, and with it an expansion into new premises in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, that are seven times the size of its old offices and workshops.
“We wouldn’t have done any of this if it weren’t for NATEP,” said Harvey. “We were encouraged by feedback from the Regional Advisory Panel (RAP) at the application stage, and then supported through the project by the technology managers.”