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Power Supply ManufactureFuel Cell Development

The Headache of Imprecise, Low Quality Load Banks (variable resistors).
Configuring load banks used to be a chore, but now it’s a breeze for anyone to configure a load precisely at the twist of a dial.

The client was ramping up development of solid polymer fuel cells, which it made in small lots but to a wide range of specifications to cater to the needs of its customers. However, an inefficient manufacturing processes was causing issues.

The Problem

Misgivings about Electronic Loads.

The issue related to the important task of measuring the power and voltage profile and performance of fuel cells under load. An engineer in the fuel cell development team recalls:

“We would connect together several variable resistors to achieve the desired resistance, but tweaking those resistors to elicit the target load was quite a chore. The job also required a degree of knowledge and experience to be performed properly, and the resulting load banks offered poor accuracy and quality considering the time spent building them.”

The engineer and his team considered getting rid of the bottleneck in the process by switching to electronic loads. However, not many engineers were familiar with these devices, and concerns were raised that their complexity would make it difficult to master their use, and that training would be time-consuming.

“I was surprised when another division asked me to choose a model that could emulate high-capacity fuel cells”, says the engineer.

“Meanwhile, the quality control team also heard that we were introducing electronic loads, and asked me to choose a model that could measure impedance.”

Faced with a barrage of requests from other divisions in addition to his own team’s misgivings, the engineer did not know where to start.

Key Aspects of the Problem

  • Building a load bank to specification was time consuming, yet home-built load banks offered low accuracy and quality.

  • While the engineer considered switching to electronic load devices to remedy the situation, he was reluctant to take the plunge because of concerns about his team’s unfamiliarity with these devices.

  • He was also inundated with requests from other divisions.

How was this problem solved?