An adaptable accessory power system provides a way to avoid stocking different electrical cords for the country to which the device will be exported.
Ralph Bright, Interpower
Although most companies would like to market their products in more countries, adapting the products to local codes requires different power cords, circuit protection and electromagnetic compatibility. It’s no secret that electrical plugs and sockets vary by country in size, shape and type of connectors.
Each country determines the connector types it prefers and describes them in national standards legislation. With several different standard plug patterns used around the world, the problem of providing country-specific plugs and cords can be daunting and expensive. In addition, many manufacturers would like to avoid stocking different cords for each different country to which their product will be exported.
An accessory power system provides a solution. Good reasons to use it include:
- The IEC 60320 component family makes it possible to control power to accessories through the main appliance. (The IEC refers to any device requiring a power connection as an appliance.)
- The IEC 60320 component system is generally accepted for use throughout the world.
- The use of country-specific plugs and outlets are not needed for accessory power connections. For example, it is no longer necessary to use North American plugs and outlets on peripheral equipment destined for sale in the U.S. and Canada, or British plugs and outlets on equipment destined for sale in the United Kingdom. The mains connection (main power) to the primary equipment or the accessory power strip need not use a country-specific plug.
An example of peripheral medical equipment would be on medical carts with several pieces of equipment, such as a computer with a printer, or an ultrasound machine. An accessory power strip would be used to bring power to the cart by a single country-specific mains cord and then distribute it to the other devices by IEC outlets and jumper cords.
In the IEC 60320 standard, individual configurations are divided and listed by sheet styles, per the standard’s own nomenclature. Sheet style are segregated by an overall pattern (shape and pin layout) – and by how they are used, such as panel mount inlet or outlet or cable mount connectors.
The basic components of an accessory power distribution system are one or more outlets (Accessory Power Module or Strip), a power cord with a plug-connector or a cord set with a molded plug-connector on one end and a connector on the other.
The most commonly used accessory power system is rated for 10A internationally and 15A in North America.
However, a second system is provided in the IEC standards with current ratings of 16A internationally and 20A in North America. The accompanying illustration provides outline drawings with the proper IEC references (see the IEC 60320 Coupler Sheet here: http://tinyurl.com/coupler-sheet for more details).
A few components in the system
Accessory power systems can also include power strips, 19-in rack-mounted power distribution units, universal jumper cords, and connector locks.
Accessory power strips (not the power system), are usually specified when:
- The main system power will be controlled from the Accessory Power Strip.
- The main piece of equipment in the system does not have sufficient panel space for an accessory power module.
- The organization configuring the system is buying off-the-shelf equipment, and overall power control must be added.
Accessory power strips from our company are enclosed in an 18-gauge steel case intended for use with professional-quality commercial equipment. The strips have VDE approval as well as approvals from the U.S., Russia, Canada and Japan. All stock accessory power strips include a resettable circuit breaker. A few options including different housing sizes, connector locks, Sheet J outlets, switches, guards and more.
A 19-in. rack-mount power distribution unit is an accessory power strip in a slim 1U design. One U (Unit) is a panel height, 44.45-mm, per standard EIA-310-D. Power strips conveniently fit in a standard 19-in. equipment rack. A variety of options allow control of power through the entire rack from the unit.
“Universal” jumper cords are power cords that allow connecting to any of the company’s accessory power strips and power-main outlets anywhere worldwide. Standard “universal” jumper cords are available from stock in a variety of lengths. “Universal” suggests the cords are used just about anywhere. However, some countries such as Japan prefer their own nonstandard designs.
Generally, there is no need for overseas approval on “universal” jumper cords. We do not recommend country specific options on these cords. When customers try to make these items country-specific, they cannot be approved for use in other countries, and the universal cable will be eliminated.
Accessory power modules are four-position devices. They can be a cost-effective solution for applications in which a multiple Sheet F outlet module will be mounted directly into the equipment that will control accessory power in the system. The module snaps directly into a panel and connects with a combination ¼-in. (6.3mm) quick disconnects or solder terminations. Designers can specify six different panel thicknesses.
There is also an alternative that adds a C14 inlet to the four Sheet-F outlets. The inlet and outlets are not electrically connected so designers can specify exactly how the outlets will be controlled and protected.
Connector locks secure a cord set to an IEC 60320 power inlet to prevent accidental power interruption. Cord sets are easily removed with a tool and without disrupting the connector lock. The connector lock for each cord set is designed for molding a specific cord set connector style.
When selecting accessory power strips consider:
- Plastic versus metal. This depends on the end users, what they want or need for durability and their budget.
- Area of use. If the item will be used in an area with a lot of movement, such as on a vehicle, it will be vulnerable to vibration, or impact, or both. Hence, a metal APS may work best. When the item will simply be plugged in and “parked,” plastic will suffice.
- Country of export. Ensure the socket strips are approved for the country to which it will be used. Interpower’s APS are approved for used in the U.K., U.S., Europe, Russia, and in some cases Japan. Some APS carry only U.S. or European approvals.
Regardless of the accessory power strip requirements, there are many options to simplify things, clean up your rack systems and power multiple equipment units. The selection may also open opportunities in new countries.
Eliminating differences in equipment saves time and trims shipping costs to different countries. You’ll spread the cost over more volume. Yes, you’ll have more jumper cord sets, but fewer country-specific cord sets.
Ralph Bright has served as the vice president of marketing with Interpower Corp. in Ames, Iowa, for the last 22 years.