Power supplies have long been considered among the basic essentials on
every EE’s and circuit designer’s benchtop. As a result, a dizzying
array of them is available to the instrument buyer, many of them
optimized for specific applications. One common option is the inclusion
of multiple outputs. In addition, multichannel units with high output
accuracy are available at increasingly economical prices. But given that
no equipment budget can afford every possible “bell and whistle” that
test hardware vendors offer, it makes sense to ask which applications
really demand a multichannel power supply and which ones don’t.
Are you creating a device that has both digital and analog circuitry or bipolar circuitry? If
so, a multichannel supply is the more convenient power source.
Triple-channel power supplies typically have two higher voltage channels
for analog circuits (to power multi-voltage circuits or to create
bipolar power supplies for testing bipolar analog circuits) and a third
channel intended to power a digital circuit. The voltage for this third
channel is typically 10V or less (for testing digital circuits operating
at 5V or less). Pay close attention to how the power supply’s vendor
specifies that channel. Some supplies have fixed (i.e.,
non-programmable) voltage output channels, which are often 5V channels.
However, if the application requires testing digital circuitry that
operates at 3.3V or 1.8V, a programmable third channel is essential.
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