Why We Use Voltage Converter (VC) Power

By: Jack Vanden Broek

3 Min Read

26 Apr, 2021

Rules of engagement

A fundamental rule for powering mobile devices is to never input a higher voltage than the device can handle. If this occurs, you run the risk of causing serious damage. However, what happens if the only power source available exceeds your device’s limitations? And what if it happens to be located far away from your mobile installation? Fortunately, there is a technology that allows you to overcome these challenges. It’s called a voltage converter (VC). This article will provide insights into why we use voltage converters, how they work and how LAVA leveraged this technology to provide an integrated forklift solution for an industrial warehouse.

LAVA’s voltage converter adapters

LAVA adapters with VC power are equipped with a standard DC barrel jack connector  (2-millimetre center positive pin). They use an external DC power source ranging from 9-36 volts and step it down to 5 volts. The power cable and power source are supplied by the user so it can be tailored to the specific application. What’s more, it can be placed up to 50 feet from the device when a suitable wire gauge is used. The distance a voltage converter affords is especially invaluable for businesses where AC power sources are limited.

Most mobile devices are designed to operate at 5 volts. In fact, they can be severely damaged if anything higher than 5.25 volts is inputted. The built-in DC-DC converter steps down the input to 5 volts for safe use with your device and peripherals. The devices, however, are isolated from changes to the input voltage due to the internal DC-DC converter. This allows power supplies with high voltage to be inputted and not cause damage to the mobile device.

Let’s get a little technical

Using a power source with a higher voltage will result in less power loss in the wires connecting the supply to the LAVA product. A higher power supply voltage results in lower current flowing in the wire for the given power level. Power loss in a wire is proportional to the square of the current. So, it you cut the current flow in half, the power loss is now a quarter. While it depends on the particular application, VC power typically uses either a 12-volt 1.2-ampere (14.4 watts) power supply or a 24-volt 0.6-ampere (14.4 watts) power supply. Any unregulated power supply can be used provided it’s in the 9-36 volt range with a suitable power rating.

Voltage converter adapters deliver powerful options

While LAVA’s VC units can be used to deliver power at a distance, another popular use case is within automotive applications. This is due to the high voltage input from on-board electrical systems. For reference, the typical power supply from a vehicle is 12 volts. In some industrial vehicles, it goes up to 24 volts. This kind of application is best explained with a use-case for example.

A voltage converter case study

The Request

In 2018 LAVA was contracted to create a mobile solution to replace outdated computer systems on forklifts in industrial warehouses. The solution was to mount a tablet onto each forklift, connecting a barcode scanner, NFC reader and sometimes a keyboard. This would enable forklift operators to conduct inventory management, review staff time clocks and process data. What’s more, it would provide a friendly interface they could access on the move, throughout their workday.

The Solution

LAVA developed the eSynC-vc3U as a solution, a voltage converter and USB hub that delivers more. Part of our e Series family, this adapter is equipped with three USB ports for peripherals and Battery Modulation technology. This solution allowed the tablets (Samsung Tab Active 2) to draw power from the forklift, while maintaining access to multiple peripherals connected through USB. In so doing, we not only helped them increase efficiency but we kept the costs down by reducing the time spent on warehouse management activities. What’s more, our RBM Battery Modulation technology worked to protect the device’s battery 24/7. Preventing overcharging, this technology helps tablets last up to five years, even in heavy-use environments.

A voltage converter power option is a highly effective powering solution when negotiating power delivery over long distances, and for adjusting high input voltages to suit the requirements of USB peripherals such as in automotive applications. Capable of adapting the input voltage from a power source ranging from 9-36 volts, it provides the user with flexible powering options to suit the needs of the environment.

At LAVA we leverage our expertise to serve our customers, but also to educate, offer insights and hopefully inspire by discussing past technological experiences.