Why We Use Voltage Converter (VC) Power

By: Jack Vanden Broek

3 Min Read

26 Apr, 2021

A fundamental rule for powering mobile devices is to never input a higher voltage than the maximum voltage the connected device can handle. If this occurs, you run the risk of seriously damaging your device. However, there are often situations where the only power source available exceeds a device’s limitations, or the device is situated far away from the power source. Fortunately, there is a technology that allows you to overcome these challenges called a Voltage Converter (VC). A variety of LAVA’s SimulCharge adapters are equipped to use VC power. This article will provide insight into VC’s capabilities, how it works, and discusses how LAVA leveraged VC technology to provide an integrated forklift solution for an industrial warehouse.

LAVA adapters with Voltage Converter (VC) power are equipped with a standard DC barrel jack connector, with a 2-millimetre center positive pin for power. They use an external DC power source ranging from 9 to 36 volts. The power cable and power source are supplied by the user so it can be tailored for the specific application, and can be placed up to 50 feet away from the device when a suitable wire gauge is used. The distance a VC model affords is especially useful if the device is being used in a retail or business environment – where AC sources may be situated far away from the intended area.

Most default devices are designed to operate at 5 volts, and can be severely damaged if anything higher than 5.25 volts is inputted. The built-in DC-DC converter takes down the input voltage to 5 volts for use by the LAVA adapter, mobile 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. 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 cut the current flow in half and 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 is in the 9 to 36 volt range with a suitable power rating.

While LAVA’s VC equipped units can be used to deliver power across long distances, another popular use is within vehicle-based applications, due to the high voltage input from on-board electrical systems. For reference, the typical power supply from consumer or commercial vehicle is 12 volts, but in some cases it goes up to 24 volts for industrial vehicles. This kind of application is best explained with a use-case example. In 2018 LAVA was contracted to create a mobile solution to replace the outdated computer systems on forklifts within industrial warehouses. The solution was to mount a tablet (Samsung Tab Active 2) on each forklift, and integrate an eSynC-vc3U so the operator could utilize a barcode scanner, NFC reader, and in some cases even a full QWERTY keyboard all powered by the forklift’s electrical system. This gave forklift operators the ability to conduct inventory management, review staff time clocks and process data collection through a user friendly mobile interface they could access on the move throughout their workday. This solution not only increased efficiency but kept costs down as well by reducing the time spent on warehouse management activities.

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 a device will be operating in.

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