A common refrain we hear from existing and potential customers is, “Is your equipment easy to use, and will it work well with our existing systems?” The short answer is: Yes and yes. Applied Physical Electronics L.C. has made listening to our customers a major part of our company culture. A typical customer interaction involves an initial phone call to determine customer requirements, and in many cases, a follow-up meeting at the customer’s facility so our sales engineer can see first-hand what challenges exist and what problems need to be solved. Below are a few specific ways APELC makes sure that the systems making it into our customer’s hands are easy to use:
Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs)
In many of our systems, APELC utilizes PLC-based control platforms that are both robust and provide a simple, intuitive GUI for both local and remote control. Figures 1 and 2 below show an example of such an interface. In this example the typical controls for an APELC Marx generator are shown, which include: control of the high-voltage power supply for charging of the Marx, electronic pressure control for the insulating gas within the Marx (typically compressed, dry air), triggering, and interlock/emergency-stop controls. Control of the system is available from both a local touch-screen control and an identical computer-based control panel linked via Ethernet over fiber-optic. Additional digital and analog signals are made available on the rear of the control enclosure (Figure 3) that give the user the ability to trigger the system directly from a TTL signal (more on this below), as well as analog monitors for Marx charge voltage that can be integrated into customer control platforms for monitoring and troubleshooting.
Figure 1 PLC-based control integrated into an APELC control rack. Also showing trigger generator and high-voltage power supply.
Figure 2 Example screen capture from the GUI
Figure 3 Rear panel of PLC control enclosure showing analog and TTL I/O for customer controls
Wide Dynamic Range
APELC designs our Marx generators to have a wide dynamic range and generous operating points. This does two things to make our customers’ lives easier:
- Wide dynamic range (typically 5:1) allow for one system to cover a range of amplitudes that in the past may have required multiple systems or hardware configurations to cover (e.g. spark gap adjustments etc…).
- Wide operating points mean that pressure settings for a given voltage set-point are relatively forgiving (e.g. +/- 5psi in some cases). Because most Marx generator-based systems use pressurized spark gaps, the user is at the mercy of Ideal Gas Law. i.e. temperature changes cause pressure changes, which can make the operator have to adjust set-points with temperature. With recent advancements to APELC’s trigger system, pressure operating ranges are wide enough that they are not affected by large temperature swings.
Incredible Customer Support
Lastly, APELC offers unprecedented customer support. Starting with the design process, we make sure our customers are heavily involved- in some cases we even welcome them to be a part of our design review process so we can ensure their input has bearing on the end product. For large or complex custom designs, we offer monthly reporting to keep the customer apprised of the progress during the design and fabrication of their system. Upon completion of the project, we do our best to be present either locally or remotely after a system arrives to train the user on operation, use and maintenance of the system. Lastly, in the event that something does go wrong, APELC personnel are readily available to help troubleshoot or to offer fast turnaround on repairs and recalibration.