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I have two main questions:

1. Can you use ATX power supplies in industrial projects?

I see lots of DIY projects where they convert an old ATX PSU into a lab bench power supply or powering DIY projects. However, I have not seen any articles on using ATX power supplies in industrial projects that requires high power 12V and 5V rails. Are there any downsides to doing this? (PS: Industrial electronic projects such as embedded systems with various sensors)

2. Why a decent ATX power supply cost significantly lesser than a decent switch mode power supply of the same power rating?

A decent 500W ATX power supply from Cooler Master with 80+ efficiency can cost less than USD$50, whereas a 500W 12V MeanWell SMPS will cost at least double that. Wouldn't it be better to go with an ATX power supply then to power high power appliances such as motors?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ ATX power supplies are SMPS \$\endgroup\$ – jsotola Dec 12 '20 at 18:34
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Consumer products such as power supplies are not designed to last all that long, and especially are not designed to withstand wide temperature variations (in particular to start or work at low temperatures and not to self-destruct at high temperatures). They are often not supplied in housings suitable for industrial use. In some cases (though this does not necessarily apply to power supplies) they have a short design life compared to the expected decade or two for an industrial product.

You could certainly use an ATX supply in an industrial design if you are willing to work around those problems. I know of military products that use consumer innards and are ruggedized by adding housings and expensive connectors. Naturally the price goes up by an order of magnitude or more.

Brick power supplies are not made in the same quantity as consumer supplies, nor are they subject to the same competitive pressures, but they tend to benefit from the economies of scale in consumer products, otherwise they would be much more expensive than they are.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @njuffa lifetime is typically limited by the electrolytic filter capacitors, and may be quite long under benign conditions, but running 24/7 at high temperature could easily be 1/10 of that experienced in an office environment. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Dec 12 '20 at 22:32
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ATX power supplies are cheap because (partly) they are made in vast quantities. While they are not as durable as some more expensive alternatives, they have been in production for many years and so you might expect that most technical problems (EMC, premature capacitor failure etc) will have been ironed out by now.

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Commodity ATX PSUs are cheap due to the competitive nature of that market. That said, ATX form factor isn’t very space efficient, which makes these supplies easier to design.

Compare server power supplies that are not only more compact but also have better reliability: the price / W gets much higher. Same thing with industrial PSUs.

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  1. Of course you can. But there are a few things that must be taken care of first.

You simply need to find a power supply that is rated for your industrial use case. Since industrial grade PCs exist, industrial grade ATX supplies should exist too, so this is not a huge issue I suppose.

The other thing is, that whatever you are powering with the ATX supply, must adhere to the ATX specifications at all times to be compatible with the ATX supply. If the powered device ever needs power in a way that violates the ATX specification, then it cannot be powered with any ATX supply.

  1. Most likely manufacturing ATX supplies in large quantities is cheap. Note that cheap ATX supplies are not industrial grade. And quality and reliability of Mean Well supplies can be quite different from a cheap ATX supply.

And do note that the wattage is not the only measure of a power supply. A motor like you describe could be easily powered by a compatible Mean Well supply, while it may not work with an standard ATX supply at all.

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