Bus Bars: The Art of Optimized Power and Signal Interconnectivity

Dr. Philippe Roussel, VP Global Strategic Marketing at Mersen

Today’s inverter manufacturers, power electronics system integrators, and engineers throughout various industrial markets look for solutions to reduce assembly footprint and to optimize connectivity in their designs. Bus bars solutions from Mersen offer an alternative interconnectivity method for power and signal circuits.

Mersen is a global expert in electrical power and advanced materials. They design innovative solutions to address its clients’ specific needs to enable them to optimize their manufacturing process across numerous industrial sectors.


The Power Design Challenge

The growth of power conversion systems comes with the need for designers to find ways to optimize various aspects of their systems, such as reduced footprint and enhanced performance.

Traditionally, industrial power conversion systems such as inverters, converters, rectifiers, and drives, to name a few, utilize standard wiring and cables to interconnect the power and signal circuitry. Though wires and cables can serve the connectivity needs, considering a custom designed bus bar platform can bring in several added benefits towards a well-optimized solution.


Bus Bars and Their Benefits

The laminated bus bar is an engineered component consisting of layers of fabricated copper separated by thin dielectric materials laminated into a unified structure. Bus bars can reduce system costs, improve reliability, increase capacitance, and eliminate wiring errors. Also, they work with lower inductance and lower impedance, while their physical structure offers unique features in mechanical designs. Multilayer bus bars offer structural integrity that the wiring methods just can’t match.


Straight to the Optimum Design of Bus Bars

With over 100 cumulative years of experience in designing, manufacturing, and testing bus bars, Mersen engineers have built a strong knowledge base geared toward helping customers in the direction of the most optimized system.

Mersen engineers can work with inverter manufacturers at very early stages of design, in order to efficiently integrate the passive components such as cooling, bus bars, and fuses within the inverter.

Using a variety of Multiphysics simulation toolsets, Mersen engineers can evaluate the thermal and electrical performance of the heat sinks and bus bars within the overall inverter design. This approach is called the “Integrated Architecture” approach and it allows for the most optimum design footprint of the overall inverter assembly by sourcing the cooling and bus bar solutions along with semiconductor protection fuses all from one source.


Mersen Integrated Architecture approach

Figure 1: Mersen Integrated Architecture approach


Optimization Starts with the Engineer's Needs in Mind

As each bus bar design can be unique, a “prototype” is usually produced before final production run. To ensure the prototypes are as close as possible to the optimum design, multi-physics simulations are used in the conception phase, so that any design flaws can be spotted and eliminated before going through the prototype manufacturing process.

Mersen’s multi-physics simulation tools include mechanical, electrical and thermal simulations. During the simulation stage, two main design aspects are considered. The first aspect touches upon the need for space optimization in the final assembly, and the second aspect addresses the constraints associated with the use of different heterogeneous materials.

In the bus bar design, the major characteristics are layer dimensions, layer assembly, interconnection configuration, and insulation material and thickness. Thermal performance is key in laminated bus bars. Mersen application engineers can conduct temperature rise simulation on the bus bar prototypes. Engineers simulate the Joule effect heating the conductors when the current is flowing and also heat concentration at the interfaces with power modules and capacitors. The simulation process allows a significant reduction of product development time.

When it comes to electrical simulation, engineers, and technicians simulate the routing of contacts to meet all clearance and creepage requirements. The current distribution is then simulated to check compliance with an admissible current density in order to limit self-heating of the bus bar.


Bus bar thermal and electrical simulations

Bus bar thermal and electrical simulations

Figure 2: Bus bar thermal and electrical simulations


Rigorous testing is completed on each part prior to shipment to ensure long-term reliability. In addition to dielectric withstanding, or insulation breakdown testing (aka “HiPot”), Mersen performs Partial Discharge (PD) testing using the state of the art PD test station. Mersen’s engineering and quality team use DFM (Design For Manufacturability) techniques such as FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis) to evaluate each order to assure a smooth transition without failures throughout the process.


Bus Bar Innovations to Better Serve the Future

Mersen has developed several recent innovative technologies to bring additional features to bus bar products to better serve certain requirements of specific applications and industries.


Low Inductance / High T° Bus Bar

Today’s high-frequency Wide Band Gap Semiconductor manufacturers are pushing the envelopes of power densities and high-frequency switching capabilities within their power modules. As a result of this, temperature and inductance criteria within the power modules such as SiC or GaN modules now require superior connectivity methods within the modules themselves.

Mersen has developed the manufacturing process to manage high temperatures and low inductance dielectric and associated adhesives to comply with new constraints imposed by wide bandgap semiconductors and latest IGBT generations. As a result, our bus bars can now handle up to 220°C operation T° with inductance as low as 35nH and a lifetime operation of 25 years!


Internal high T° / Low L bus bar for Power Modules

Figure 3: Internal high T° / Low L bus bar for Power Modules


Monitoring Bus Bars for Battery Applications

To cope with the growing demand of constant voltage and temperature monitoring in power electronics applications such as lithium-ion and ultra-capacitors packs, Mersen has engineered an innovative concept that combines in a single customized device a laminated bus bar, a flexible circuit, thermal sensors, and other custom electronic components. It allows, with only one part, to make both the power connections and the signal collection from each cell or a specific type of battery independently, so the status of each cell is delivered to the Battery Management System via a custom connector.


Smart monitoring bus bar for battery cells connection

Figure 4:  Smart monitoring bus bar for battery cells connection


Low Partial Discharge Designed to Handle High Voltages

High Voltage 5KV+ Breakdown

Partial discharge (PD) is a localized dielectric breakdown of a small portion of a solid or fluid electrical insulation system under high voltage stress. Mersen is working on increasing our capabilities to be able to design and manufacture bus bars featuring low partial discharge for voltage applications up to 5kV.

Increasing the working voltage application and passing a positive partial discharge test can greatly contribute to a long life cycle of the bus bar under high voltage applications. This testing is critical to inverter and drive systems manufacturers.


Low Partial Discharge Optimized bus bars

Figure 5: Low Partial Discharge Optimized bus bars


Bus Bars with Flexible Floating Connectors

Temperature cycles and mechanical environmental constraints (shock & vibration) can damage devices (capacitors, modules…) at fixture points. To avoid this, Mersen offers various floating connector designs that allow ±1mm mechanical deviation with minimal impact on electrical resistance and inductance.


Bus bars with flexible floating connectors

Figure 6: Bus bars with flexible floating connectors


Serving Customers Globally


Mersen has a global industrial footprint for laminated bus bars in the three dedicated ISO 9001 certified facilities cover the major economic regions in the world.

  • Rochester, New York, USA — the center-of-excellence facility for the North American market. This site is AS9100C registered and ITAR Certified.
  • Angers, France — the center-of-excellence facility for European market. Angers is IRIS Certified to better serve the rail industry.
  • Shanghai, China — the manufacturing facility to serve the Chinese market.

A fourth manufacturing bus bar facility is currently being commissioned in India and will be producing in the first months of 2018.


State-of-the-Art Metal Fabrication

In-house capabilities include CNC stations, punch presses, CNC press brakes, CNC Bending press. Our metal assembly processes include ultrasonic welding, induction brazing, torch brazing and soldering.



Many available plating finishes are: tin, tin-lead, nickel, copper, silver, and gold.

Key parameters of plating processes are monitored throughout the process, and end of line testing includes thickness measurements.


Properly Selected Insulation

Insulation is of course at the core of laminated bus bars and impacts directly the electrical integrity of the product. Various types of insulation materials are used: Polyimide, PVF, PET, rigid insulation, epoxy glass, GPO, and Phenolic.


Assembly and Lamination

Dedicated production tooling is manufactured for the lamination of each of our bus bars. Additional hardware and interconnection devices and electrical components can be mounted either before or after lamination.


Sub Assembly and Full Power Stack Assembly Services

Drawing on expertise in bus bar, cooling, and fuses, and based upon our multi-physics simulation tools, Mersen is positioned at the center of the inverter design cycle. We are now helping customers benefit from the best of these passive devices through design optimization and assembly service that encompasses:

  • Conception optimization and design cycle-time reduction, with testing and design validation in our labs.
  • Preferential access to main components (Cooling, bus bar, capacitors, fuses and gate drivers)
  • Overall price optimization / Scale effect
  • A total customization approach: no pre-defined technical bricks.

From simple [bus bar + capacitor] sub-assembly to full inverter assembly, Mersen is the preferred partner for inverter/stack design-houses with limited or no production capability.


Power Stack Assembly Service

Figure 7: Power Stack Assembly Service


In conclusion, bus bars have evolved into an integral component and embedded platform for many power conversion systems, providing not only an optimized interconnection but also helping power electronics manufacturers to push the performance thresholds of their products.

More information: Mersen    Source: Bodo's Power Systems, March 2018