LAST issue we touched on the vital importance of clean and reliable power supply to electronic security systems. Yet despite their central role in all our security systems, too few techs and system designers give serious thought to power supplies, especially among smaller installation outfits. 

It goes without saying that all electrical products manufactured and sold in Australia have to meet high standards designed to protect installers and users from stray current turned loose by bad design and flawed build quality. 

From the point of view of users and installers, they are liable for injury caused by any item they install in domestic or commercial premises for its entire operating lifetime. That includes electric shock and fire. Given most electronic security solutions are low voltage DC and AC, the key component of concern is the step down power supply. 

When you talk about Tactical Technologies’ products it’s tough to avoid making comparisons between high quality TT gear and the cheap imported competition. Not only are there clear differences, there’s a huge issues relating to compliance with compulsory AS/NZ safety and build standards. All Tactical Technologies products are made locally to AS/NZ 6950:2003 for EMC, conduction and combustion. Almost no other power supplies conform to the stringent AS/NZ standard.  

Importantly, Tactical Technologies power supplies are classified Class B which means they can be used in domestic, commercial, medical and industrial applications. Due to EMI a lot of imported product can only be used in industrial applications. 

Meeting the challenge

As Australia’s only manufacturer of power supplies, and bound by its commitment to manufacture a product that meets the highest technical and safety standards, Tactical Technologies has found its refusal to down-spec a serious Achilles Heel in the small/medium installation sector. 

“We are at the premium end of the market and always have been in terms of performance and that puts us at a real disadvantage in the lower end of the market where many jobs are based on price,” Tactical Technologies’ Mark Hatton explains. 

“Manufacturing in Australia is expensive and it costs money to certify product to Australian Standards and to keep that product certified – nearly $1000 a year per product after certification – a process that costs nearly $8000 per power supply. It’s also expensive to use high quality components. 

“The result is that while TT’s products are considered by the market to be the best of their kind, the company has been undercut on price by cheap imports that sidestep legitimate standards by playing limbo with local compliance regulations.” 

According to Hatton, the company thought long and hard about the issues it faced in the local market after realising that Australia’s compliance bodies and associations could not be relied on to police product standards in a way that assured a level playing field.  

“We were faced with sitting around complaining about non-compliant imports or devising a realistic strategy that allowed us to compete toe-to-toe on price while offering even higher quality products than we did before,” Hatton explains. 

“The immediate financial temptation is to pick up the blueprints of everything we’ve designed inhouse and go overseas and say ‘build me some of these at half the cost’,” says Hatton. 

“While this was tempting, we’ve seen through the experience of importers in this and other industries, that doing so means you cannot guarantee the quality of product from one shipment to the next.” 

Any company that tries to lower prices while enhancing quality faces serious challenges and Tactical Technologies was no exception. 

According to Hatton, TT achieved its aims in a number of ways which included a complete product redesign resulting in smaller solutions that used less raw materials in manufacture and less power when operating – all this while meeting the Australian Standards. 

TT also moved some of its manufacturing in house, investing heavily in a surface mount production line to increase its control over supply times and quality. This move pegged build costs, as well as cutting out transport expensive. Another major advantage was that building inhouse allowed Tactical to build to order and to never be delayed by a third party manufacturer’s prior commitments. 

The commitment to local manufacturing runs deep. Along with building its own boards, TT also fabricates and finishes its own housings from scratch at its factory in Orange in the Central West of NSW. 

“All our products are manufactured from raw steel which we fold, punch, drill, finish and powdercoat as required at our factory in Orange,” Hatton explains. 

The TT Eco range

The result of all the hard work is the TT Eco Range which is available in a range covering 12V DC, 13.5V DC and 24V AC supply options. 

“We have made the Eco Range smaller so we are using less raw materials – we are not using the big hunks of aluminium we were using in the previous model because of the efficient new linear design,” Hatton says. 

“The numbers tell the story. With the new design we’ve achieved a 30 per cent increase in efficiency, a 42 per cent reduction in size and a 60 per cent reduction in weight – these are significant figures. 

“As we manufacture here and sell through a distribution chain made up of major suppliers, these reductions in size and weight mean our distributors are not shipping heavier stock so the physical shipment of our product is also less expensive.” 

The Tactical Technologies marketing team has also redesigned the packaging of the new Eco Range to reflect the new eco-friendly power solutions – the packaging is attractive and eye catching. 

“The thing we have not mentioned yet is pricing,” says Hatton. “The pricing we have levelled at the market place with this product range is equivalent to the cheap imported power supplies coming in from outside Australia – we are within 5-6 per cent of those prices. 

“This is a big step for us. And at these much reduced prices buyers of the Eco range get 3-year warranties and products that meet the correct AS/NZ standards.”  

According to Hatton, the TT product’s design efficiencies are so great that it’s possible to offer that 3-year warranty despite the extremely tough conditions to which the average technician/ will subject power supplies, including installing them in ceiling spaces and unventilated cabinets.  

“You can put these TT solutions on full load and run them all day and then put your hand on them and they are barely warm,” he says. “If you take a competitive product with the same rating and subject it to the same constant load you cannot touch the housing it’s so hot – you can smell these cheap power supplies as soon as you walk into a room.” 

It goes without saying that this heat is produced by inefficient step-down transformers inside power poorly designed supplies and the user is paying for the current causing it. 

“These are security devices that work 24×7 and are constantly in operation and this means for the next 5-10 years of operation with our Eco system the running costs will be reduced by a third – that’s a significant reduction.” 

Because excess current in cheap power supplies is lost as heat, using efficient TT Eco power supplies means there’s also a reduction in cooling costs in the rooms where the power supplies are installed. This cool running also translates to longer life for the power supply and all the devices installed around it. The overall longevity of the product and the devices mounted around it will be greater if the temperature is cooler. 

Also important is that battery charging is a separate value and not included in the Eco power supply rating. According to Tactical Technologies’ managing director, Allan Seckold, what the company is doing compared to other manufacturers is essentially giving away a 13.5V power supply at 2.5 amps continuous plus a 700 milliamp battery charger. 

“Our battery charger is a totally separate channel altogether within out power supplies – it’s not current deducted from the total capacity of the supply,” Seckold explains. “With other products you have to deduct the current required to charge the battery from the 2.5 amp main load. It means you always have to buy higher rated solutions. 

This isn’t the only design advantage of the TT Eco range. 

“Competitors have AC fail and open collector while the Eco range has AC fail and low battery relay outputs – our power supplies have over voltage protection, out competitors don’t. Eco has factory fuse protection, factory fuse indication – our products are so feature rich compared to the other devices in the market place. 

“Additionally, cheap fuses lose a couple of volts but all our fuses are VDR rated so you might lose 100 millivolts at most – they are indicative of all our components – we use only the best,” Seckold explains.

“Even the most minor element of the Eco range is compliant with relevant standards. All power cords have to be approved – the cord itself, the PVC material, the prongs – all must be approved to be fit for purpose and must be vulnerability tested so if they get hot they don’t catch fire, conduct electricity – unfortunately not all power supplies are created equal.”  

Issues of quality

While checking out the new Eco Range and the production line at the Tactical Technologies’ factory in Blacktown I also got a look at some of the imported competition. It was worrying to say the least. 

I saw bell wire being used to carry 240AC, tiny transformers whose lives were certain to be limited by under-building windings so they are certain to generate excessive heat. I saw bell wire AC grounds that were black, not green and yellow. I saw connectors and fixings that were clearly second rate – to say nothing of poor layouts with loose wires floating inside the case. 

I saw hand-cut rubber shrouds glued over mains inputs to cover exposed terminations. There was a relentless issue of heat. There was no ventilation in the boxes I saw, to say nothing of heat sinks that were totally inadequate. The issues are clear for all to see. Products with obvious quality flaws have hidden quality flaws that you cannot see – such as observation is a given.

It’s a fact of life that the regulating bodies are toothless collectors of consolidated revenue and while some companies meet standards clearly many do not and without penalty. But while authorities do nothing to prevent potentially lethal power supplies being imported into the country it’s up to end users and installers to ensure these products don’t make their way into quality electronic security installations. 

Fact file:

Features of the Tactical Technologies 

* Australian designed & manufactured

* High Efficiency Switchmode Designs

* Extremely low noise (EMC) – Class B (Domestic/Industrial/Scientific/Medical)

* Small physical footprint

* High thermal efficiency

* High Output Chargers (DC Models)

* MOV Surge suppression (24Vac Models)

* More than 30 per cent increase in efficiency

* 42 per cent reduction in size

* 60 per cent reduction in weight

* DoFT Approved Products

* 12Vdc / 13.5Vdc / 24Vac models.