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What Is a Variable Power Supply?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 16, 2024
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A variable power supply is a regulator that electricians and electrical project hobbyists use to test the capacity of voltage for any project they may have completed. The power supply is used as a gauge to make sure the piece of work the person has completed is able to withstand certain amounts of voltage and current load. Tests are generally conducted by applying different amounts of voltage to the piece of completed work a little at a time to ensure the stability of the circuit the individual has created. These types of power supplies also are used by hobbyists to power small electronics requiring variable voltage and by tattoo artists to power tattooing guns.

By using such a variable supply of power, the individual is able to spot any temperaments or inconsistencies in the circuit he’s created in a manner that allows for adjustment to be made without having to scrap the entire project. A variable power supply is a useful tool for anyone who has a background with electrical circuitry and components. It also has many uses other than just testing.

In addition to being used to test circuits, this type of power supply may be used by miniature hobbyists as well. For example, such tools are commonly used by those who work with miniature electronic train sets. The power supply can be adjusted to either speed up or slow down the train as it is pushed around the track by the power of the completed circuit.

Another common use for this type of power supply is in the tattoo industry. Variable power supplies are used every day by tattoo artists to adjust the intensity and speed of the motor on their tattoo guns in order to create the desired effect with the particular tattoo needles they are working. For instance, when a tattoo artist is outlining a new piece, the speed of the gun is increased through the power supply so the needle moves faster, creating a more consistent outline. When the artist is shading an area of the skin, the power supply is used to slow down the needle in order to create consistent color coverage within the tattoo.

A variable power supply works by restricting or increasing the voltage delivered to the circuit from the original power source. For instance, when the electronic train hobbyist starts his train on the track, he doesn’t simply flip a switch and turn the train on full blast; rather, he delivers the voltage to the circuit in small increments through the regulated variable power supply until the desired speed of the train is reached. Most common variable power supplies have voltage ranges of 1 to 3 volts up to 20 or 30, and large-scale variable power supplies can range from 6,000 to 20,000 volts, but these types of power supplies are typically only used in industrial settings.

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