Slideshow: Focusing on power trends at APEC 2014

Slideshow: Focusing on power trends at APEC 2014

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

Time for refocusing for future demands
Fairchild Semiconductor, one of Silicon Valley’s founding fathers during the 1950s, decided to go to Fort Worth in Texas last week (that’s where this year’s APEC 2014 event was taking place) to reveal the company’s plans for the future which will see a refocus of its efforts on integrated power components for mobile and green electronics.   

The company is also promising to start providing six-week lead times, with 95% of its products in stock with minimal lead times.

The new focus will see Fairchild move from being better known for niche standalone products to now develop higher integration products for mobile devices. The company is also targeting the ‘cloud’ and is aiming to provide power-supply solutions for datacenters and low-power networked sensors.

Currently about 50 to 60% of Fairchild’s products are MOSFETS with only 30 to 40% of its overall portfolio reppresenting higher-level integrated circuits.

Fairchild is now positioning itself to integrate MOSFET and insulated-gate bipolar transistors into advanced power modules.

Vijay Ullal, Fairchild’s president and Fairchild COO

"Our vision is clear – anticipate the power efficiencies demanded by tomorrow’s electronic products and deliver an amazing design experience," said Vijay Ullal, Fairchild’s president and Fairchild COO. The company also revealed at APEC that it was introducing a new brand campaign and logo, the ‘Power to Amaze’, which symbolizes the company’s renewed efforts to tackle today’s hot markets in energy, mobility, and the cloud. 

Ullal, who is midway through his second year at the helm, said Fairchild will maintain its focus on motor control, automotive, and lighting markets with specific automotive targets including electronic power steering, ignition, and electric vehicles. The company is also developing a portfolio of building blocks for LED lighting.

Fairchild’s mWSaver technology helps power-supply designers achieve lower standby power in applications such as battery chargers, adapters, and switch-mode power supplies for LCD TVs and printers. The company is looking to develop a universal adapter that can be used for various portable devices.

The company is also developing brushless DC (BLDC) motor control, an advanced, variable-frequency control technology that will reduce household power consumption. Fairchild aims to accelerate the transition from AC induction to BLDC motors by introducing modular motor-control algorithms to help home appliance manufacturers implement BLDC motor-control applications.

Fairchild’s BLDC/PMSM Controller is a mixed signal integrated circuit designed to control variable speed, three phase, sensorless or sensored Brushless DC (BLDC) motor.  The solution aims to deliver the following benefits:

  • Quickly implement BLDC and/or PMSM motor control without the burden of complicated software development.  
  • Replace complicated digital signal processors (DSPs).
  • Provide hardware implemented fault detection and protection.
  • Advanced Motor Controller (AMC) to minimize software efforts.
  • MCU Embedded to increase flexibility for peripheral controls and communications.
  • Sensorless and sensored control.

News articles:

Energy, Mobility, and the Cloud provide key opportunities for power-management solutions

Fairchild Semiconductor reveals new ‘No Obsolete’ product and lifetime supply policies

Is digital power coming of age?
At APEC 2014 Intersil Corporation unveiled the company’s latest power management and precision analog technologies.  Although formed in 1999 Intersil is effectively another Silicon Valley veteran because the company was set up following the acquisition of the semiconductor business of Harris Corporation which featured product portfolios and intellectual property dating back to 1967.  In early 2000, Intersil went public in what was then the largest semiconductor IPO in US history.

Rather like Fairchild, Intersil is busy restructuring its business under a new senior executive. About a year ago Necip Sayiner joined Intersil as the company’s new chief executive and has managed to nudge the business from being a loss-maker in 2012 to become profitable in 2013, This was partially achieved by cutting about 150 administrative positions. Now the company is targeting an operating income at 20% of total revenues, a goal it achieved in Q3 2013 and exceeded in Q4. Intersil has been busy investing some of its gains in R&D where it is focusing on power management for the mobile and industrial sectors.

Sayiner has admitted that in the past the company was trying to do too many things for its size.  In addition some of those areas it was investing in were also taking the company further away from its core capabilities.

Sayiner claims that the company is not lacking for technology, for IP, or for talent and says the business has now managed to remove a lot of distractions with the new refocusing strategy.

Intersil plans to continue to focus on the company’s traditional markets in aerospace, automotive, and wired/wireless infrastructure.The company believes that requirements for power management devices have become much more sophisticated, as well as much more stringent. For example the requirements of a traditional PC a few years ago are now more like the requirements of a tablet today.

Sayiner pointed out that efficient power solutions for mobile devices require a single integrated solution, rather than a discrete controller and low dropout regulator for each rail.

Intersil is aiming to offer devices that deliver up to a 5% improvement in battery life for mobile devices and the Internet of Things. At APEC the company unveiled its ISL911xx family of buck-boost switching regulators geared for mobile devices.

Intersil is aiming to extend the company’s leadership in DC/DC switching regulator technology for battery-powered mobile devices and consumer electronics with the introduction of the ISL91110, ISL91108 and ISL91117 power management solutions. The ISL911xx switching regulators’ innovative architecture offers up to 96 percent efficiency to extend battery life and reduce overheating in high-current handheld devices. The proprietary architecture allows for smooth transitions from buck to boost to prevent glitches and noise in smartphones, tablets and other single-cell lithium ion battery-based systems.

Mobile OEMs are under pressure to differentiate their device offerings, which are becoming more power hungry as consumers continue to demand increased processing capability and seamless connectivity in shrinking form factors. Issues such as shortened battery life, glitches and overheating often result from these increased system demands and negatively impact consumers’ user experiences. The ISL911xx switching regulators have been designed to help OEMs to address these issues head on by improving the system performance and power efficiency of their devices.

Intersil’s ISL91110 and ISL91108 buck-boost switching regulators are used in mobile devices to supply the system power management IC (PMIC), the Wi-Fi or radio frequency (RF) power amplifier, as well as other system peripherals such as the camera and memory interfaces. The ISL911xx family is based on proprietary, fully synchronous four-switch architecture. The advanced architecture enables the seamless transition from buck to boost, delivery of up to 2.5 A output current at the lowest single-cell Li battery voltages to significantly improve power efficiency, increase battery life and prevent overheating of mobile devices. The ISL91117 boost converter is ideal for USB on-the-go implementations in handheld devices that require high current and high efficiency.

Intersil is also planning to target infrastructure and industrial applications in the coming years because the company sees data moving through the network rising by an order of magnitude in the next a few years.

Aiming to address  this area, Intersil revealed its fourth generation of power modules, the ISL8270M/71M family which will be available this summer.  The family packs a controller, driver, power MOSFETs, and inductor and supporting components to serve 25/33 Amp applications.

The underlying power efficiency advantages enabled by the ISL8270M/71M digital power modules are based on Intersil’s innovative, proprietary ChargeMode Control modulation technology. This built-in, compensation free architecture enables very fast transient response and reduced output capacitance resulting in dynamic performance that minimizes the output voltage variation.

The 25/33 Amp digital power modules, like Intersil’s leading low-current products, also offer advantages compared with analog counterparts by providing real-time system intelligence and configuration capabilities. Specifically, they provide vital information about the power supply, such as how much power is consumed at any given time, and can be optimized accordingly.

Intersil’s ISL8270M/71M digital power modules reduce the complexity, footprint and solution cost through integration and innovative packaging. The fast transient response of the module eases design by requiring only bulk input and output capacitors to complete a fully digital switch mode power supply, eliminating the need for complex power circuit design.

Intersil views the digital power controller as a key device because not only do designers want to be able to manage their power, but also be able to monitor it in datacenters and infrastructure applications. That means being capable of communicating between the power management device and the hub.

Sayiner sees more and more data and bandwidth being packed into a single board in datacenters while needing  the board to consume less power with every new generation.

Capitalizing on the progression of digital power

A couple of weeks before APEC 2014 opened its doors CUI Inc., revealed a family of digital POL dc-dc modules that claim to set performance benchmarks in efficiency, power density, and transient response that meet the power challenges of distributed power architectures.

CUI’s NDM3ZS-60 is a non-isolated module that outputs 60 A in ultra low-profile vertical and horizontal packages. The series claimed to be the first non-isolated design to incorporate CUI’s patented Solus Power Topology which integrates a conventional buck converter into a SEPIC converter to form a SEPIC-fed buck converter; a single stage topology with one magnetic element, one control switch and two commutation switches that are optimally controlled by pulse-width modulation (PWM).  



With lower voltage and current stresses in the topology coupled with an inherent gate charge extraction (GCE) process, the topology is able to reduce switching turn-on losses by 75% and switching turn-off losses by 99% on the control FET when compared to a conventional buck converter.

The NDM3ZS-60’s topology allows the device to achieve key performance metrics quickly. Efficiency peaks at 91.3% at 12 Vdc in to 1.0 Vdc out, 50% load.  Efficiency remains high up to full load at 88.5%. Transient response is also greatly improved with the SEPIC-fed buck. At 12 Vdc in to 1 Vdc out with a 30 A load step (from 15 A to 45 A) and a 10 A/µs slew rate, peak voltage is 16 mV with typical external capacitance required.

Prior to APEC Mark Adams, CUI’s Senior Vice President told eeNews Europe: "There will be a new version of the PMBus (Version 1.3) that will be released at the upcoming APEC exhibition in the USA and there will be a few hooks in there that will show that digital power is moving from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ scenario because a lot of these new generation of chips are requiring an adjustable core voltage which is now moving into the mainstream and a lot of it has to do with the chip companies being able to increase their yields".

"If you have a 1 V core on a chip then that gives a tolerance of plus or minus three percent which means that the chip company will bin their devices from anywhere between 0.99 V and 1.01 V.  By allowing for an adjustable core voltage some of these chips are now running a self-interrogation algorithm.  Now if you say you know that this particular piece of silicon can run at 0.98 V and that is the optimal voltage and if the POL will adjust to 0.98 V then that can become a good chip.  If it doesn’t adjust then it is classed a bad chip and they know it will have to be thrown away.  So the companies are now running these algorithms and hooking up to a serial bus that goes to a POL on a particular chip on a specific board which says I need you to reset yourself to 0.98 V and run at 0.98 V for the rest of your life.  We are starting to see that more and more".

Adams said that digital power solutions were starting to attract a lot of interest from design engineers. "We are starting to see that in the Broadcom switches and such like. It is starting to pop up on FPGAs and TI DSPs so it is starting to grow throughout the industry and it is moving and is forcing customers to embrace the idea of digital power at least on a socket or two and the primary areas of those are going to be at the high current consumption". 

"So we see the 60 A device will not only address the demands of the datacoms/telecoms sector but we also see it in many other areas throughout the industry. The digital control of the modules means that the easiest application areas the device will address are the datacom/telecoms sectors because they are pushing limits on current densities and current consumption.  The majority of the market space will be in the datacom/telecoms arena but we are also seeing that some of the high density FPGAs such as the high end ones from Altera and Xilinx are seeing core voltages that require 45 A to 50 A and those FPGAs will go anywhere were they are crunching numbers such as video compression or medical applications. So although the first stop for the NDM3ZS-60 is going to be the datacom/telecoms sector it will not be limited there".

"There seems to have been a quantum leap of requirements on the board," explained Adams. "The 60 A module has hit the sweet spot but we are also planning to show a 90 A module at APEC event in Fort Worth, Texas.  The 90 A module will not have the same topology as the 60 A device because it will have a standard buck topology.  We are pushing the higher densities where others have not been. That is true especially on the POL side.  Nobody else has a digital 60 A module released and we will soon demonstrating a digital 90 A module. These new products demonstrate where we are going from a power density standpoint and where our focus is for our customers".

"Power supplies companies typically design for 90 percent of the market where they can drive the volume.  They are happy if they can design a 40 A module that can be sold everywhere regardless of the application.  That will satisfy about 90 percent of the market out there but what we are focused on is that really difficult 10 percent that customers struggle with.  There are not a lot of power-centric design engineers in the customer base.  Typically a digital design engineer that has to figure out how to power their board does not have the expertise or the time to solve the power design challenges.  We are focusing on their needs".

Adams continued: "Having good power density is of value because the power requirements are continuing to go up but an engineer never does get more board space to do more with so that is always an issue.  Efficiency in the ‘green’ world is always going to be a key factor but one of the most significant benchmarks we believe is going to be the transient response because it is starting to impact a lot of areas".  

"When you are running at a Volt and the band gap on some of these chips is two percent.  Even at a 50 percent load step they still expect you to stay at a two percent band gap and the question is how do you do that?  Right now the majority of people use what can be described as a ‘dump truck’ of capacitors on the board.  So when you are putting all that capacitance out there we can stay within that two percent without a problem even at 10 A per microsecond with 3000 microFarads on the output caps".

"If you go to competing solutions and look at some of their tools they are telling design engineers that they need 6000 or 7000 microFarads on the output caps.  That is a lot of board space and a lot of money and a lot to manage.  The transient response is a double edged value to the customer because it allows them to get the performance without having to compensate for all these additional capacitors so they can reduce the board space and thereby reduce the total cost of their power supply structure".

Schematic editor helps customize power management designs
Texas Instruments unveiled the company’s WEBENCH Schematic Editor, which is a new editing and simulation feature that enables engineers to customize power
management designs and simulate the circuit created within the WEBENCH environment.  

The WEBENCH Schematic Editor, which was demonstrated APEC, enables engineers to now add components and wiring to modify the power supply design, conduct SPICE simulations on the new circuit, and then export the modified schematic to a computer-aided design (CAD) platform.  The new feature reduces design and verification time from hours to minutes.

TI’s cost-free WEBENCH tools have simplified and accelerated the design process for more than 325,000 engineers worldwide since 1999. A complete design can be quickly created, optimized and simulated online with the powerful calculation algorithms and SPICE simulator provided by WEBENCH Power Designer.

WEBENCH Schematic Editor incorporate features like multiple mixed output capacitors, filtering, board parasitics and snubber circuits into WEBENCH power supply designs.  Engineers can now select from a library of more than 40,000 components to customize the design. Custom power designs simulated within
WEBENCH before exporting to industry-leading CAD development platforms, such as Cadence OrCAD Capture CIS, Mentor Graphics Xpedition xDX Designer, CADSoft
EAGLE, and Altium formats, such as Altium Designer.

Improving time-to-market by simplifying the design process
Micrel, Inc. unveiled a new  family of power modules at APEC 2014 aimed at providing time-to-market gains. The MIC28304/MIC45205/MIC45208/MIC45212 family of power modules operate from 4.5 V to 26.5 V (70 V for MIC28304) input and are capable of delivering currents of 3 A, 6 A, 10 A and 14 A, respectively.

The highly integrated power module solutions are designed to simplify the system power design process while offering exceptional performance. The modules
feature a complete switching power supply solution in an ultra-compact, thermally-enhanced, rugged, surface mount QFN package. The devices integrate a PWM
controller, power MOSFETs, inductor, and associated discrete components to save board space and reduce component counts which results in higher system reliability.

The devices are ideally suited for RAID systems, network routers, blade servers, cellular base stations, medical test equipment, and test instrumentation. The MIC28304/MIC45205/ MIC45208/MIC45212 will be available in production and volume quantities starting in the second quarter of 2014 with pricing starting at $7.10/$4.85/$7.2/$8.88, respectively.

"This new generation of power modules allows our customers to improve their time-to-market by simplifying the design process. These modules eliminate the need to select key components and simplify the board layout to meet EMI specifications," explained Brian Hedayati, vice president of marketing for high performance linear and power solutions at Micrel. "In addition, these modules reduce board space while still offering exceptional performance. These modules are among the highest input voltage rating and power density devices available in the market today."

The MIC28304/MIC45205/MIC45208/MIC45212 offer peak efficiency up to 93 percent and are optimized for fast load transient responses by utilizing Micrel’s Hyperspeed ControlTM architecture, This minimizes output capacitance to further reduce the overall solution size. In addition, these modules meet the industry’s most demanding CISPR22, CLASS B, EMI standards, further reducing design complexity. The MIC28304 70 V rating makes it suitable for applications such as automotive, industrial robotics, industrial automation, avionics, and 48 V telecom.

The modules protect against overcurrent, overvoltage and thermal faults. There is also an internal soft-start function that controls the inrush current.

Highly integrated PWM controller targets high-density applications
ON Semiconductor demonstrated the company’s latest integrated controllers at this year’s APEC.

In the demonstration of the NCP1565 dual-mode active clamp PWM controller, a telecom industry 100 W quarter brick was loaded continuously in a triangular fashion from 0.1 A to 10 A to 0.1 A.

The demonstration showed the adaptive zero voltage switching (ZVS) feature of the device’s dual-mode active clamp pulse width modulation (PWM) controller where dead-time varies with load to achieve the optimum ZVS point. This highly integrated device is targeted at next generation high-density, high performance, and small to medium power level isolated dc-dc converters used in the networking industries. The device can also be used in 42 V automotive applications.

The NCP1565 integrates all necessary control and protection functions that are required to implement an isolated active clamp forward converter or asymmetric half-bridge converter.

The NCP1615 high voltage, power factor correction controller (PFC) was also featured in a demonstration that showed how the device could drive PFC boost stages based on an innovative current controlled frequency foldback (CCFF) method and provides a rugged and extremely efficient solution for applications in computer power supplies, flat screen TVs, and LED lighting and ballasts. An integrated high-voltage start-up circuit along with numerous other built-in features eliminates the need for a number of external components helping to simplify design, enhance reliability, and reduce cost.

The demonstration showed how the NCP1615 operates in a zero power consumption state when no load is applied to create a safe environment for the end user by discharging the EMI filter capacitors when the power source is disconnected.

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