Power management plays a predominant role in today’s vigorous changing technology. The huge obstruent for the power management companies is to work in accordance with the environmentally conscious energy-usage laws and how it strives to achieve the best in the process.
Despite of intermittent roadblocks, the industry possesses huge capabilities by prudently assimilating the ever-changing environment protocols. Exploring the obstructions in the power management industry, BIS Infotech’s Sub-Editor, Jyoti Gazmer exclusively conversed with Fionn Sheerin, Senior Product Marketing Engineer, Analog and Interface Products Division, Microchip Technology, where the doyen shares his apprehension on the trends and challenges that are likely to take over the Power Industry in 2018.
- How critical is for design engineers to develop products complementing less-power dissipation and delivering high-efficiency?
Efficiency and power dissipation requirements vary widely by application. In automotive, off-key power dissipation (not draining the battery when the vehicle is not running) is critical for all modules, even ones actively ‘listening’ for external commands like keyless entry or remote start. In server and communications, or more recently in specialized bitcoin mining applications, the energy cost of low efficiency can be dramatic.
Portable applications are all about run time on a single battery charge, which requires efficient power use, and of course nobody wants to feel the power dissipation of a hot phone in their pocket. However, there are still plenty of applications where a mediocre efficiency is acceptable, and the airflow can manage some level of power dissipation. It depends on the system needs.
- What are the imperative market dynamics and their latest trends, coupled with pertinent market segments is seen for the power management technology?
Every market segment has its own needs. If there is an overall trend in power today, the trend is towards specializing the power management to the application. For example, some server and computing applications need to be constantly on, and there is a trend towards adding ‘live update’ – the ability to update power supply firmware without turning off or resetting the power supply.
That is a difficult task, something Microchip’s dsPIC digital signal controllers can do, and it is part of an overall trend to add more flexibility to those systems while maintaining the overall up-time of the system. Board mounted power applications in many datacenters are moving to 48V inputs, as are selected automotive applications. In both cases, there is an efficiency gain by moving power through the system at higher voltage, and down converting it locally where it is needed.
- How strong is your company’s focus on power management technologies?
Microchip provides solutions for many application needs. We have industry leading analog power conversion solutions, digital power conversion solutions, and power interface devices. Power is a focus area for many teams within the company. In addition, we also have communication solutions for LIN, CAN, ethernet, USB, INIC networking, and wireless; we offer signal chain solutions including amplifiers, DACs and ADCs; and we are a leader in security solutions to prevent unwanted intrusions. In many areas, applications are becoming more specialized to their end use, and the power supply is only one sub-system on the board. Our customers benefit from this diverse expertise and support.
- What are the key trends expected to furnish the power management sector in 2018?
There are two especially hot topics in power conversion right now. One is 48V input systems, which require specialized solutions to convert down to low voltages to efficiently power processors, controllers, and FPGAs. These are especially interesting because traditional current mode controlled buck topologies struggle with the extreme duty cycles, and architectural adjustments are needed to better manage the conversions.
The second exciting area is wide bandgap semiconductor materials. Silicon carbide and gallium nitride switching solutions offer much better performance in many applications, taking advantage of the material properties. However, realizing that theoretical performance benefit is not always trivial. There is wide debate in the industry as to what other things are needed to take full advantage of the developing technologies.
Some proponents are advocating major changes to magnetic components, PCB layout practices, or even topology selection to take full advantage of the new switches. It isn’t clear where this will go, or what will be required to control those next generation switches. However, Microchip’s microcontroller and digital signal controller product lines offer the flexibility to adapt to those needs, and they are getting used now to control some of those novel topologies. It will be interesting to see what approaches become dominant in this market space.
- IoT, connected cars or digital transformation are the trends yielding the demand for smart devices like more sensor and communication integrated circuits (ICs) etc. The chip fabrication process itself will need to be more energy efficient, as will the operation of semiconductors themselves. Kindly share your notion?
Sustainability practices of semiconductor manufacturing are a complicated topic. Many outside industries look to semiconductor-based solutions to solve other environmental or resource challenges. In terms of manufacturing, Microchip takes its sustainability practices very seriously, and publishes an annual sustainability report outlining our activities in that area.
In terms of the circuits themselves, there are many areas of continuous improvement. Power conversion efficiency has been making small gains, especially with digital power solutions that are adaptable to wider input conditions. In addition, microcontroller power consumption (for a fixed performance level) has been dropping; the energy required per computation is lower with every generation of microcontroller (even 8-bit microcontrollers).
- Also, product news or independent articles can be shared on the very subject?
In power conversion, Microchip has announced several news items over the past year that continues to advance the industry:
- MPLAB® Mindi™ Analog Simulator – this free software package allows for fast, accurate circuit analysis to reduce design cost, risk and time. It can estimate power conversion stability (BODE analysis), transient response and efficiency prior to hardware prototyping.
- MCP19123 Digitally Enhanced Power Analog Controller – the latest innovation in a line of digitally managed, analog power conversion products.
- dsPIC33EP128GS808 devices – with up to 128 KB of dual-partition Flash memory for live update capability in digital power designs.
- PAC1934 power monitoring IC – precision power and energy measurement for tracking and improving system power consumption.
Microchip continues to develop industry leading power conversion solutions, improving power management while maintaining smart, connected, and secure solutions for our customers.