Power Electronics

Well Hello There, Again

I would like to reintroduce myself to the Power Electronics Technology audience. For longer than I care to remember, I was the editor of Power Electronics Technology, which started out as PCIM, headquartered in Oxnard, Calif. Then the magazine was sold and moved to Overland Park, Kan. It is now part of Penton Media. When I left Power Electronics Technology in 2002, Ashok Bindra took over shortly afterward, followed by David Morrison in 2004. In mid-October, David handed the reins of Power Electronics Technology back to me, though I am only here on an interim basis until a permanent editor is found.

I'm no stranger to the power world, I've been at it a long time. I won't say how long, but when I went to an engineering university, I used a slide rule because handheld calculators hadn't been invented yet. In fact, I showed the slide rule I used in school to my grandson, and he didn't even know what it was.

After I left Power Electronics Technology, I began developing a database of power products, www.findpowerproducts.com, which was then purchased by Electronic Design magazine. I also became a contributing editor. Software for the database was arranged so that I could enter parts, make changes to existing parts and add new categories as they arose. At Electronic Design, I wrote some technical articles and maintained the power products database. Today, Electronic Design and Power Electronics Technology are sister magazines of Penton Media, so my move from one to the other was relatively simple.

Initially, the database included about 15,000 power products. Today, the findpowerproducts.com database includes more than 31,000 products. At the start, the products were from about 60 companies. Today, they come from more than twice that amount. Included companies are from North America, Europe and Asia.

I started the database because I realized the semiconductor industry has always forced the power-supply industry to follow its trendsetting lead. For the last decade, that trend has been to cram more transistors into a single package. This led to smaller feature sizes and tighter spacing between internal components. To be operational, smaller feature sizes forced the processors to operate at a lower voltage. In turn, this required lower-voltage ICs and power supplies with greater design challenges than their predecessors of five to 10 years ago.

The best “heads-up” for lower power-supply voltages is the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). It predicts technology trends for the semiconductor industry with full revisions in odd-numbered years and with updates in even-numbered years. It includes input from semiconductor experts in Europe, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, as well as the United States. Thus, the ITRS serves as a guide for the semiconductor industry, which in turn affects the entire electronics industry. This means that productive design engineers must be aware of available ICs and power supplies.

Except for battery-based systems, the designer can either make or buy power supplies and the associated systems. That is, the designer can buy the required ICs and other components to build a power supply, or the designer can buy the supply. Making a power supply requires the necessary personnel, equipment and test facilities, whereas buying the power supply only requires the capability for integrating the supply into a system. The make or buy decision usually depends on the quantities and costs involved, as well as whether the company wants to control its proprietary designs. Of course, setting up an in-house design capability can be expensive in terms of people and equipment. However, many military-aerospace companies have unique requirements that require an in-house design capability.

With all of these ideas in mind, I decided to organize the findpowerproducts.com database according to the various types of ICs, MOSFETs, power supplies and UPSs. At the present time, the database includes 35 categories of ICs, 18 categories of power supplies, four types of MOSFETs and the three types of UPSs. Information on each of these devices is tabulated in charts, along with a copy of the actual data sheet. Each of these 60 total categories include a tutorial that describes their typical characteristics.

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