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Dozens of companies have made outstanding contributions to power electronics during the last 30 years. With great difficulty, the editors of Power Electronics Technology (PET) magazine identified 30 as having changed the industry. We apologize to those not listed who have also made significant accomplishments during this time frame and could have been added if time and space permitted, especially to those who narrowly missed being in the Top 30.
The Top 30 consists of semiconductor suppliers, power supply companies, motor control companies and power electronics component suppliers.
Silicon and Other Semiconductors
Semiconductors have been the enabling technology for power electronics. Products that include power semiconductors, analog integrated circuits (ICs), power ICs and digital control ICs have all changed significantly during the past 30 years. In most cases, today's leading technologies were just introduced during this time frame. While silicon has been the predominant material for semiconductors, advance materials including silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) provide higher performance in some power electronics applications today.
The legacy of Power Electronics Technology magazine and its impact on those in the power electronics industry began before the semiconductor industry was even 30 years old. That anniversary happened in 1977. Initially, bipolar power transistors — including thyristors — and bipolar integrated circuits provided the control for motors, power supplies and other loads. Today's power electronics includes digital control from microcontrollers and digital signal processors switching mixed-signal smart power ICs, MOSFETs and IGBTs.
Many of the semiconductor companies in PET's Top 30 are also in the Top 5 and even No. 1 supplier in industry market research studies. However, the IC and semiconductor suppliers in PET's Top 30 are definitely all leaders with significant contributions to power electronics. Within the three decades of PET's history, several changes have occurred in the semiconductor industry with new names appearing and old names disappearing through mergers, acquisitions and spin-offs. With great pride, the editors of PET present the Top 30 companies in the power electronics industry. (Companies are not listed in any particular order or ranking.)
International Rectifier's (IR's) power electronics expertise starts at the top of the organizational chart. Dr. Alex Lidow joined International Rectifier in 1977, but he has been CEO since March 1995. A co-inventor of the HEXFET power MOSFET, Lidow holds nine patents on power semiconductor technology. Today, IR's R&D is led by Dr. Michael A. Briere, executive vice president of research and development. Leading two key business units are Gene Sheridan, vice president of the Computing and Communications Business Unit that developed the DirectFET technology (see the timeline in “Top 30 Power Milestones and Products” on pages 12-13), and David Tam, vice president of the Consumer, Industrial & Automotive Business Unit whose organization developed IR's iMotion approach to motion control.
The world's leading supplier of power MOSFETs, IR has had industry-leading efforts in packaging recently with its FlipFET chip-scale packaging and DirectFET. The DirectFET allows cooling on both sides of the package to cut part count by up to 60% and board space by as much as 50% compared to devices in SO-8 packages. In addition to MOSFETs, IR also pioneered high-voltage ICs, launching the first commercially viable high-voltage ICs in 1983.
IR's iMotion platform combines integrated hardware and software for easier implementation of variable-speed motor drives. In iMotion design, dedicated digital control ICs eliminate complex software programming associated with digital signal processors or microprocessor control units. IR's high-voltage IC (HVIC) technology enables a linear current-sensing IC and a three-phase inverter-driver IC. IR's integrated power silicon and integrated power module technology provide the power stage.
Vishay Intertechnology (Siliconix)
Vishay Siliconix introduced the first trench power MOSFETs in 1994. Since that time, most power MOSFET suppliers have developed trench MOSFETs to take advantage of the technology's improved efficiency and lower on-resistance.
Vishay Siliconix's WFET power MOSFETs use a thicker gate oxide at the bottom of the silicon trench devices to enable a two-thirds reduction in capacitance with minimal impact on on-resistance performance resolving the trade-off between low conduction losses and low switching losses. The result is an improvement in the product of RDS(ON) and QGD, a common figure of merit for power MOSFETs in switching dc-dc converters. For example, the Si4368DY has an on-resistance 3.2 mΩ max and a gate charge of 6.5 nC typical.
To address the issues that external packaging poses to power MOSFETs, Vishay recently introduced the PolarPAK, the first power MOSFET package to combine double-sided cooling with an industry-standard lead-frame and plastic-encapsulation construction. In this design, the lead frame is exposed but the die is not; therefore, the same board layout can be used even with variations in the size of the die encapsulated in the package.
Unlike most other semiconductor suppliers, Vishay is also a leading provider of many of the passive components required in electronic systems, including a large portfolio of resistors, inductors and capacitors. For example, Vishay thick-film power resistors in TO-220 and TO-247 packages have values ranging from 0.010 Ω to 550 kΩ with 30-W, 50-W and 100-W ratings. A recently introduced wirewound, surface-mounted, shielded inductor comes in a wide inductance range of 1 µH to 1000 µH.
Infineon Technologies, formerly Siemens Semiconductor Group, has a rich history of power semiconductor and power IC innovation and leadership. In the mid-1980s, Infineon pioneered chip-on-power-MOSFET-die attach technology to combine intelligence with large-size MOSFET die for low on-resistance and high current-carrying capability in one package without using a more complex monolithic approach. More recently, they used this same approach for adding intelligent control to ignition IGBTs.
Three people who have been important in Infineon's power semiconductor product development include Dr. Reinhard Ploss, Dr. Jenoe Tihanyi and Dr. Leo Lorenz. Reinhard Ploss is group vice president and general manager, Automotive, Industrial and Multimarket Group. He has been instrumental in driving Infineon's power semiconductor activities over the last several years. On the technology side, the late Dr. Jenoe Tihanyi, who died on July 10, 2005, was an Infineon Fellow and held many of the basic patents on power semiconductor technologies. Lorenz is senior principal engineer in the power semiconductor area.
Infineon's initial high-voltage CoolMOS (dubbed the S5) MOSFETs were announced in the late 1990s, with the second-generation refinement, CoolMOS C2, announced in June 2000. Infineon announced a new generation of IGBT (thin-wafer with trench technology for 600-V to 1200-V applications) also in June 2000. In May 2002, the company announced a 1200-V IGBT with the industry's first trenchstop and fieldstop technologies. In January 2002, the Deutscher Wirtschaftsclub Rhein-Main awarded Infineon's CoolMOS and IGBT the Best Technological Innovation 2001 Award.
Perhaps with one of the most interesting historical backgrounds, Fairchild is the largest supplier of power semiconductors, according to a 2004 iSuppli report. With the acquisition of Samsung's Power Device Division in 1999, Fairchild had a complete line of power discrete devices and a broad line of industry-standard analog components that included the top 100 highest-volume analog products. In 2001, the acquisition of Intersil's discrete power business propelled Fairchild to the second-largest power MOSFET supplier in the world.
Among its other IGBT accomplishments, Fairchild from its Harris legacy pioneered the use of ignition IGBTs with Motorola for production vehicles in 1993. In 2001, Fairchild Semiconductor announced its EcoSPARK family of IGBTs for ignition coil drivers with a 40% reduction in silicon chip area, which allowed packaging in either the industry-standard DPAK or the D2PAK. Previously, silicon ignition coil drivers were only available in D2PAKs. The new EcoSPARK technology enabled a die size that is small enough to fit into a DPAK without giving up performance. The units had the same level of self-clamped inductive switching (300 mJ) in the 60% smaller DPAK package.
Today, some of the key leaders in Fairchild's power-focused businesses include Robert J. Conrad, who is senior vice president and general manager of Analog Products, and Izak Bencuya, who is chief strategy officer, executive vice president and general manager.
Recently, Fairchild introduced the industry's first power-factor correction (PFC) Smart Power Module to implement the partial PFC switching converter (PSC) circuit topology. Targeting 1-kW to 3-kW air conditioners, the FSAB20PH60 combines optimized circuit protection and a drive IC matched to IGBTs.
STMicroelectronics is the world's leading supplier of analog application-specific products, according to iSuppli's “2004 Annual Semiconductor Market Share” report, published in May 2005.
Under the business leadership of STMicroelectronics' Honorary Chairman Pasquale Pistorio, the SGS Group — the only Italian microelectronics company — and the French semiconductor champion, Thomson Semiconducteurs, were integrated in May 1987 into SGS-THOMSON Microelectronics (renamed STMicroelectronics in 1998). A familiar face and name in power electronics technology circles, Bruno Murari is the director of STMicroelectronics' Castelletto Research and Development laboratories at Cornaredo, near Milan, Italy, and a major contributor to ST's power technology.
From a historical perspective, SGS introduced the industry's first 11- and 15-pin power single in-line packages (SIP) in the late 1970s. These units provided the pins and power capability for many of the first power ICs (including so-called smart power devices) and provided a benchmark for future package development efforts.
Among STMicroelectronics' newest products are hybrid emitter-switched bipolar transistors (ESBTs) such as the STC03DE170 and STC05DE150. These units were developed to meet high-voltage bus requirements in three-phase line voltage switching in industrial high-power applications. The STC03DE170 is a 3-A, 1700-V device and the STC05DE150 is a 5-A, 1500-V device. Both products are housed in a custom-designed four-lead TO-247 package.
Recently, STMicroelectronics introduced a power-supply IC specifically designed to drive the high-current white LEDs used for flash illumination in mobile phones, digital still cameras and PDAs. The STCF02 is a high-efficiency (85% typical) buck-boost converter that also incorporates protection circuitry, including the ability to automatically sense and respond to excessive LED temperature. The unit controls the current in the LEDs by automatically changing the operating mode between buck (step down) and boost (step up) to adjust the forward voltage of the white LED based on the battery voltage level.
Texas Instruments (TI) has a unique combination of analog and digital capability that targets system power and portable power management as well as motor controls. Some important power management milestones in TI's history include the 1999 acquisition of Unitrode, which had previously acquired Benchmarq Microelectronics in 1998, and the 2000 acquisition of Burr-Brown.
Business leaders in power electronics include Rich Valley, vice president of the system power management business, and Dave Heacock, vice president of the portable power management business. For his technology leadership, PET magazine recently recognized Robert Mammano with our Lifetime Achievement Award for his PWM controller IC design.
At one level of TI products and technology, the recently introduced TPS62300 stepdown, 500-mA converter with integrated FETs provides power-conversion efficiency and voltage-regulation accuracy in a 2-mm × 1-mm chip-scale package. The synchronous, switch-mode device achieves up to 93% power-conversion efficiency while operating at a fixed frequency of 3 MHz. The unit can deliver dc voltage-regulation accuracy from -0.5% to 1.3% over the industrial temperature range.
The combined capability of TI's analog and digital components in digital power was demonstrated earlier this year with the announcement of Fusion Digital Power, which includes the UCD9K, UCD8K and UCD7K series of complementary devices. These units support power supply systems from ac-line to point-of-load applications, including telecommunications, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), computer server and data-centric power systems.
The UCD9K digital power controller integrates specialized power peripherals and has the ability to close one or more feedback loops, and provides communications and supervisory functions. Analog circuitry in the UCD8K and UCD7K devices support the digital control provided by the UCD9K. The UCD7K devices are MOSFET drivers for the power stage that provide protection and bias supply management. The UCD8K controllers integrate the UCD7K devices with a digitally controlled analog PWM controller to close the feedback loop.
Linear Technology's broad line of standard high-performance integrated circuits includes amplifiers, battery management, data converters, high frequency, interface, voltage regulators and voltage references.
Two of Linear's leading technologists include Robert Dobkin and Jim Williams. Dobkin, vice president of engineering and CTO and founder, was responsible for all new product development until 1999. Jim Williams, staff scientist, has authored more than 350 publications relating to analog circuit design.
Linear Technology introduced the LT1083/LT1084/LT1085/LT1086, the industry's first low-dropout (LDO) voltage regulator in 1986. Other more recent products the company boasts include the LTC1148, a high-efficiency synchronous stepdown switching regulator. The company's first Burst Mode product, this regulator is capable of over 95% efficiency and can maintain high efficiency over three decades of output current. It also offers excellent line and load transient response.
Another notable device was the LTC3440. Introduced in 2001, this chip is described as the industry's first buck-boost dc-dc converter. It uses two 0.25-Ω p-channel and two 0.20-Ω n-channel switches in a constant frequency, synchronous switching topology that obtain efficiencies as high as 96%.
More recently, Linear Technology introduced the LTC3780, a high-efficiency, synchronous rectification, four-switch buck-boost controller that achieves up to 98% efficiency. Just introduced is the LTM4600, a uModule synchronous switch-mode dc-dc stepdown regulator with built-in inductor, supporting power components and compensation circuitry.
Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector: Freescale Semiconductor
From a historical perspective, the first integrated motor control IC with power MOSFET outputs was designed and manufactured by Motorola, now Freescale Semiconductor, for the Canon Camera in 1987. Motorola SMARTMOS technology provided the Delco (now Delphi) HSD-3 driver in General Motor's ABS-VI antilock braking system.
Two of the longtime SMARTMOS experts at Freescale include Randy Gray, fellow of technical staff, and John Pigott, analog IC guru and designer. Gray has circuit designs using Freescale's SMARTMOS process from the earliest to the present design rules. Pigott is responsible for IC design, IC definition, IC architecture and technology definition.
Today, standard products such as Freescale's MC33982 SMARTMOS power management chip provide low on-resistance, numerous features and programmable capabilities for relay replacement. A custom product, such as multiple buck and boost converter integrated with several LDOs and the associated control, protection and supervisory circuitry, can save considerable space in portable products, including cameras, cell phones and PDAs.
Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector: ON Semiconductor
Motorola's semiconductor operation grew from its status as a division in 1975 to a group and finally a sector with groups that focused on market segments and one, called the Semiconductor Components Group (SCG), that provided analog and logic ICs as well as discrete semiconductors including power products for all market segments. In 1999, SCG was spun off and became ON Semiconductor. In July 2004, the remaining semiconductor groups were spun off and became Freescale Semiconductor. As part of Motorola, both organizations provided key industry milestones.
Soon after being spun off from Motorola (in 2000), ON Semiconductor acquired Cherry Semiconductor to add to its existing analog IC capability. Motorola's pioneering effort in surface-mount power packaging for the DPAK and D2PAK was accomplished by what is now ON Semiconductor. Today, ON Semiconductor's power management focus includes power conversion, ac-dc and dc-dc converters, analog controllers, MOSFETS and diodes.
Two leaders in ON Semiconductor in the power management area are Bill Schromm, vice president of ON Semiconductor's High Performance Analog Products Group, and Larry Sims, senior vice president and general manager of ON Semiconductor's Analog Products Group.
ON Semiconductor recently announced the successful development of working silicon for a new dual-edge PWM controller. The dual-edge PWM technology is the first in the industry for providing CPU power. The company is currently delivering engineering samples to leading VR11 power supply licensees.
Microchip Technology is one of the industry's principle providers of microcontroller and analog semiconductors. With a focus on thermal and power management, Microchip's family of products includes a complete line of linear and mixed-signal analog and interface products providing cost-effective embedded control solutions with high performance. The company provides embedded control application solutions for telecommunication, office automation, automotive, and consumer and industrial control markets.
Providing business leadership today is Rich Simoncic, vice president, Analog & Interface Products Division; Steve Drehobl, vice president, Security, Microcontroller and Technology Development Division; and on the technical side, Keith Curtis, principal applications engineer, Security, Microcontroller and Technology Development Division. Curtis' accomplishments include integrating digital control into power supplies as well as helping to define the industry-standard PMBus. In addition, he has identified what are commonly known as the four levels of digital control in power supplies.
In June 2001, Microchip introduced the PIC16C781 and PIC16C782, the first family of mixed-signal microcontrollers with integrated switch-mode power-supply peripherals. More recently, the PIC16F785 was also introduced. This unit combines analog building blocks including operational amplifiers, two high-speed analog comparators and a bandgap voltage reference with the microcontroller for digital control and programmability in power-conversion applications. On the analog side, the MCP1630 power supply PWM controller provides the industry's fastest PWM with a current sense-to-output delay of 12 ns.
Philips Semiconductors addresses power and power management applications with IC and discrete products. Philips calls its protected MOSFET technology Temperature Overload Protected MOSFETs, or TOPFETs. The company's first temperature-protected Trench MOSFET was released around 1999.
Steve Hodgskiss, technology manager of power management at Philips Semiconductors, has been involved with power management and the trench process from the start. He was instrumental in the development and introduction of Philips power MOSFET fab and the growth of TrenchMOS technologies in 1992. He also directed the release of the first three generations of Philips Trench Power MOSFETs in 1996, 1998 and 2001, and most recently has been involved with the fourth-generation technology improvements.
Most recently, Philips introduced its PIP212-12M, a highly integrated power solution delivering dc-dc converter performance. The PIP212-12M is compatible with industry-standard single- and multiphase PWM controllers, and is fully optimized for high-frequency, high-current synchronous buck dc-dc conversion applications solving several synchronous buck converter design issues. The highly integrated unit reduces component count for a simpler pc-board layout and higher power densities. The PIP212-12M replaces the control MOSFET, synchronous rectifier MOSFET and parallel Schottky diode, MOSFET driver and bootstrap diode.
Features of the PIP212-12M include overtemperature protection, a synchronized 5-V source to power an external PWM controller, an internal low voltage-drop bootstrap switch, 6.5-V sync FET gate driver for optimal performance and power-sequencing functions.
Another industry power electronics leader today is Toshiba. Toshiba's power semiconductors portfolio includes MOSFETs, intelligent power devices (IPDs), voltage regulator ICs, discrete insulated gated bipolar transistors (D-IGBTs) and system power devices (SPDs). Other products include power transistors and modules designed for applications that require a compact design and power efficiency.
As a leader in packaging technology, Toshiba offers a MOSFET series using an aluminum-strap bonding technology with an ultrahigh-speed process that achieves greater power efficiency. The SOP Advance is one of the company's most recent low-profile packaging technologies. It allows an improvement in power dissipation and an increase in current output compared to a standard SOP-8 packaging when combined with ultrahigh-speed U-MOS technology.
Today, Makoto Hideshima, technology executive, Discrete Semiconductor Division Semiconductor Company Toshiba, directs the company's future. Recent key products include Toshiba's power MOSFET, the TK 15A60S. By using a superjunction structure, this high-voltage DTMOS reduces power consumption by lowering the RDS(ON) to approximately 40% of the conventional MOSFET's typical value.
Another innovative device is the company's L-Flat diode series, which was developed for circuit-protection applications. The rectifier diode surface-mount package reduces the mounting area by 50% or more compared to currently available industry-standard packaging by utilizing a lead-clamp structure. The series was developed for circuit-protection application usage in secondary rectification and absorption of freewheeling and surge currents in motor drivers, switching-mode power supplies and ac-dc converters.
Maxim Integrated Products, Dallas Semiconductor
Connecting the digital world to reality, Maxim Integrated Products designs, develops and manufactures linear and mixed-signal ICs. In 2001, Maxim expanded its product base by purchasing Dallas Semiconductor, where Gene L. Armstrong II is currently the managing director of Battery and Thermal Product — Dallas Semiconductor. Dallas Semiconductor focuses on power electronics circuits, making the addition a positive complement to Maxim's product line.
Recently introduced products include the DS2760 high-precision Li+ battery monitor. Designed for cost-sensitive battery-pack applications, the IC is an information storage, data acquisition and safety protection device that utilizes a one-wire interface to allow the host system read-write access to instrumentation and control registers, and general-purpose data storage. The device supports process-monitoring applications by performing voltage, temperature and current measurements.
Also newly added are the DS2711 and DS2712 for a standalone or in-system charging of one or two AA or AAA NiMH cells. To provide appropriate fast-charging control algorithms for NiMH batteries, charge time, voltage and temperature are monitored.
National Semiconductor is the No. 1 supplier of power management ICs with 14.1% market share, according to iSuppli's 2005 voltage regulator/reference survey. National's power management products include power monitoring, control and reference ICs; linear regulators; and switching converters such as switched capacitor converters, lighting management ICs, inductive switching converters and high-voltage ICs for dc-dc conversion. National also offers online tools that allow power designers to select the best power management chips for their applications.
National pioneered its WEBENCH online tool in 1999. WEBENCH power allows users to simulate a power supply circuit, probe points on a schematic display to examine the simulation result waveforms and simulate the thermal behavior of electronic pc-board components with WebTHERM software. Products can be created and analyzed with custom prototypes delivered within 24 hours.
In 1976, National introduced the first three-terminal linear regulator. Among National's power management leaders today are Dennis Monticelli, a National Fellow and CTO, and Paul Greenland, marketing director of National Semiconductor's Power Management Group.
More recent National products include the LM5032, LM5034 and LP3954. National's LM5032 and LM5034 are the industry's first 100-V dual, interleaved PWM controllers. The units can be configured to control either two independent regulated outputs or a single high-current output using two drive channels. The LM5034 includes bipolar + CMOS gate drivers that provide 2.5-A peak sink current and a startup regulator that operates over a wide input range up to 100 V. The two controller channels reduce the input ripple current by operating 180 degrees out of phase.
Housed in a tiny micro SMD package, the LP3954 advanced lighting management unit integrates two backlight drivers, a dual red-green-blue (RGB) LED controller, a Flash LED driver and an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) on a single chip. The integrated, magnetic boost dc-dc converter efficiently drives high current loads over a wide battery voltage range.
Power Integrations is the leading supplier of high-voltage analog ICs. Founded in 1988, Power Integrations produces ICs aimed at wall outlets, computers, cell-phone chargers and any electronic product that plugs into a wall outlet. The patented Power Integrations silicon process integrates a high-frequency MOSFET (up to 1200 V with multiple-megahertz capability) and standard 5-V CMOS and bipolar control circuitry on a single, monolithic chip. Balu Balakrishnan, president and CEO, is also the chief inventor of the company's innovative TopSwitch and TinySwitch technologies and holds more than 75 patents.
In 1998, Power Integrations introduced its patented EcoSmart energy-efficiency technology that reduces no-load power consumption to less than 100 mW. The TinySwitch pioneered the technology, but since its 1998 introduction, all of Power Integrations' IC families use the technology. The company estimates that EcoSmart has saved an estimated $1.2 billion in electricity costs based on EcoSmart chips built into electronic products.
In 2002, Power Integrations announced LinkSwitch, a primary-side control switching power supply IC that replaces linear transformer designs in adapters and battery chargers rated at 3 W and below.
Offering a broad range of power electronic semiconductors, including MOSFETs, IGBTS, MOSFET/IGBT drivers, power management ICs, rectifiers, thyristors, Schottky diodes and ac controller modules, IXYS has been a technology pioneer and leader in providing application-specific products for industrial, telecommunications, computer and medical markets. Dr. Nathan Zommer, chairman of the board and CEO, founded the company in 1983.
In 1989, IXYS acquired ABB's German semiconductor division, expanding the company's high-power products. The 1998 acquisition of Paradigm Technologies added static random access memory (SRAM) and digital IC technology, which the company is using to develop digital power management (DPM) ICs.
In 2004, IXYS introduced the DGSS 10-06CC, a 600-V, 10-A GaAs ultrafast diode. The unit consists of two 300-V, GaAs Schottky diodes connected in series in the IXYS-patented ISOPLUS220 package. Comparison testing in a 200-W PFC circuit with standard FRED diodes, silicon carbide (SiC) diodes and GaAs diodes used as the boost diode showed that the GaAs diode outperformed the SiC part for frequencies above 150 kHz.
Started in 1976, Supertex has developed advanced technologies utilizing complementary metal oxide semiconductors (CMOS) and double-diffused MOS (DMOS) processes and forged new ground merging these technology processes onto one chip: Supertex's HVCMOS. In 1977, Supertex patented a silicon-gate high-power VMOS process and was the first in the industry to introduce both n-channel and p-channel silicon-gate VMOS power FETs. In 1980, Supertex was also the first in the industry to introduce high-voltage DMOS lateral arrays, and in 1985, the company introduced the industry's first low-threshold n-channel power MOSFET family.
Today, Supertex focuses on DMOS, HVCMOS and BiCMOS providing ICs and MOS field effect transistors (FETs) and arrays. Last year, the company developed a single chip PD controller for interfacing power sourcing, the HV110. Earlier this year, Supertex introduced the MD1810 and the MD1811, two new high-speed quad MOSFET driver ICs designed to drive n-channel and p-channel MOSFETs in applications such as medical ultrasound imaging, nondestructive testing equipment and CCD-based products such as high-resolution cameras and scanners that require a high output current for a capacitive load.
Micrel is an industry leader in analog ICs, power management and a global manufacturer of IC solutions for Ethernet and high-bandwidth markets. Founded in 1978, Micrel holds a collection of wafer fabrication processes and uses — singularly or in combination — CMOS, bipolar and DMOS technologies in its high-performance analog power ICs.
Recently, Micrel announced a new dc-dc boost converter, the MIC2296. The chip provides a 1.2-A boost regulator in a 2-mm × 2-mm leadless MLF. Designed for portable consumer electronic applications, the unit is ideal for TFT-LCD displays, OLEDs and LED camera flashes. The high-power density boost regulator can step up input voltages from 2.5 V to 10 V, to generate an output voltage up to 34 V. Based on a proprietary internal compensation technique, the output capacitor's size can be reduced by more than 50%. Other features include 1-µA shutdown current, less than 1% line and load regulation, excellent transient response and output overvoltage protection.
Founded in 1960, Microsemi focuses on mixed-signal integrated circuits, discrete semiconductors and chip-scale packaging. The company specializes in high-reliability discrete devices that protect against transient voltage spikes, manage and regulate power, and transmit, receive and amplify electronic signals.
Microsemi leads the field in managing power that lights color displays in notebook computers, computer monitors, automotive GPS systems and LCD TVs. Its patented RangeMAX technology provides the dimming ratio requirements of automobiles sold in the United States and is the only approved solution for lighting cold cathode fluorescent lamps in the automotive temperature range. RangeMAX allows a dim feature operation regardless of the lamps' characteristics and reduces power consumption by as much as 90%.
Earlier this year, Microsemi announced a Li-ion/Li-polymer battery charger for portable applications requiring high power demand for color displays such as those used in smart phones, PDA phones, PDAs, MP3 jukeboxes and personal media centers. The LX2202 provides 3-A discharge current and up to 2-A charge current for Li-ion batteries. It has a separate USB power interface that restricts charging current to within the USB limitations.
Power Supplies: Call Them Power Management Systems
Once regarded as a very staid commodity, the power supply business has turned into a dynamic application-driven industry, a transition as significant as its newest technology: digital power. “It is a very dynamic technology,” said Mohan Mankikar, founder of Micro-Tech Consultants. “Power management and digital power are two key words for the future.”
There certainly are many activities shaping the future of power management that involve leading power supply manufacturers. On Dec. 8, 2004, the Digital Power Control User Interface defined in IEEE 1621 (http://eetd.lbl.gov/Controls/1621/1621.html) received final approval as an IEEE standard. The standard targets energy savings by increasing the use of power management in office equipment and consumer electronics.
In addition to the Power Sources Manufacturing Organization (PSMA; www.psma.com), which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, several new organizations have been created within the past few years to support advanced power management technologies.
In June 2003, Artesyn, Astec and Texas Instruments formed the Point-of-Load Alliance (POLA; www.polagroup.com). Among POLA's goals are standardized interoperable technology and mechanical outline and pinouts, as well as multiple source availability.
Established in February 2004 by Tyco Electronics and SynQor, the goal of the Distributed-Power Open Standards Alliance (DOSA; www.dosapower.com) is to develop standards for dc-dc converters to ensure compatibility and facilitate second sourcing. Other members of DOSA include C&D, Delta, Lambda, Ericsson and Artesyn. The alliance intends to cover a broad range of board-mounted power modules, including isolated converters, nonisolated (point-of-load) modules and intermediate bus converters.
In March 2005, Artesyn Technologies announced the public release of Revision 1.0 of the PMBus open-standard digital power management protocol and the establishment of the System Management Interface Forum (http://pmbus.info/) as a formal SIG. The PMBus protocol initiative is an open communications standard for the digital control of power systems.
In August 2005, semiconductor manufacturer Atmel joined power supply vendors Power-One and C&D Technologies to create the Z-One Digital Power Alliance, or Z-Alliance group (www.z-alliance.org). The alliance provides second-source options to implement a distributed power architecture using Power-One's digital POL converters and power managers.
“If you go back five years ago, you never heard of a power supply company doing an alliance with a power semiconductor company,” says Mankikar. “So, this is like the power supply joining hands with the high-tech companies.” In addition to Artesyn, Astec, Power-One and SynQor from these alliances, other power supply manufacturers in PET's Top 30 Companies are Vicor and Delta.
Credited with several industry firsts and technology leadership in power supplies, Dr. Patrizio Vinciarelli founded Vicor in 1981 after the first issues of Solid-State Power Conversion magazine were already collectors' items. Vinciarelli developed technology that allowed smaller and more efficient power converters compared to conventional power converters identified as zero-current switching and zero-voltage switching. Holding more than 75 U.S. patents, he is known as a key contributor to the power-component industry based on Vicor's families of high-density bricks that can create power systems.
Some key Vicor milestones include:
1981 — Developed zero-current/zero-voltage switching, a new high-frequency power-conversion topology, and the first standard power component.
1984 — Unveiled the first full-size brick at 100 W, 25 W/in3. This isolated dc-dc converter product (the VI-100) not only pioneered the brick format, it applied zero-current switching and active-clamp reset circuits to achieve its high power density.
1988 — Introduced the first half-brick at 50 W/in3.
1996 — Debuted the first quarter-brick at 150 W, 91 W/in3.
In 2003, Vicor introduced its Factorized Power Architecture (FPA), an innovative power distribution architecture, powered by the company's V·I Chips, which are modules in IC-style packages. The vision for FPA, according to Vicor, is to meet power system requirements from the wall plug to the microprocessor core using the highly efficient, high density and very flexible V·I Chips. Among the products offered as V·I Chips are power factor modules (PFMs), pre-regulator modules (PRMs), voltage tranformation modules (VTMs), and bus converter modules (BCMs).
Delta Electronics' Delta Group lays claim to having the world's No. 1 position in switching power supplies. The company has provided power solutions and manufacturing leadership over the entire 30-year history of PET magazine. Delta offers a wide range of power management products, including adapters, inverters, converters, electronic ballasts, uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) and power plants. In dc-dc converters, Delta has utilized leading-edge technology with innovative power methods for OEM applications including IT networking, industrial automation and telecommunications among others with products ranging from 5-W to 700-in. industry-standard sizes and footprints.
Delta's telecom power systems offer output capability up to 10,000 A and provide continuous power for both fixed line and wireless telecommunications networks. Delta Energy Systems (DES) delivers power-conversion modules, solar inverters and systems for the telecom, IT, industrial, automotive and medical markets.
Recently, Delta introduced a 350-W half-brick converter, the H24SN 28V, to the Delphi Series of board-mounted dc-dc power converters family. The converter has a single 28-V output with a 24-V input and can deliver up to 350 W of output power in the half-brick footprint and pinout. It also offers more board space and provides exceptional thermal and electrical performance, thus reducing cost and space restrictions for cost-sensitive applications. With efficiencies at 90.5% or better for 350-W full load, the H24SN converter operates over a wide input voltage range of 18 V to 36 V.
Astec Power, an Emerson Network Power Co., is one of the top power supply companies today. As an international power-conversion solutions supplier, Astec offers custom ac-dc and dc-dc power supplies ranging from 1 W to 18,000 W, based on sophisticated automation and in-process testing, as well as advanced research and development. Recent product introductions include the first industry-standard sixteenth-brick isolated converter and a new generation of switching power supplies featuring sophisticated digital management.
The 50-W ALX series isolated converters have a reduced length while offering the same capabilities and maintaining the quarter-brick and eighth-brick pin location assignments. Measuring 1.65 in. long × 0.8 in. wide with a 0.33-in. profile, the sixteenth-brick units are a third smaller than typical eighth-brick converters. The surface-mount package delivers 15 A to 20 A of output.
Astec's new-generation switching power supplies iMP Series is the first digitally controlled ac-dc power supply with an onboard microprocessor for programmability and smart communications. The modular design features digital management capabilities with digital control and offers hardware modules that will allow designers to develop specific solutions with single, dual and triple outputs and power ratings from 600 W to 1500 W. The units have 50% higher power density than previous generation products.
Power-One's power solutions for global telecom, networking and technology markets are supported by three different product categories. Offering multiple combinations of current and voltages, Power-One's broad selection of ac-dc power supplies includes flexible modular products and high-power-density fixed-platform solutions. The company's dc-dc converters support any voltage, any current and any architecture. Board-level products include distributed power architecture (DPA) and intermediate bus architecture (IBA). System-level solutions include CompactPCI, 3U packages, cassette style and positive-switching regulators, and chassis-mount isolated dc-dc power supplies. Offering a combination of industry-leading power densities, scalability and cost-effectiveness, the dc power systems include a wide range of modular hot-swappable rectifiers, controllers, network accessories and custom-designed distribution options.
In February 2004, Power-One announced its Z-One Digital IBA architecture that integrated power-conversion, control and communications. The digital power management architecture provides reduced pc board space and cost savings, as well as a decrease in components, number of pc board traces and power-system development time. Parameters such as output voltages, sequencing and protection limits are user programmable through a graphical user interface (GUI) and stored in the unit's Digital Power Manager.
Artesyn Technologies designs and manufactures advanced power-conversion equipment and board-level computing solutions for data-communication systems and telecommunication infrastructure applications. The company focuses on four core market sectors, including server and storage, wireless infrastructure, networking and telecommunications.
The Power Group provides board-mounted dc-dc converters, ac-dc power supplies and power delivery systems for industry-leading OEMs in the communications industry. The group's expertise in the design and manufacturing of high-efficiency, high-power density isolated dc-dc converters and nonisolated POL converters has made it a leader in power-conversion products for systems employing distributed power architectures (DPA).
Recently, Artesyn Technologies announced a digital POL converter. A nonisolated POL converter, the DPL20C is part of the PMBus-compliant dc-dc converter family and is under beta testing. Sanctioned by both major power supply alliances, POLA and DOSA, the PMBus protocol has been adopted by several semiconductor and supply companies that are working on promoting the specification.
Artesyn's DPL20C is a 20-A output converter with several digital configurations available through the PMBus interface. The converter provides the power for the pre-programmed settings and stores the data in nonvolatile memory. This eliminates the need for external power controllers in network application and computing applications.
SynQor supplies power-conversion solutions to the communications, computing and industrial markets using both standard and custom solutions for distributed power architectures. SynQor's modular dc-dc converters provide the conversion and conditioning of dc power in telecom/datacom, electronic data processing (EDP) and in the industrial, instrumentation, medical and military markets.
Founded in October 1997 by MIT professor Dr. Martin F. Schlecht, the company uses synchronous rectification to provide innovative and highly efficient dc-dc power converters. SynQor introduced its first open-frame, high-efficiency power converters in 1999.
SynQor's recently introduced 53-V, 7.6-A output half-brick dc-dc converter targets Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and Voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) applications. The PQ5553HEA08 (open-frame version) and PQ5553HEB08 (base-plated version) converters use synchronous rectification and SynQor's patented topology to achieve high efficiencies and low-power dissipation. With an input voltage range of 38 V to 55 V, the open-frame device can supply up to 265 W at 95% efficiency. The base-plated option allows the addition of a heatsink to increase the available power to the full 360-W rating.
Motion Control: Intelligent Motion
The pursuit of digital motion control was already well underway in the mid-1970s. Industry technology pioneers Benjamin C. Kuo and Jacob Tal published Incremental Motion Control Volume 1 in 1978. In 1982, Texas Instrument's introduction of the first programmable general-purpose digital signal processor (DSP) started a digital confrontation with microcontrollers that continues to this day. With all the development that occurred in that time frame, identifying specific motion control companies for the Top 30 was not an easy task.
Dan Jones, president of Incremotion Associates attributes ElectroCraft, now a part of Rockwell Automation, as one of the leading technology companies in the early days of motion control. “New technology comes from young companies starting from risk takers not the big guys,” says Jones. “Young companies develop the technology and it gets to a certain critical mass, the old companies recognize it and then they buy them.”
The name of the game in motion is consolidation, according to Jones. He noted that within the last six years, Danaher Motion bought 40-plus companies. Parker Hannifin also has been on an acquisition spree. However, the motion control companies in PET's Top 30 are Rockwell Automation and Bosch Rexroth for early technology accomplishments of their acquired companies and for being a driving force for motion control for the past 30 years.
Rockwell Automation (ElectroCraft and Allen-Bradley)
Formed in 1960, ElectroCraft soon launched the Motomatic servo system, which quickly became successful because of the systems approach used by the manufacturer of both motors and amplifiers for industrial applications. Other key milestones include:
1970s — ElectroCraft published the handbook DC Motors, Speed Controls, Servo Systems, which garnered respect for the company as the principal authority on motion control.
1980 — Robbins & Myers purchased ElectroCraft and the two businesses combined resources.
1991 — Reliance Electric purchased the Robbins & Myers Motor Group.
1994 — Rockwell International purchased Reliance Electric and its subsidiary companies.
2000 — Rockwell Automation combined the resources of Allen-Bradley and ElectroCraft. Another entity, ElectroCraft Engineered Solutions, is a separate Rockwell Automation business providing engineered solutions.
Indramat pioneered the first practical industrial brushless ac servo drives in the 1980s. Today, Indramat is part of Bosch Rexroth. Some key milestones of Bosch Rexroth's timeline include:
1975 — Bosch establishes the Industrial Equipment Business Unit, predecessor of Automation Technology.
1976 — Rexroth becomes a 100% subsidiary of Mannesmann AG.
1983 — Indramat installs the first major U.S. automotive application in the Ford Livonia transmission plant.
1991 — The first U.S. SERCOS open drive system is installed at a GM engineering plant.
1992 — AB Mecman is purchased by Mannesmann and becomes part of Rexroth's Pneumatics division.
1996 — Bosch founds the Automation Technology Business Unit by integrating Industrial Equipment and Hydraulics/Pneumatics.
1998 — Bosch Automation Products becomes part of Bosch Automation Technology, along with Bosch Fluid Power and Bosch Industrial Controls.
2001 — Bosch Automation Technology and Rexroth join forces to form the Bosch Rexroth Corp.
Completing the Power Electronics System
Even the most sophisticated semiconductor or power IC is just silicon encased in plastic without additional components to complete the power electronics system. While an entire issue could be devoted to innovative companies that have made their mark and continue to influence power electronics, four companies have been singled out for our Top 30 companies.
The Bergquist Company
As the creator of Sil-Pad, Carl Bergquist has been responsible for pioneering elastomeric thermal interface materials standards. Bergquist developed the Sil-Pad thermal interface material to replace mica and grease used for isolating and thermal interfacing power transistors. Today, The Bergquist Company concentrates on thermal management and switch and touch-screen technologies. Well-known products include Gap Pad noninsulating and electrically insulated gap fillers, Bond-Ply thermally conductive adhesive tapes, Thermal Clad insulated metal substrates and Sil-Pad thermally conductive interface materials.
Bergquist developed Thermal Clad insulated metal substrate for higher watt-density surface-mount applications with reduced power semiconductor die sizes where heat may be a concern. Thermal Clad substrates minimize thermal impedance and are more effective and efficient in conducting heat when compared to standard pc boards.
The Sil-Pad 1500ST (Soft Tack) is Bergquist's latest addition to thermal management. The fiberglass-reinforced, silicone-based thermal interface material was designed for high-volume auto-dispensing/autoplacement applications. The Sil-Pad 1500ST offers an inherent tack on both sides of the material and has a thermal impedance of 0.23°C-in2/W at 50 psi.
Bergquist's Gap Pad offers a family of thermal interface material with higher thermal performance, greater conformability and easier application. It provides a thermal interface between electronic devices and heatsinks with rough surface textures, air gaps and uneven surface topography.
The Bond-Ply family consists of electrically isolating and thermally conductive materials. The material is available in a laminating or pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) arrangement to decouple bonded materials with mismatched thermal coefficients of expansion. It also provides a replacement to screw or clip mounting and heat-cure adhesives.
Coilcraft is worldwide leader in chip inductors, power magnetics, EMI filters, wideband transformers, power inductor, chip coils, RF chokes and power chokes. While the company offers many standard off-the-shelf products, most products are custom designed to meet customers' specific requirements.
Coilcraft recently introduced flyback transformers for Power over Ethernet (PoE) for Powered Devices (PD) in IEEE 802.3af compliant applications. Available in 3-W, 7-W and 13-W output versions, the units have a bias winding output of 12 V, 20 mA and are rated for 36-V to 72-V input, 250-kHz switching frequency, and 1500-Vrms winding to winding isolation.
Pulse, a Technitrol Co., is one of the largest magnetic component manufacturers in the world. The company offers a variety of passive magnetics-based components and electronic components, including filters, chokes, inductors, transformers and component modules.
Pulse recently released the SLIC PL8200 and PL8300 series of self-leaded package transformers and inductors with ruggedized construction for military/aerospace power applications. Bonding the structural header to the cores and lead wires increased the mechanical durability. Units are available with current ratings up to 38 Adc in an inductance range of 1.1 µH to 18.1 µH. The footprint is 31.0 mm × 25.4 mm maximum with a maximum height of 12.7 mm.
AVX, a group company of Kyocera, is the world's leading manufacturer of tantalum capacitors, a technology that has been critical to switch-mode power supplies as well as automotive air bag and antilock brake systems.
Recently, AVX Corp.'s niobium oxide capacitor, OxiCap, was voted component of the year at the Elektra 05 European Industry awards. The device was awarded the honor for meeting the customer's need, demonstrating an innovative design, time to market and meeting an overall commercial success criteria. Designed to deliver low ESR, high capacitance, high-ripple current capacitor performance, the niobium oxide multi-anode (NOM) capacitor uses advanced technology to provide a safe (nonburning) high-resistance failure mode. Targeting power supply decoupling and high-speed data processing applications where very high capacitance and ultralow ESR are required, these capacitors provide ESR values down to 30 mΩ.