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Power Electronics

Alliance Tries to Standardize High Performance DC-DC Converters

To bring some order to the fragmented dc-dc converter marketplace, Tyco Electronics Power Systems Inc. and SynQor Inc. have formed the Distributed-Power Open Standards Alliance (DOSA). However, the two partners are not the first in this drive to standardize isolated and nonisolated power converters. A few months ago, in June 2003, Texas Instruments forged an alliance with Artesyn Technologies and Emerson’s Astec Power division to stimulate the growth of nonisolated POL converters in distributed artchitectures. TI and its partners formed what is called a point-of-load alliance or POLA. Under this licensing deal, Artesyn and Astec will second-source TI's nonisolated PTHxx series. TI is hoping that POLA will make PTH a defacto standard in the industry. Interestingly, new members have not joined the POLA alliance since its inception.

In the meantime, Tyco Electronics and SynQor have created another alliance. Unlike POLA, DOSA intends to be a vehicle that establishes standards over a broad range of power converter form factors, footprints, feature sets and functionality for both nonisolated (POL) and isolated applications, including intermediate bus converters. DOSA converters will be geared towards wireless infrastructure, optical switching, networking, storage and industrial systems.

Because Tyco was a leader in the early 1990s, isolated converter makers followed the company’s lead to make half-brick converters a defacto standard, according to industry consultant Mohan Mankikar, president of Micro-Tech Consultants, Santa Rosa, Calif. In the nonisolated sector, the market is quite fragmented and there is no dominant player, adds Mankikar. Today, the situation is different. For the DOSA alliance to take off, it must receive the support of a major dc-dc converter supplier, he notes.

"The past two years have seen a sudden proliferation of new power architectures, package sizes, pin-outs and functionality, leading converter manufacturers to announce products that are increasingly incompatible," says Sabi Varma, vice president, marketing and business operations at Tyco Electronics Power Systems. "DOSA is designed to alleviate the concerns of electronic original equipment manufacturers (OEM's) by standardizing our leading technology for high performance dc-dc converters."

According to Joe Coupal, SynQor’s executive vice president of marketing and sales, "Our major customers view the dc-dc market as too fragmented, and they have encouraged us to take the lead in promoting greater standardization. Our goal with the alliance is to ensure compatibility among the market-leading converter products and offer our customers secure second sourcing and competitive pricing."

Under the terms of the alliance, the two companies will independently develop dc-dc converters with pin-for-pin compatibility, identical form factors and functionally equivalent feature sets, thereby guaranteeing end users the benefits of true second-sourcing options. Tyco's recently announced Austin Lynx II POL converters will be the first product addressed by the alliance. DOSA will also align future product roadmaps, including a new sixteenth-brick converter, while developing other requirements, including high-current quarter-brick pin-out designs, output voltage sequencing for POL modules in the Austin SuperLynx™ module form factor and consensus for standards on surface-mount technology and lead-free initiatives. Speaking of sixteenth-brick format, last year Astec unveiled a solution, while Datel proposed one.

As a result of the alliance, Tyco and SynQor will jointly announce future product offerings that are compatible as drop-in replacements. Both companies have design facilities in Dallas, which will facilitate the joint agreement and development of future standards.

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