It was the year that saw the evolution
of wide band gap technology and its uptake by design engineers into actual
products. Yes, there are concerns that SiC is more expensive at the device
level than Si but that’s not true at the system level when the frequency is
increased from 10 kHz to 40 kHz, according to Infineon. Automotive appeared to
be the primary target for most wideband gap devices, but certainly there were
plenty of products that targeted photovoltaics, EV charging, traction control,
and motor drives. The tone has changed from previous years at PCIM, from ‘we
are designing devices that are almost ready,’ to this year’s mantra stating
that ‘we have the devices and design kits to help you get product to market
quickly. Other benefits that arise from using SiC and GaN include smaller and
lighter end products, which, in the case of EVs would be a smaller and lighter
batteries needed to operate the car.

PCIM2017_Awards

 

 

The
annual award winners for best paper and young engineer at PCIM 2017

 

The keynote address this year talked
about the possible future envisioned by Renault with wireless charging of
electric cars. One possibility is the integration of charging coils into the
road surface enabling almost limitless use of EVs on these special roads. It
probably won’t be the first use or the only method used to charge EVs but it
certainly provided for some wonderment in the audience.

 

Some interesting products introduced at
the PCIM show included one from Power
Integrations
, which was an expansion of its 1700 V SCALE-iDriver family of galvanically isolated single-channel gate
driver ICs. It supports IGBT blocking voltages up to 1,700 V, which are
typically used in 400 Vac and 690 Vac line applications. They are suitable for
PV inverters  and array designs that want
to leverage the new 1,500 Vdc bus standard. The SCALE iDriver combines the
company’s FluxLink magneto-inductive bi-directional comm technology and
eliminates the need for optoelectronics and its compensation circuitry.

 

Power Integrations 1700V SCALE iDriver

The Power Integrations 1700 V SCALE iDriver

 

During
PCIM, ON Semiconductor demonstrated its
most recent advances in power technology. Among the hardware demonstrated were
the recently introduced FDMF8811. This highly integrated 100 V rated bridge power stage
module
addresses both half-bridge and full-bridge DC/DC converter
topologies. It enables engineers to streamline their system designs, leading to
elevated power delivery within the compact space available in DC/DC converters
used in wireless base stations and other cloud computing infrastructure.
Additionally, the FAN6248 synchronous rectifier
controller
will be on display. The company also demonstrated the new
SPM2 and SPM3 Intelligent Power Module (IPM)
families
. These compact, integrated modules provide
easy-to-implement solutions for inverter power stages in single and three-phase
input voltage motor drives up to 5 kW. High power and thermal cycling
characteristics support smaller and simplified energy saving drive designs that
comply with prevailing standards such as the ErP Efficiency Regulations.

 

The
demonstrations included power delivery in electric/hybrid-electric vehicles
(EVs/HEVs) and fail safe control of brushless DC motors (with built-in
diagnostic mechanisms). There also showed an industrial IoT design kit and a multifaceted
home automation demonstration, which uses both wired Power-over-Ethernet (PoE)
and wireless EnOcean technology, for lighting control purposes. See the
Electronic Products Magazine industrial IoT interview
with ON Semiconductor at the PCIM show.

 

Littelfuse announces a
series of fifteen-minute “TechTalks LIVE!” where they addressed a variety of
issues related to power semiconductors, particularly the challenges associated
with integrating silicon carbide (SiC) devices like Schottky diodes and MOSFETs
into power converter designs. The talks included how to accelerate your power
converter design using SiC and focused on gate driver and converter layout
considerations.

 

Another talk was ‘Knowing when to switch to SiC’ because it may not
always be clear when you should jump to SiC and when you should stay with
silicon. The talk offered insights to help circuit designer determine if and
when they should change from Si to SiC.

 

Higher efficiency, increased power density, smaller
footprints and reduced system costs are the main advantages of transistors
based on SiC. Infineon Technologies
is starting volume production for the EASY 1B, the first full-SiC module
announced at last year’s PCIM. On the occasion of this year’s PCIM, the company
showed off additional module platforms and topologies for the 1,200 V CoolSiC
MOSFET family. The new 1,200 V SiC MOSFETs have been optimized to combine high
reliability with performance. They show dynamic losses which are an order of
magnitude lower than 1,200 V Si IGBTs. First products will initially support
upcoming system challenges in applications such as photovoltaic inverters,
uninterruptible power supplies and charging/storage systems. The new
configurations will also enable revolutionary new solutions in industrial
drives, medical technology or auxiliary power supplies in the railway sector in
the near future. See Electronic Product Magazine’s interview
with Infineon at the PCIM show
.

 

Architects of
Modern Power (AMP) Group
talked
with Electronic Products Magazine during PCIM 2017 in Nuremberg Germany. The
Group offers something new to the power designer; it takes a segment of the
PMBus and defines it further within the AMP group. It gives users the ability
to second sources products so that they have plug and play capability. Editor
Alix Paultre questioned the members of the AMP group about CUI’s Jeff Schnabel,
Murata’s Charlie Swiontek, and Martin Hägerdal from Ericsson Power Modules.

Wolfspeed, a long-time leader in the SiC space continues innovate with quality devices, this time with industry’s first power module that passes the harsh environment qualification test. This is no meaningless advancement because it requires passing qualification test for simultaneous high-humidity, high-temperature, and high-voltage conditions. It allows system designers to use the device for transportation, wind, solar, and other renewables, where extreme conditions have historically made it very difficult to obtain safe device operation. The SiC module is rated for 300 A and 1.2 kV blocking and stressed at 85% humidity at 85C, while biased at 80% of the rated voltage. See the Electronic Products Magazine nterview of Wolfspeed at
the PCIM
show.

 

Wolfspeed_was300m12bm2_halfbridge

 

The
Wolfspeed 300 A half-bridge that offers 1,200 V blocking while highly stressed

 

X-FAB and Exagan made
some noise in the gallium nitride arena by demonstrating mass-production capability to manufacture high-voltage
power devices on 200-mm GaN-on-Si wafers, using X-FAB’s standard CMOS
production facility in Dresden, Germany. This accomplishment is the result of a
joint development agreement launched in 2015, enabling cost/performance
advantages that could not be achieved with smaller wafers.
The companies have
resolved many of the challenges related to material stress, defectivity and
process integration while using standard fabrication equipment and process
recipes. Combined with the use of 200-mm wafers, this will significantly lower
the cost of mass producing GaN-on-silicon devices. By enabling greater power
integration than silicon ICs, GaN devices can improve the efficiency and reduce
the cost of electrical converters, which will accelerate their adoption in
applications including electrical vehicle charging stations, servers,
automobiles and industrial systems.

 

GaN Systems had a plethora of products
on display that solve design challenges in a wide variety of applications
including DC/DC
converters, energy storage systems, EV traction inverters, power modules, PWM
motor controllers, LED drivers. They had several demonstrations including a
crowd favorite that showed an airborne drone
flying with power generated only by a 150 W wireless transmitter
,
operating at 13.56 MHz. Electronic
Products Magazine interviewed GaN Systems’
CEO Jim Witham and gave us a
tour of the company’s products and how wide-spread the adoption of GaN
technology is and how it can be implemented by design engineers.

 

The biggest
power design challenges identified by engineers are downstream changes to the
specifications after the design process has begun. According to research
conducted by Vicor, 87% of power
system designers around the world identified specification changes as the most
frequent impediment in designing power systems.

 

The research
also highlights the challenges of meeting project timelines. It says that 80%
of power engineers are already struggling to meet time constraints when
designing power systems and 79% feel that project schedules are tighter due to
time-to-market pressures. Spec changes negatively impact schedules according to
65% of engineers.

 

Vicor says
its research identifies the biggest problems of designing power systems in an
increasingly demanding business environment. The first in a series of
whitepapers, “Why Can’t
My Boss Make His Mind Up?”
, analyzes the impact of spec changes
in more detail and offers some methods of coping with them. While
specifications changes may be inevitable, there are ways to minimize their
negative consequences. Download the white paper The impact of changes in
specification on power system designers
.