Perambulating PCIM

By Alix Paultre, Editor-in-Chief

One of the biggest electronic events in the power industry, the Power Control and Intelligent Motion (PCIM) conference and exhibition is always a great event to attend. This year over eleven thousand visitors explored the goods and services of over five hundred exhibitors, learning about the latest solutions in power management and motion control.

The great thing about the electronics industry is that the magnitude of the news isn’t a factor of the size and budget of the companies creating it, as engineering is about the quality of the solution first, not the loudness of the announcement. New devices, services, and partnerships are what make the industry move forward.

Industry news
Among the big-fish news is the announcement from Power Integrations that they would be moving into the automotive space. This is more than just adding another vendor wannabe to the list of potential parts suppliers, as the company brings a wealth of IP in the area of miniaturized advanced switching power systems. Even if the company “only” picked up ten dollars in each car’s Bill of Materials, it would make a serious dent on the supplier side.

The biggest startup news comes from industry veteran Bruce Renouard, who is now the CEO of a company called Pre-Switch, bringing a new power topology to the marketplace. The key lies in Pre-Flex, a new technology the company unveiled to the industry at PCIM. Based on an embedded AI (Artificial Intelligence) controller chip, it promises to effectively eliminate transistor switching losses in hard-switched power architectures.

Targeting applications such as the server, solar, wind, EV, traction and motor drive markets, Pre-Flex technology learns and adapts “in-system,” on a cycle-by-cycle basis, to reliably force resonant soft-switch across changing loads, input voltages, and temperatures. Capable of efficiencies greater than those of five-level topologies at a fraction of the cost and complexity, Pre-Flex also significantly lowers EMI (Electromagnetic interference) and dramatically decreases dV/dt.

Expanding the footprint of wide-bandgap semiconductors in the industry, semiconductor solutions provider ROHM, and wide-bandgap developer GaN Systems announced their collaboration in the GaN (gallium nitride) Power Semiconductor business. This strategic partnership leverages GaN Systems’ wide-bandgap expertise and ROHM’s considerable resources in the design and manufacture of electronic components. The companies will develop form-, fit-, and function-compatible products.

There are many companies migrating into this challenging space. One exampIe is Littelfuse, who is increasing the commercial availability of next-generation Silicon Carbide semiconductor devices. Once known for their passives and infrastructure products, Littelfuse’s purchases of the IP and manufacturing capability needed by acquiring companies like IXYS and others allow it to make their latest family of SiC MOSFETs, diodes, and power modules, covering an application range from 650V to 1700V.

Beyond the hot news of the Pre-Switch topology, there was lots of other cool technology at the show. The Vicor Power-on-Package solution with 3M immersion cooling was an example of some of the interesting solutions demonstrated, as it established a new benchmark in power density for 48V direct to CPU/GPU power rails.

Wolfspeed was showing off several of their latest solutions, including their new XHV-7, a 3.3kV SiC half-bridge power module that offers low loss, fast switching, and a housing that is suitable for up to 6.5 kV rated MOSFETs. Targeted applications include electric rail and traction drives, solid-state transformers, grid-tied distributed generation, and fast EV charging, among others.

Test and measurement is always a “Red Queen’s Race” of staying ahead of the systems you are testing in clarity and capture. Tektronix had the latest of their probing solutions available able to address the latest advances in wide-bandgap semiconductors and power topologies. Based on optical technology, IsoVu offers complete galvanic isolation between the test point and the oscilloscope. IsoVu has a 1 million to 1 common mode rejection ratio up to 100 MHz, and 10,000 to 1 common mode rejection up to 1 GHz, with no derating as frequency increases.

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