Electronic Design

Partnership Promises Digital Power Proliferation

In January, Ericsson AB Power Modules shook hands with Power-One on an agreement that will accelerate widespread proliferation of digital power management and digital board-mounted technologies. The companies also foresee better performing power-management products—and all at lower costs.

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

The worldwide field of use agreement grants Ericsson AB Power Modules a non-exclusive license to employ select digital power technologies from Power-One’s portfolio of patents. As a result, Ericsson will be able to use these technologies in the design, development, and manufacture of its enhanced performance, energy management, and end-user value (3E) modular digital point-of-load (POL) converters for board-mounted applications.

The design of Ericsson’s 3E POL converters employs a number of digital power control techniques. Although the components will function well and reliably using the same techniques common to traditional analog regulators, it has become apparent to the company that users will benefit from having control of the converter’s critical parameters via a PMBus interface. These parameters include input and output voltage and current, temperature, load conditions, alarms, indicators, and other functions.

Addressing this concept, both companies agree that Power-One’s digital power technologies will extend the functionality of these power components with a greater and more diversified field of operations in existing, emerging, and future products.

“Through this collaboration with Power-One, we will secure a rapid deployment of our digital board-mounted technology, 3E, in the marketplace. 3E offers new opportunities for board-mounted power solutions and savings in the design, production, and operation of systems using a distributed power architecture dynamically controlled,” said Martin Hägerdal, VP & head of Ericsson Power Modules.

Users of these components will be able to easily program and monitor numerous functions such as dynamic commands for shifting loads, voltage and current end points, and sequencing for a single component or an array of digitally controlled POL converters. With an eager eye on the “green” market, all of the products will dissipate and consume significantly less power and operate more efficiently.

WHAT ARE THE PRODUCTS?

It seems clear that Ericsson plans to build upon and expand its 3E offerings. With its 2008 introduction of its BMR453 series isolated dc-dc converters, Ericsson was the first company to offer a comprehensive line of board-mount products based on digital control and monitoring. As a result, it also laid claim to reducing energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions.

The quarter-brick BMR453 delivers up to 400 W of output while providing tight output voltage regulation over an input voltage range of 36 to 75 V at efficiency levels in excess of 96%. In addition to a PMBus, the component enables high-level communication between the power module and a system’s power-management controller, bringing monitoring and control functions down to board level.

March 2009 saw the birth of the second-generation 3E BMR450 and BMR451 digital POL converters. Measuring 25.65 by 12.9 by 8.2 mm, the BMR450 accommodates intermediate bus voltages, i.e., 5, 8, and 12 V, with a wide input range and an adjustable output voltage. It delivers an output up to 20 A/100 W with a typical efficiency of 96.8% at half load.

A digitally controlled, non-isolated converter, the BMR451 handles an input range from 4.5 to 14 V and delivers a 40-A output across an output-voltage range of 0.6 to 3.6 V. The 30.85- by 20- by 8.2-mm unit also specifies an MTBF of 2.6 million hours.

CONSENSUS

As per both companies, digital power control is the way to go in terms of reducing costs and power consumption while maximizing user value.

According to Power-One, “digital power management enables OEMs and data centers to run more efficiently. As the number of POLs on boards continues to increase and data centers use more power from the grid, the need for digital power-management solutions intensifies. The use of digital control technology actually reduces cost while increasing performance, leading to the digital power market being one of the fastest growing markets in power management.”

If these forecasts prove to be accurate, we should see some very innovative power products coming down the pike. It will also be particularly interesting to see how these components will interface with other power initiatives, like the Smart Grid.

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