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APEC 2013 Was Biggest Ever


The tradeshow part of APEC, the Applied Power Engineering Conference and Exhibition for 2013 Has ended.  Technical sessions continued through Thursday.  Engineering TV recorded a number of booth demos from the exposition, here.

Once again, the conference had grown substantially since the previous year.  Greg Evans, who handles publicity for the conference says attendance was up by 500 compared to last year, which was up by 500 compared to the year before.  I think this indicates that we are in a recovery.

Exhibitors pushed the envelope in a number of ways.  There is still skepticism about wide band gap power devices but, speakers from Cree, EPC and Transphorm, companies that staked out wide band gap positions early in the game, were backed up by newcomers from Avogy, GeneSiC and GaN Systems.

One indicator that GaN and SiC still represent a nascent technology, however: both EPC’s Eric Lidow and Transphorm’s Carl Blake remarked that everybody on their technical staff is a Ph.D.  (“So every day is like a new episode of ‘Big Bang Theory?’ I remarked, and Blake cracked up.  He didn’t disagree, though.)

There were some unusual product announcements.  One from Texas Instruments is an arc fault detector.  Arc fault detectors live at the intersection of power and digital signal processing.  Historically, they’ve been used monitor the power lines behind building walls for the unique signature of a spark discharge from an ac hot wire to ground, caused say, by a badly driven nail holding up a picture frame. This is not a trivial problem; false alarms drove some consumers nuts when arc-fault detectors were first mandated in building codes.

TI’s announcement is something new, though.  The RD-195 is for high-power dc systems, such as automobile and aircraft battery management systems, industrial factory equipment, and photovoltaic units. One unique feature is that designers can program the device to optimize the balance between arc-detection accuracy and false detection prevention. Engineering TV will have a video of the demonstration soon.  Meanwhile, follow the link above to the TI page. []

TI had a total or 8 more demos and announcements, which I will try to report on going forward.

In fact, at the whole exposition, there were many more ICs than I can report on, but you will be able to pick and choose among many on Engineering TV once Curtis’ edited versions are all up.  (Keep checking back; he’ll be working on them all week.

One highlight that did not involve booth demos was talking to Maurizio Salato, about 380-V dc distribution in the data center, a topic I’ve been following and debating with our Editor in Chief, Joe Desposito literally for years.  This was something of a distraction for Claudio, since the point of the display was a new, user-configurable regulated step-down chip, that I’ll describe briefly below, but he cheerfully brought me up to date on high-voltage distribution in supercomputer centers for future articles I’ll be working on.

In a quick roundup of other interesting booths,

·      CUI had some interesting approaches for communicating with PoLs via PMBus in IBA power distribution schemes.  That will be in one of the earliest videos coming up on Engineering TV. 

·      ADI had a different approach to dc-dc PMBus/GUI control, embodied in its ADP1051.

·      For smartphone/tablet battery charging, take a loot at NXP’s “Green Chip” T1705 and T1720A, a pair of chips that communicate with each other to provide load-step detection (the ’05) to the SMPS controller (the 20A) while the latter is cruising along in low-load burst mode. The result is faster response time. The pair take up less than a cubic inch.

·      Fairchild introduced its FC3581 brushless dc hybrid motor controller. It provides Field Oriented Control via a micro and a motor controller in a single package.

·      For those whose designs call for diodes as the lower switch, Toshiba introduced a new family of high-speed diodes that reduce reverse recovery time by 30%, compared to Toshiba’s own previous best efforts. They’re based on the company’s fourth-generation, 500V, super-junction process technology.

·      And both Vicor and Infineon introduced new hybrid packaging technologies that I will be writing about once I spend enough time to figure out the comparisons and differences.

TAGS: Power
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