Power supply manufacturers pursue smaller size, lower weight, and higher efficiency

Posted by Skyler Frink

PRODUCT INTELLIGENCE, 21 Feb. 2012.There’s one thing all electronics need, and that’s power electronics. Military power supplies and converters are important parts of the system they inhabit, and as such need to meet rigorous standards lest the entire system shut down for want, or excess, of power. Systems integrators who are looking to purchase power supplies and converters need to weigh reliability, weight, power and cost carefully.

“Military and avionics customers are continually seeking smaller size, lower weight, and higher efficiency in their power supplies to save on board space, design cost, and operation cost,” says Steve Butler, vice president of engineering at VPT Inc. in Blacksburg, Va. Not only are power supplies being weighed against those factors, but as a vital piece of any system they must be rugged and reliable.

Military and avionics power supplies also are held to high standards. “Customers also continue to demand a true military/avionics-grade, or high-reliability power converter," Butler continues. "Hermeticity is vital for these types of applications.” Hermeticity prevents air and gas from interfering with the power supply, and many high-reliability applications such as aircraft benefit from a system that is unaffected by outside sources.

A technical shift is taking place in power technology as systems designers look more towards point of load (POL) converters. “These converters, or POLs, output very low voltages at very high efficiencies,” Butler says. “The POL offers a unique solution for low voltages at high currents, better performance than isolated supplies with low output voltages, and provide reduced power losses when compared to linear regulators, even at low output currents.” In the past, multiple isolated converters were used to provide the benefits of POLs. These small converters are now used instead in order to reduce board size, heat, weight and cost.

Due to the ever increasing power demands made by perpetually evolving digital processing applications, companies who make power supplies and converters are finding more need for products that allow for more current at low voltages, such as the POL converters. “Customers have doubled or tripled the processing power of their systems," says VPT's Butler. As in any case with evolving technology, companies are forced to keep up with increasingly high standards. Converters aren’t the only way to handle the demand for higher currents, however.

Parallel modules help systems keep up with high power demands, as Butler describes. “It is important to note that high power systems can be built from paralleled modules, which offers several advantages. This approach allows for N+1 redundancy, where in the event of a module failure, remaining modules will continue to supply the load. A modular approach is also easily upgraded to higher power, simply by adding more modules.”

For systems that require maximum reliability, having paralleled modules allows for a failure in one module without shutting the system down. For avionics or military systems designers, the slight hit to SWAP is often worth increasing the reliability and capability of the system.

To drive costs down, standardized power supplies have been becoming more popular. “The biggest trend [in military and avionics power applications] is away from purely custom central power supplies, moving toward either power supplies built from proven standard modules or toward distributed systems where standard modules are placed throughout the system where they are needed," Butler says. "Such modular designs can often be delivered with less engineering development costs and in a shorter timeframe."

Systems designers must consider not only costs, but also delivery times. Butler cites the continued shrinking of design cycles as the primary reason delivery time must be kept to a minimum. The quicker a power supply is delivered, the sooner tests can be done and the product can be deployed.

Company list

Absopulse Electronics Ltd.
Ottawa, Ontario
613-836-3511
www.absopulse.com

Aeroflex Inc.
Plainview, N.Y.
516-694-6700
www.aeroflex.com

AJ's Power Source Inc.
Land O Lakes, Fla.
813-996-2583
www.ajpower.com

Analytic Systems
Delta, British Columbia
604-496-9981
http://analyticsystems.com

API/Spectrum Control
Erie, Penn.
(814) 474-2207
www.apitech.com/spectrum-control

Astrodyne Inc.
Mansfield, Mass.
08-964-6300
www.astrodyne.com

Behlman Electronics Inc.
Hauppauge, N.Y.
631-435-0410
www.behlmanpower.com

Comdel Inc.
Gloucester, Mass.
978-282-0620
www.comdel.com

ConTech
Concord, Calif.
925-609-1193
www.contech-us.com

CUI Inc.
Tualatin, Ore.
503-612-2300
www.cui.com

DRS Pivotal Power
Bedford, Nova Scotia
902-835-7268
www.drspowersolutions.com

Electromech Inc.
Ramsey, N.J.
201-934-3456
http://electromechinc.com

Emerson Network Power Inc.
St. Louis MO
1 (314) 553-2000
www.Emerson.com

Energy Technologies Inc.
Mansfield, Ohio
419-522-4444
www.ruggedsystems.com

Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES)
Middleton, Wis.
608-833-1155
www.xes-inc.com

Falcon Electric Inc.
Irwindale, Calif.
626-962-7770
www.falconups.com

Gaia Converter Inc.
Saint Laurent, Quebec
514-333-3169
www.gaia-converter.ca

HiTek Power Ltd.
Littlehampton, England
011-44-1903-712400
www.hitekpower.com

International Rectifier
El Segundo, Calif.
310-726-8000
www.irf.com

Interpoint, a Crane Co.
Redmond, Wash.
425-882-3100
www.interpoint.com

ITT Power Solutions
West Springfield, Mass.
413-263-6200
www.exelisinc.com

Kepco Inc.
Flushing, N.Y.
718-461-7000
www.kepcopower.com

Martek Power
Torrance, Calif.
310-202-8820
www.martekpower.com

Milpower Source
Belmont, NH 03220
603-267-8865
www.milpower.com

Modular Devices
Shirley, NY
631-345-3100
www.mdipower.com

MS Kennedy Corp.
Liverpool, N.Y.
315-701-6751
www.mskennedy.com

Murata Power Solutions Inc.
Mansfield, Mass.
508-339-3000
www.murata-ps.com

North Atlantic Industries
Bohemia, N.Y.
631-567-1100
www.naii.com

Pduke Technology Inc.
Walnut, Calif.
909-598-5000
www.pduke.com

Pico Electronics Inc.
Pelham, N.Y.
914-738-1400
www.picoelectronics.com

Pioneer Magnetics
Santa Monica, Calif.
310-829-6751
www.pioneermag.com

Positronic Industries, Inc.
Springfield, Mo.
417-866-2322
www.connectpositronic.com

Power Solutions Inc.
Titusville, Fla.
516-484-6689
www.powersolutions.com

Powerstax plc
Farnborough, England
+44 (0) 1252 407800
www.powerstaxplc.com

Rantec Power Systems
Los Osos, Calif.
805-596-6000
www.rantec.com

Schaefer Inc.
Ashland, Mass.
508-881-7330
www.schaeferpower.com

Solitron Devices, Inc.
West Palm Beach, Fla.
561-848-4311
www.solitrondevices.com

SynQor
Boxborough, Mass.
978-849-0600
www.synqor.com

TDK-Lambda
Neptune, N.J.
732-922 9300
http://us.tdk-lambda.com/hp/

Teledyne Microelectronics
Los Angeles, Calif.
310-822-8229
www.teledynemicro.com

Tracewell Systems
Westerville, Ohio
614-846-6175
www.tracewellsystems.com

Transistor Devices Inc. (TDI Power)
Hackettstown, N.J.
908-850-5088
http://tdipower.com

UltraVolt Inc.
Ronkonkoma, N.Y.
631-471-4444
www.ultravolt.com

Vicor Corp.
Andover, Mass.
800-735-6200
www.vicr.com

Vishay Intertechnology Inc.
Malvern, Pa.
610-644-1300
www.vishay.com

VPT Inc.
Blacksburg, Va.
540-552-5000
www.vpt-inc.com

XP Power
Sunnyvale, Calif.
408-732-7777
www.xppower.com

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