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Asia market will power ahead this year

Posted: 03 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dc/dc converter? power management semiconductor? power solution? power component? fet?

Peter Born

Managing Director, Asia-Pacific Region, SynQor

The past year was a very challenging year for manufacturers of power management semiconductors and dc/dc converters. The market for dc/dc converters retracted approximately 20 percent to 30 percent last year, and the power components sector saw similar results.

Besides the communications downturn in Europe and America, Asia's challenges include a sluggish Japanese economy, slow market acceptance for 3G technologies, and reduced capital expenditures in China due to telecom restructuring in advance of WTO entry. However, some bright spots were found in consumer electronics, non-3G wireless basestations and "last mile" fixed line access solutions such as xDSL. Additionally, many large OEMs transferred production to low cost Asian contract manufacturers.

Other good news for Asian equipment manufacturers is that the slow market and unprecedented competition among suppliers has caused significant cost reductions from 15 percent to 30 percent to be passed on to consumers. Hence, many customers are using widely accepted power solutions based on industry standard footprints.

Technology is another bright spot with some of the most exciting power products in the last 20 years highlighted by new industry standard 1/8-bricks products (capable of 15A-20A), 240W quarter-bricks (plethora of easy to use non-isolated controllers), as well as new FET technologies with Rds-On characteristics of a few milli-ohms. For dc/dc converters, high efficiency compact solutions based on synchronous rectification will continue to dominate this year.

Designers in Asia are accepting that open frame solutions offer higher usable power density and reliability due to cooler operation and simplified manufacturing. Innovative low Rds-on FETs and new power topologies have hastened advances in small footprint solutions, from ac/dc front-ends to non-isolated low cost buck converters.

The Asian market is seeing a dramatic shift in the need for more efficient power on a card as 3.3V becomes the dominant IC voltage used, and quick migration to 2.5V and 1.2V solutions with 1V devices used in specialized applications. Many board designs are using a wide array of low voltage ICs. Once prevalent single or multiple isolated converters are yielding to smaller and more economical solutions through a combination of isolated and non-isolated converters where engineers must carefully consider voltage sequencing, input ripple currents, and transient response requirements of advanced processors.

Another important trend is deployment of intermediate bus architecture (IBA). Many OEMs in Asia faced with four or more output voltages on a single card are using IBA, cutting costs up to 50 percent over traditional discrete distributed power architectures while moving the converters closer to their point of load. IBA uses an isolated 12V, 5V, or 3.3V converter to generate a voltage that is distributed across the motherboard. This "intermediate bus" is then used to drive non-isolated point of load converters.

IC manufacturers and traditional power solution manufacturers will soon be competing for the same customers, as integrated switching controllers and chip level power solutions are blurring the lines of distinction. The power supply market will continue to be largely fragmented due to the vast array of power solutions.

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