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Maxim jumps on digital power bandwagon

Posted: 01 Mar 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:digital power? InTune? state-space control?

Maxim Integrated Products Inc. is venturing into the flourishing digital power market with the launch of its first digital power chipsall built on its InTune brand digital power technology. Unlike the proportional-integral-derivative (PID) control used by its rivals, Maxim's technology is based on "state-space" or "model-predictive" control.

In addition to internal R&D efforts, the company also developed the technology through an acquisition. Last August, Maxim quietly acquired L&L Electronics Inc., a small firm that was developing and licensing digital control technology based on ''state-space". To help its efforts, Maxim also recently licensed the so-called Digital Power Technology (DPT) patents from Power-One Inc.

Maxim is the latest vendor to jump in the digital power market. ADI, Intersil, Linear, Microchip, TI and others are also in the business. IMS Research estimates that while the digital power IC market accounts for less than 10 percent of the total market today, it is growing by an average of 30 percent per year and will amount to over $900 million by 2016.

"The digital power market has entered the mainstream adoption stage of customer acceptance," said Ryan Sanderson, an analyst at IMS. "Some OEMs report that they now have more than 40 different power supplies on a single PCB. It is no longer practical to rely solely on analog power techniques for these designs. Digital power simplifies design, reduces components, and provides flexibility.''

Digital power relies on a digital or discrete time controller for the control loop rather than the traditional analog approach. Digital power management provides OEMs with increased control, efficiency and performance. The early adopters of digital power are OEMs in networking, telecom and storage, according to Jim Templeton, director of business management at Maxim.

Maxim did not provide details of their power chips, which they are sampling to customers. The announcement mainly revolves around its InTune technology. Maxim ''is not the first'' company in digital power, Templeton told EE Times. So "we need to be the best."

Maxim's InTune digital power technology is said to perform an automatic compensation routine that is based on measured parameters, which enables the construction of an internal mathematical model of the power supply including the external components.

The result is a switching power supply that achieves the highest possible dynamic performance. Furthermore, this information enables several proprietary algorithms that optimize efficiency across a wide range of operating conditions. Maxim's InTune digital power technology requires up to 5x lower bias current.

"Unlike competing technology, Maxim's InTune digital power technology is not an iterative tuning technique. It is deterministic and resolves several limitations present in today's digital power solutions," Templeton said. "Unlike PID-based solutions, the loop used by Maxim's InTune digital power technology provides seamless small- and large-signal response without the need to cross back and forth between linear and nonlinear modes. This enables loop response up to 10x faster than competitors and does not require any user-set thresholds. In fact, the PWM controllers used by Maxim's InTune digital power technology are even faster than their analog equivalents."

Meanwhile, Maxim has recently expanded its product efforts on other fronts. It recently announced the creation of highly-integrated Power SoC devices. These new products integrate power management and mixed-signal functions such as digital audio, a high-speed interface and a touch-screen controller on a single chip. This will enable high performance, as well as thinner and smaller form factors in smartphones, tablets and e-readers, according to Maxim.

Separately, the company has also introduced the MAX11855 and MAX11871 projected capacitive touch-screen controllers, offering 4-point and 10-point touch detection with industry-leading sensitivity and noise immunity performance.

It also recently introduced the MAX44007/MAX44009 digital ambient-light sensor (ALS) ICs with an adaptive-gain block. Designed using the company's proprietary BiCMOS technology, these ICs integrate two optical sensors, an ADC, and digital functionality into a tiny 2mm x 2mm x 0.6mm package.

The MAX44007/MAX44009 consume less power and offer an interrupt function that constantly measures the amount of light and reports to the MCU when the measurement passes the threshold. This functionality extends power savings by reducing the frequency of I2C communications.

The MAX44007/MAX44009 are well suited for applications such as tablet and notebook PCs, smartphones, TVs, digital lighting-management systems and light-intensity monitoring applications.

The company also unveiled its business strategy called "the new Maxim" or ''Maxim 2.0''. This business strategy was actually set in motion back in 2000 and expanded in 2007. As part of the evolving and ongoing plan, Maxim has remade the company and shaken up the corporate culture.

- Mark LaPedus
??EE Times

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