PCIM 2019 Highlights - Part One

May 13, 2019 Alix Paultre

Power is a primary need in the modern world, and is currently undergoing a disruptive rapid development period. Trade shows are one of the best ways an industry can encompass and integrate change, by exposing people and companies to each other’s ideas and products. In the power industry, one of the most important events in the industry is the Power Conversion and Intelligent Motion (PCIM) show held every spring in Nuremberg, Germany.

Figure 1: Event figures include an exhibition area of 25,000 m2, with 515 exhibitors and co-exhibitors, and 12,182 visitors.

This year, over 515 exhibitors presented their latest trends, developments, and innovations in power electronics technology to over 12,000 event visitors. PCIM is a place where engineers from every application space come to find power solutions to address their needs. In addition to providing a forum and marketplace, PCIM is also a venue for recognizing achievement in the power electronics industry.

PCIM Europe Best Paper Award

The PCIM Europe advisory board, led by Prof. Dr. Leo Lorenz, ECPE, Germany, had to select from over 370 submissions for the PCIM Europe Best Paper Award. The Board chose the paper of Jürgen Schuderer, from ABB Corporate Research, Switzerland, titled “High-Power SiC and Si Module Platform for Automotive Traction Inverter.”

The winners of the PCIM Europe Young Engineer Award, granted to exceptional contributions from young professionals not older than 35 years, are:

Mohamed Ahmed, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA

GaN Based High-Density Unregulated 48 V to x V LLC Converters with ≥ 98% Efficiency for Future Data Centers

Christoph Marczok, Fraunhofer Institute IZM, Germany

Low Inductive SiC Mold Module with Direct Cooling

Miguel Vivert, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia

Decentralized Controller for the Cell-Voltage Balancing of a Multilevel Flying Cap Converter

Figure 2: PCIM Europe 2019 Award winners (from left): Jürgen Schuderer, Miguel Vivert, Christoph Marczok (absent: Mohamed Ahmed). Credit: Mesago/Uwe Mühlhäußer.

The exhibition was a busy, interesting, and informative marketplace of ideas, technology, and products, highlighting the importance of a place where people can meet to promote and support their industry. The tone of the exhibition was more subdued than previous years, as companies integrate the new technologies they have been beaten about the head and shoulders with over the last decade or so. There was more a mood of progressive development than disruptive change, a good shift toward products over promises.

Core Technologies
Having said that, there were still some very innovative devices being presented on their own as well as in solutions. Power Integrations released a suite of offline switcher ICs, incorporating 900 V primary MOSFETs for high-efficiency isolated flyback power supplies and simple non-isolated buck converters (Figure 3). Applications include products destined for regions with unstable main grids, tropical regions with frequent lightning strikes, or any area where high-energy ring-waves and surges are prevalent. 

Figure 3: Power Integrations released a suite of offline switcher ICs with 900 V primary MOSFETs.

Features include internal control engines optimized for high efficiency across load, and line and load protection mechanisms, as well as a selectable current limit and auto-restart for short-circuit and open-loop protection. Frequency jittering reduces EMI, and lossless line overvoltage sensing, which automatically interrupts switching when line voltages exceed a selected threshold. An efficiency of up to 90 percent across line and load conditions enable compact power supplies of up to 35W without heatsinks.

Nexperia, for example, announced a new package in its MOSFET and LFPAK family at PCIM, which enables the creation of 40 V MOSFETs with an RDS(on) of 0.7 mΩ (Figure 4). Their LFPAK88 devices replace larger power packages such as the D²PAK and D²PAK-7, with an 8 x 8 mm footprint. The devices use copper-clip and solder die-attach construction to improve electrical  and thermal resistance, current spreading, and heat dissipation.

Figure 4: Nexperia announced a new package in its MOSFET and LFPAK family.

These characteristics enable improved avalanche energy (Eas) and linear-mode (SOA) performance, as poor thermal management and problems and related issues can impact a device. With low-stress gull wing leads for a more rugged and thermally-robust package, LFPAK88 MOSFETs are available in both automotive-qualified (BUK) and industrial (PSMN) grades.

Power Solutions
An example of advanced core technology being employed on the show floor could be found at the Panasonic booth, where they had Future Electronics’ GaNdalf development platform for bridgeless PFC circuit design, which combines the low output-capacitance and zero reverse-recovery of the X-GaN HEMT power switches from Panasonic with digital control from a dual-core digital signal processor from Microchip (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Panasonic exhibited the GaNdalf development platform for bridgeless PFC circuit design.

Accepting an input range from 85Vac to 265Vac, the GaNdalf board achieves a power factor of greater than 0.99 and efficiency in the PFC stage of better than 99 percent. GaNdalf provides a path to implement bridgeless totem-pole PFC topology to address the challenges of telecom, server, and industrial power supplies. The design has lower switching loss at high voltage combined with zero reverse-recovery losses, with a relatively low component count.

Pre-Switch, who made a splash at APEC with promises of their upcoming power solution came through, and had their CleanWave 200kW silicon carbide (SiC) automotive inverter evaluation system on display at PCIM. Enabling power design engineers to investigate the company’s soft-switching architecture and platform, it includes the Pre-Drive3 controller board, Pre-Flex FPGA, and RPG gate driver board. 

The solution’s high switching frequency reduces motor copper and iron losses, which benefits industrial motors, wind and traction applications, or other power converter requirements greater than 100kW. The CleanWave inverter evaluation system uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to constantly adjust the relative timing of elements within the switching system, to force a resonance to offset the current and voltage waveforms, minimizing switching losses in the power conversion system.

Looking Forward
The power electronics industry is slowly migrating from the less stable, disruptive environment caused by the introduction of the latest advanced technologies and materials, and is now in the process of creating those next-generation solutions promised. This change of capabilities will resonate in and impact every application space that draws electricity.

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