Microchip Technology Inc. yesterday unveiled a family of digital signal controllers (DSCs) and reference designs aimed at power conversion for end applications ranging from industrial products and hybrid cars to medical instruments and lighting systems.
The new products are part of a growing trend toward so-called "digital power" in which a power supply's functions and energy flow are controlled by a digital mechanism rather than by traditional analog methods. Proponents of digital power say its primary advantage is its software-based flexibility, and they claim that translates to lower costs, reduced part counts and better performance of end products.
"We've seen some of our customers, when they transition from an analog design to a full digital design, reduce their part count by 50 percent or more," says Bill Hutchings, product marketing manager for Microchip's new line of DSCs.
Microchip's new line of DSCs, which includes seven products, is said to be a good fit for digital power conversion applications because it combines the features of digital signal processors (DSPs) and microcontrollers. The signal processor portion does quick calculations and handles pulse width modulation, while microcontroller functionality helps in communications and so-called "housekeeping functions."
Yesterday's announcement included seven embedded processors known as the dsPIC33F GS Series (view a video of the products). The second-generation family includes devices ranging from 18 to 44 pins and memory sizes from 6 KB to 16 KB. Microchip augmented yesterday's introduction with the rollout of an AC/DC reference design based on the new dsPIC33F GS controllers.
"We're not only coming out with silicon," Hutchings says. "We're coming out with reference designs to support these products."
Microchip engineers expect the products to see use in DC/AC power inverters, AC/DC power supplies and DC/DC converters. End applications include electric vehicles, hybrid cars, battery chargers, industrial motor control, LCD televisions and various types of lighting, including fluorescent, LED (light-emitting diode) and HID (high-intensity discharge). The technology is said to be gaining traction in medical power supplies as well as in aerospace and military.
"A lot of applications are going digital," Hutchings says. "Building adaptive control into an analog control chain is a lot easier than building adaptive control into software."