Digital Power to Penetrate High Volume Consumer Applications
During the past few weeks there have been some significant changes to the competitive landscape of the digital power market. International Rectifier announced its $75 million acquisition of ChiL Semiconductor, a specialist supplier of mixed-signal digital power ICs, to position itself as a strong competitor in the digital power market. Maxim Integrated Products, an analog semiconductor powerhouse, also recently announced its entrance into the digital power market.
Maxim's patented InTune™ DC-DC control technology adds a new level of sophistication to digital control. It uses "model-predictive" technology to measure parameters and subsequently provide auto compensation. Maxim claims that this enables loop responses up to 10x faster than competitors and does not require any user-set thresholds. It also claims that the PWM controllers used by its InTune digital power technology are even faster than their analog equivalents.
Both companies were present at APEC last week along with other major players in digital power including Texas Instruments, Powervation and Intersil. It is apparent that there is more competition building in this space but the biggest uncertainty that remains is when digital power ICs will penetrate high volume, mainstream applications. IMS Research's opinion is that this movement is imminent.
The market for digital power ICs has been growing at an impressive rate over the past five years and grew by more than 35% in 2010. The majority of this growth, however, is accounted for by telecom/datacom applications. In particular high-end severs have driven growth, as the price premium associated with using digital power ICs is offset by the benefits offered by system monitoring, feedback and increased efficiency.
However, as prices of digital power ICs are driven down, the benefits of design flexibility and very quick time to market associated with digital design techniques is very attractive to manufacturers of high volume applications with short design cycles. Prime candidates for adoption of digital power ICs are notebook PCs, set-to-boxes and even tablet PCs, which are typically designed using a smartphone platform. IMS Research projects that the market for digital power ICs will continue to grow at an average rate of 30% annually to amount to more than $900 million in 2016.