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Using digital to control power

2011-11-14 11:40:53

 
 
When it comes to digital power, iWatt claims that it is the inventor of digital power control for AC/DC. The company notes that its technology allows its customers to eliminate BOM costs by reducing components while adding reliability and enabling smaller designs. Over the past few years, the company has been able to grow its sales 50% a year and it has shipped more than one billion chips since 2007.
 
In the fourth quarter of 2012, Digitimes had the opportunity to speak with iWatt senior marketing VP Scott Brown about the value of digital in AC/DC power adapters, solid state lighting (SSL) and LED TV back lighting.
 
Q: The power control business is a very competitive industry. How have you been able to succeed?
 
A: We are competing with large competitors with large sales forces and large manufacturing capabilities. We win because of our core technology. And while you see a lot of great technologies in the semiconductor industry, the trick is being able to bring it to market. We have shown that we can ramp quickly by leveraging our partnerships. United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) is our exclusive foundry partner at the moment. We also use Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) in Taiwan and Shanghai, and Unisem in Malaysia for backend services.
 
So far we've been focused on 5-10W power and we've been very successful there. We believe we have about strong market share in this segment. We are now moving up to the 10-40W segment and we believe we can retain our share in those markets.
 
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your core technology?
 
A: Our core IP is called PrimeAccurate. Basically, our digital technology comes into play through an accurate way of controlling the primary side of an AC-DC power supply. It is unique and patented.
 
If you look at an AC to DC system - AC on the input, DC on the output - historically, a controller on the secondary side of the transformer would feed back to the primary side via an opto-isolator. With our technology, we eliminate the need for the opto-isolator and the secondary side controller, as well as some other discrete components by digitally analyzing the waveform on the primary side of the transformer. In doing this we can accurately determine not only the voltage but also determine the current on the secondary side.
 
This combination of primary side control and accurate regulation makes us unique. There are imitators out there but they are not able to achieve our combination of primary side control and accuracy. Some companies may offer primary side controllers. Other companies offer accurate regulation by using a secondary side regulator. We are the only company that can combine those two key attributes into one product, allowing us to offer reduced cost, increased reliability and increased density.
 
Prime accurate technology is embedded in about 85% of the products that we ship.