The increasing use of intermediate bus architecture (IBA)--a relatively new wrinkle in the design of distributed power systems--is making it all the more important for power supply companies to offer nonisolated, or point-of-load, DC/DC converters.
This new architecture incorporates both isolated DC/DC converters--which provide voltage-surge protection by means of a transformer--and nonisolated DC/DC converters. Using IBA, system designers place isolated converters upstream from the load to provide an intermediate voltage of typically 12VDC. Nonisolated DC/DC converters are then placed farther downstream next to the load to be powered. The nonisolated converters can then generate the needed voltage for each individual load from the intermediate 12V bus.
The advantage of using IBA is cost. For example, Artesyn Technologies' latest SIL series of nonisolated DC/DC converters includes a 30A converter that is roughly the size of an industry-standard quarter-brick converter. It sells for $13.85 when bought in quantity. In contrast, a 30A isolated quarter-brick converter from a competitor costs between $60 and $80 in quantity. A price difference like that can cause an inflection point in the evolution of power electronics.
We recently learned of a soon-to-be-released high-end server that will require 17 voltages. Why would systems designers power that server with $60 isolated converters when they can get by with $14 nonisolated converters and a couple of intermediate isolated converters upstream? The answer is, they won't.
Isolated DC/DC converters have been the stars to date, particularly in communications equipment. But we believe nonisolated DC/DC converters will grow faster from this point on.
Artesyn's new nonisolated converter product line is also significant because system designers can buy both their isolated and nonisolated converters from the same company, as well as an AC/DC front end. In many cases, OEMs prefer to purchase their entire power supply needs from a single source. Artesyn, with its latest product offering, fits that description.
Obviously, we think it is imperative to the success of other power supply makers that they round out their product offerings with similar devices.