Broadband TelCom Power Inc. is banking that its proprietary flat transformer technology will give it a leg up in supplying high-density power converters to the communications market.
The Santa Ana, Calif., company continues to expand its line of DC/DC power supplies and hopes to boost its revenue this year to $35 million to $40 million, from about $20 million in 2000, according to James Lau, BTCPower's president.
Funded through a combination of investment capital and private equity funds, the company was originally known as BTC Power Electronics Corp., but was renamed Broadband TelCom Power in July 1999 to identify it with telecommunications and the Internet infrastructure.
BTCPower has developed a number of DC/DC converters that combine low voltage, high current, and a low profile. The company's first product in 1998 was a 400W converter designated the IMT-400. Since then, the company has developed a 960W, full-brick converter with a 185A output, a 25W converter measuring just 2.0 ?? 1.2 ?? 0.35in., and a 15W converter similar to the 25W unit, but requiring no airflow or heat sink for operation.
BTCPower plans to introduce a 30 to 35A quarter-brick converter with performance rivaling that of a half brick, Lau said.
To keep up with its product expansion, in the past year BTCPower moved from a 10,000-sq.-ft. plant in Costa Mesa to its current 18,000-sq.-ft. facility in Santa Ana. In the next few months, BTCPower will add another 6,000 sq. ft. to its capacity.
Lau estimates that as much as 95% of BTCPower's business is in communications areas such as broadband and DSL, with the remaining 5% concentrated largely in supplies for IC test equipment. As might be expected, the recent shakeout in the communications industry has affected the company's business somewhat. "There have been some cancellations and push-outs of orders," Lau said.
Like larger power supply companies, BTCPower wasn't immune from last year's component shortages, though lead times have improved for many components, Lau said. "Multilayer ceramic capacitors that were six months last year are now three months, while optocouplers that were six months are down to 16 weeks."
The flat transformer technology in BTCPower's converters was developed 10 years ago. However, until a few years ago, manufacturing issues prevented the transformer design from being incorporated into standard DC/DC converters, Lau said.
Flat transformer technology uses a single winding that snakes around tiny, multiple cores, an approach that according to Lau reduces copper losses, switching time, and stress on ancillary parts compared with traditional transformers that use a single core with multiple windings.
"A major problem with conventional transformers in power supplies is that they develop a single hot spot in the center of the transformer core," Lau said. "This is a major limitation when considering high power density."
By contrast, the multiple cores used in BTCPower's technology distribute heat more evenly, according to Lau. The design also results in better inductance characteristics.
Lau claimed that the flat transformer technology can cut manufacturing costs by up to 50%, compared with other transformer technologies. Moreover, standard control circuits and other techniques used for power delivery in conventional supplies can be used with flat transformer technology, he added.
While BTCPower's technology is promising, according to observers, the company competes with larger, better-known players.
Others offering high-density DC/DC converters include Artesyn Technologies, Astec America, Ericsson Microelectronics, Lambda Electronics, Power-One, and Vicor as well as smaller companies such as SynQor and di/dt.
"You can have the best technology, but it also has to be easily manufacturable, and the benefits have to be apparent to the customer," said Mohan Mankikar, an analyst at Micro-Tech Consultants in Santa Rosa, Calif.
BTCPower's ability to establish a good customer base will be key to its success.
Lau declined to name customers but said BTCPower has a number of design-ins with smaller communications companies.