Winchester, UK Although the global economic downturn has depressed growth prospects across the electronics sector there still remain one or two bright spots that will nudge the industry forward during 2009.
Power management devices will continue to be the fastest growth segment of any analog IC category. Despite the credit crunch, the voltage regulator segment will grow at a 3.0 percent CAGR through to 2012 according to Gartner's 'Forecast: Power Management ICs, Worldwide, 2007-2012', G00164267.
A closer look at where growth in the power management devices market is coming from shows that the majority of the progress is being spurred on by the usage of voltage regulators in computer systems and industrial installations. Growth in this area is forecast to be at a rate of 4.5 percent CAGR through to 2012. By comparison and for reasons all too obvious in the general economic crisis, power management ICs supporting the consumer markets are set to see negligible growth of 0.1 percent CAGR.
Of all the component types ac-dc regulators and dc-dc regulators will show the fastest growth through 2012 " at 6.0 percent and 8.0 percent CAGR, respectively. The high energy transfer efficiencies these devices offer in computers and telecom switching station applications will help to drive the growth rate. Meanwhile linear regulator growth will decline through to 2012 as the result of a combination of rapidly declining prices in cellular phones and consumer equipment, together with the multiplicity of suppliers.
Large computer systems and communications servers will continue to be the biggest users of voltage regulator ICs. These systems use between 12 or 15 separate voltage regulators on each circuit card, and dozens of circuit cards per card cage. These regulators act as 'point of load' supplies for the local circuitry. Users are willing to pay a premium for high efficiency because it reduces the costs associated with aluminum heat sinks, computer cooling and air conditioning. High-efficiency switch-mode parts such as dc-dc converters are ideal for these applications and will show the highest revenue growth of any voltage regulator type at 8.0 percent.
The consumer electronics sector will remain in the doldrums in contrast to the IT/industrial market. Big volume items such as stereo equipment and set-top boxes are cost-driven and these equipment makers select their voltage regulators on the basis of cost rather than efficiency.
The drive to minimize costs in the consumer equipment market ensures the popularity of inefficient high-current linear regulators and LDOs in portable equipment. These devices are inexpensive, and their prices will decline on an equal but opposite slope with unit growth.
Some companies, such as Cambridge Semiconductor Ltd. (Cambridge, England), are aiming to buck the consumer market's low-growth trend by taking an innovative approach to the challenge. CamSemi's controllers allow consumer electronics manufacturers to access all the size, weight and efficiency benefits of a switched-mode solution. The devices are designed to replace bulky, power- and raw material-hungry linear power supplies, but without having to pay a price premium.
CamSemi's C2471 performance controller ICs further improves on the size and performance advantages of alternative flyback SMPS offerings but without the hefty price tag of modern energy-inefficient solutions. The controllers are based on patented Resonant Discontinuous Forward Converter (RDFC) topology that maintains 'EMI clean' resonant switching over the full load variation. The approach generates low levels of EMI, making it suitable for telecoms and audio applications.
The C2471 controller complies with the demands of the Energy Star 2.0 specification which requires an average active efficiency for a 6-W cordless phone application at 120-V of 73 percent. C2471-based solutions deliver an 82 percent average efficiency. The no-load power consumption specification is 300-mW which CamSemi's solution cuts to 160 mW.
During 2009 system applications for energy-harvesting ultra-low-power conversion devices look set to rise exponentially. IC companies such as National Semiconductor, International Rectifier, Linear Technology, Analog Devices and Texas Instruments will be leading the drive. For example, Texas Instruments is looking to benefit from seeding the market in 2008 with kits that combined its low-power MSP430 microcontroller with conversion technologies from companies such as Perpetuum Ltd. and AdaptivEnergy LLC, as well as battery technology from Cymbet Corp.
The MSP430 claims the industry's lowest power consumption for devices that can provide up to 25-MHz peak performance, increased flash and RAM memory and integrated peripherals such as radio frequency, USB, encryption and LCD interfaces. The device offers designers the added functionality required to advance a range of applications in personal medical, home automation, human interface control, automated meter reading (AMR), portable instrumentation, sensors, consumer electronics and security.