I had the pleasure of a casual breakfast at APEC 2012 with Linear Technology's Sam Nork, Director of their Boston Design Center (second –largest, next to LTC corporate headquarters). Sam has been with LTC for 23 years.
We spoke about LTC's philosophy of having designers meet customers to help determine next-generation solutions. Customers are good design engineers and have a need for their next-gen product—the chip designer knows the capabilities of the various processes at their disposal as well as how to put the customer need into IC form, while taking into account functionality, power, and size as some of the top priorities.
Sam said that one of the markets his group looks at is the automotive market, which contains more and more electronics content, especially with the emergence of the electric vehicle (EV). So lithium phosphate charge and control/monitoring solutions are critical in this technology, especially in light of lithium ion EV fires being investigated. (The jury is still out on this one, but customer perception and fears are prompting a strong movement towards Li phosphate.) LTC is concentrating on power -management solutions including balanced charging of stacked cells.
Portable markets are also a good fit for LTC's direction in power as are remote battery-operated devices and energy-scavenging power for remote wireless nodes which are "dotting" the landscape—power efficiency is key here and LTC knows how to develop those solutions.
We also discussed the power -meter market, especially in light of the wireless capability they implement to communicate monthly power usage by a customer remotely or to convey a power -loss alert. Supercapacitors have been a good solution here to hold on to data and to power the wireless communication in times when the main power goes away—LTC knows how to implement good power management for the devices that look almost like a short -circuit load.
LTC has not changed their focus on strengths—power management. I asked Sam about microcontrollers, DSPs or RF ICs like some other analog suppliers have gone into, and he emphasized LTC's focus on power and analog—which he reiterated they do well. LTC solves customer problems and, as we mentioned before, chip designers visit customers to discuss solutions two to five years ahead of implementation.
Another method used by LTC is having the designers train the field applications force—why did we design this chip? What internal functions have been implemented to enhance the performance, and what trade-offs did we have to weigh in the design? Why is it better than the competition? What are its strengths and how do we work around the weaknesses that all designs have (as we have not reached the ideal device yet last time we looked)?
Finally, LTC claims to offer a strong value proposition to its customers—reliable IC solutions with expert personal field applications expertise to get the customers product to market—customer service does not stop with the purchase of the IC is part of the LTC corporate philosophy, he added. ?