Space and power consumption are most important aspects of portable electronics design. The engineers who use highly integrated small-size latest SoC chips prefer to use even smaller power supply modules and DC/DC converter ICs with highest power efficiency to power complex SOC chips. The need for high power-density and high-efficiency power converter occupying less space forcing power supply design engineers to think about new switching topologies and switching control. Sal Sestito, VP Business Development from iWatt (Dialog semiconductor has agreed to acquire iWatt) shared to this writer how his company is exploring the emerging opportunities in this market. iWatt, specialised in converter ICs for AC/DC adapter market seeing India as an important market for the simple reason of growing consumption of electronics in wide range of applications.
Technology strengths of iWatt:
iWatt has pioneered a voltage regulation method, where the voltage regulation is made on primary side of a power supply which results in reduction of cost and size. iWatt has 130 patents related to digital power control technology. iWatt's products play a role in both pluggable AC/DC adapters as well as LED lamps which powered by mains power supply. iWatt has integrated thermal derating feature in their LED driver ICs. iWatt collects the broad specification from its customers like PCB size, voltage and current rating and designs power supply using its ICs. The semiconductor-chips are sold/charged but the design service is free. They also take existing design and provide improved design using iWatt's chips. iWatt employs both constant current (CC) and constant voltage (CV) to achieve power efficiency. iWatt also targets low BOM cost by integrating much of the required features inside the chip, so that the end product uses less external components.
Market focus of iWatt in India:
For its AC/DC converter Ics, iWatt is targeting volume markets such as Set Top Box and smart meters in India. iWatt has couple of design wins in set top box market. iWatt's CC and CV technology is said to withstand the wide variation in input voltage which is common in India. Another area where iWatt is focusing is power adapter of ultrabooks. Due to low consumption of power by ultrabooks, the AC/DC adapter's size and power consumption is reduced, giving iWatt an opportunity to use its converter ICs in designing AC/DC adapters for ultrabooks.
The size of AC/DC adapter market:
On an average in US there are 25 items plugged to the AC mains per house-hold. The use of AC/DC adapters not only in mobile devices but also in other portable consumer gadgets is growing resulting in the growth of huge market for AC/DC adapters. For a world with over 1.2 billion house-holds multiplied by number of adapters in each house-hold is the market companies like iWatt is going behind. In 2007 iWatt has shipped 13 million power ICs, and in 2011 iWatt has shipped 400 million chips that's a huge growth by shipment.
Pic above: AC/DC Adapter module from iWatt with high power density (Sal Sestito down left)
Latest market research update on AC/DC adapter and power ICs:
IMS research has forecasted the global market for external power adapters and chargers is expected to grow by more than $1 billion, or 19 percent, in just two years from 2012 to 2014. The top three products for AC/DC adapters are smart phone, tablet computer and gaming console.
Another market study posted on the reportlinker says "the total worldwide Portable Power dc-dc converter IC market is projected to grow from about 31 billion units in 2013 to over 50 billion units in 2018, a CAGR of 10.3%. The addition of new architectures, smaller form factors, more efficient designs and improved power management is expected to create new opportunities."