The Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC) has always and will continue to be a technical conference and exhibition highlighting the major developments in power electronics technology. But equally important, the conference also examine related infrastructure issues related to power electronics manufacturing and commercialization, as is the case with this year’s diverse array of plenary and other technical and industry sessions.
APEC this year moves to Orlando, FL, taking place at the Orange County Convention Center, March 19 through 23. Education seminars start Sunday, with the plenary sessions kicking off Monday afternoon. APEC’s technical and industry sessions take place Tuesday through Thursday, while the exhibits featuring products and technologies are open Tuesday and Wednesday.
Indicative of the broader look at power infrastructure issues is the kickoff plenary session Monday at 1:30 pm, when Patrick Chapman, Vice President of Electrical Engineering at Redwood Materials, examines the issue of recycling batteries in a session titled, “Recycling, Refining, and Remanufacturing Battery Materials.” Chapman will discuss the challenges for power supply technology with respect to battery materials recycling, refining, and remanufacturing.
Following Chapman at 2 pm Monday will be a session titled, “Designing for Manufacturability with Software-Based Constraints: Shortening the Iterative Design Cycle.” In this session, Grant Pitel, CTO of Magna-Power Electronics, will examine the company’s development of programmable power supplies and electronic load, discussing how hardware parameters were programmed into software to consistently and continuously improve designs and processes. Pitel will discuss the advanced features available in commercial software packages leveraged by Magna-Power engineers to achieve work efficiency as well as custom tools it has developed independently.
Gallium Nitride for EVs
Gallium nitride technology has been one of the hot topics at APEC in recent years, and this year is no exception. In the 3:30 pm plenary session titled, “GaN for EV Power Train: Breakthroughs and Challenges,” Dr. Tamara Baksht, CEO & Co-Founder of VisIC Technologies, talks about the successful development of a three-phase GaN-based inverter reference design with 400V bus voltage and 400A RMS current. Bakst will explain the major steps on the way from semiconductor chip design, through module development and to full current inverter operation.
The following plenary session deals with one of the other hot technologies at recent APEC shows, silicon carbide. The 4 PM session titled, “Silicon Carbide Mass Commercialization and Future Trends,” features Dr. Victor Veliadis, Executive Director and CTO of PowerAmerica, a member-driven wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductor power electronics consortium. Dr. Veliadis will explore remaining barriers to SiC commercialization, including higher than silicon device cost, reliability and ruggedness concerns, and the need for a trained workforce to skillfully insert SiC into power electronics systems. The talk will include a discussion of fab models and the SiC manufacturing infrastructure.
Power Electronics Education
The final plenary session on Monday looks at the all-important issue of power electronics engineering education. Titled, “Developing the Power Electronics Workforce Through MOOC Degree Programs and Public Educational Videos,” the session has two speakers.
First, Robert Erickson, Professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, talks about the development of a massively open online course (MOOC) degree program there. The program, which emphasizes Power Electronics and Embedded Systems Engineering, is tailored to working professionals and utilizes online homework assignments. The program uses a performance-based admissions policy.
In the other part of this session, Katherine Kim, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at National Taiwan University (NTU), Taipei, Taiwan, talks about the impact of public educational videos on power electronics education. Kim gives the example of IEEE PELS, which is building up IEEE Educational Videos on Power Electronics (PELS Tube), peer-reviewed videos by power electronics experts available to all.
Don’t Forget the Exhibits
As usual, new products and technology are the highlights at APEC. Here are a few highlights:
ꟷGaN Systems (Booth 822) will preview its GaN-Based 800V Onboard Charger for automotive applications. Combining a flying capacitor multilevel structure with high performance GaN switches, the charger reportedy increases power density and reduces overall BOM cost by 15%. It also provides up to 40% higher power density compared to traditional designs.
ꟷOn Semiconductor (Booth 1032) will highlight its EliteSiC Silicon Carbide (SiC) family, complete with an EV charging station. Another showcase will demo the latest industrial power supply and charging solutions: a 6.6/11 kW PFC inverter, an ultra-high density 240 W USB PD 3.1 solution, and a 600 W battery charger. Booth visitors can also see the crowd-favorite autonomous mobile robot with a collaborative robot (cobot) arm.
ꟷAlpha and Omega Semiconductor Ltd (Booth 810), will show its 650V and 750V SiC MOSFET platform for industrial and automotive applications and its complete line of advanced power management solutions.
ꟷTransphorm (853) will showcase the recently announced WT7162RHUG24A device, the new SuperGaN® SiP developed with Weltrend Semiconductor designed to round out its FET portfolio. This device gives customers an opportunity to easily and quickly design in Transphorm’s high performance GaN platform while reducing BOM component count and overall system cost.
More information on APEC can be found on their website.
Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected]