New Industry Products

Digital Controller Looks toward Software-Defined Power

May 11, 2015 by Jeff Shepard

Microchip Technology Inc. today announced the 14-member dsPIC33EP "GS" family of Digital Signal Controllers (DSCs). The dsPIC33EP "GS" family delivers the performance needed to implement more sophisticated non-linear, predictive and adaptive control algorithms at higher switching frequencies. These advanced algorithms enable power supply designs that are more energy efficient and have better power supply specifications. Higher switching frequencies enable the development of physically smaller power supplies that offer higher densities and lower costs. Compared with the previous generation of DSCs, the new dsPIC33EP "GS" devices provide less than half the latency, when used in a three-pole three-zero compensator, and consume up to 80% less power in any application.

This new dsPIC33EP "GS" family includes advanced features such as Live Update Flash capability, which is especially helpful for high-availability or "always-on" systems. Live Update can be used to change the firmware of an operating power supply, including the active compensator calculation code, while maintaining continuous regulation. Variants from this new digital-power-optimized DSC family are available in an industry's-smallest, 4 x 4 mm UQFN package for space-constrained designs.

Other key features of this family include up to five 12-bit ADCs with as many as 22 ADC inputs, providing total throughput of 16 Mega samples per second (Msps) with a 300 ns ADC latency. The dsPIC33EP "GS" devices include 12-bit DACs for each of the four analog comparators, for higher-precision designs. The two on-chip programmable gain amplifiers can be used for current sensing and other precision measurements. Including these advanced analog amplifiers on the device reduces the number of external components required, thereby saving cost and board space. These features, combined with the overall high performance of the dsPIC33EP "GS" family, make it well suited for a wide range of applications, including the following examples: computer & telecom (e.g., ac-dc and dc-dc power supplies), industrial (e.g., solar inverters, LED lighting, HID lighting, battery chargers, projectors and welders) and automotive (e.g., LED and HID headlights, dc-dc converters), among others.

"Customer adoption of our existing dsPIC33 digital power families has been outstanding, with design wins in a wide range of power-conversion products, globally," said Joe Thomsen, vice president of Microchip's MCU16 Division. "The new dsPIC33EP "GS" family builds upon that success by offering more performance and integrated features, allowing next-generation designs to achieve higher efficiency and more compact form factors."

“Today’s systems are more energy efficient than ever before. The improvements have come from a combination of lower-power components, such as application processors that offer more performance per watt of power used, and from more advanced power-conversion stages that effectively deliver power to the loads. Using digital-control technology, the overall efficiency of ac-dc power supplies has been improved by implementing adaptive techniques—such as phase shedding, dead-time adjustment, variable switching frequency, variable bulk voltages and other practices—that maximize the efficiency over widely varying load conditions. Extending this concept of adaptive techniques even further, additional energy-efficiency improvements at the system level can be brought about through a software defined power architecture (SDPA), as Jeff from Darnell Group has described,” commented Tom Spohrer, Power Product Marketing Manager, MCU16 Division, Microchip Technology Inc.

“While many details of this architecture and the communication protocols that will make it possible are yet to be defined, it is expected that overall system energy efficiency will be increased by optimizing the power collection, transmission, conversion and consumption as an interoperating system, rather than optimizing the efficiency of each stage in this chain individually, as is done today. A critical building block of this SDPA will be the use of power supplies that implement fully digital control, as this enables power-supply designs to be more flexible and able to interoperate with the supplying infrastructure to better optimize the system’s overall efficiency,” Spohrer concluded.

The dsPIC33EP "GS" family is supported by Microchip's MPLAB® Starter Kit for Digital Power (part # DM330017-2, $129.99), which allows customers to explore using the new dsPIC33EP "GS" family in popular digital power-conversion topologies.

Microchip's new Digital Compensator Design Tool helps engineers calculate the optimum compensator coefficients required to maximize the performance of their designs. This free tool, combined with Microchip's compensator software libraries and many royalty-free dsPIC33 reference designs, make it easier than ever to design digital power-conversion applications.

The 14 dsPIC33EP "GS" family members are available in various packages, from 28 to 64 pins. All of these new DSCs are available today for sampling and volume production, starting at $1.10 each in high volume.