SmartPower Stack Consortium Selects National Instruments Single-Board RIO General Purpose Inverter Controller

November 28, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

The SmartPower Stack™ Consortium, comprised of Methode Electronics, Inc., SBE Inc., Fuji Electric Corp. of America and AgileSwitch, LLC announced the selection of the National Instruments(NI) single-board RIO general-purpose inverter controller (GPIC) as the integrated control system for a new 100kW intelligent power stack module. The NI GPIC features cutting-edge Xilinx field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology with 58 integrated DSP cores to deliver 40 times higher performance per dollar than traditional DSP-based control systems.

The SmartPower Stack™ with NI GPIC also includes a comprehensive NI LabVIEW system design software that eliminates any need for knowledge of VHDL or Verilog programming languages and enables the development of advanced LabVIEW FPGA control algorithms in a high-fidelity desktop co-simulation environment. The SmartPower Stack consists of SBE high-performance wound film capacitors; Fuji Electric Corp. of America industry-leading insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs); AgileSwitch cutting-edge IGBT gate drives; Methode Electronics innovative bus bar power distribution, thermal management, and ISO 9001 manufacturing assembly and test capabilities; and the industry-leading NI GPIC control system powered by LabVIEW software.

Through technical and business collaboration, the consortium is creating a fully-integrated SmartPower Stack 100kW three-phase inverter sub-system to significantly reduce the cost and risk of deploying next-generation, smart grid-ready, digital energy conversion systems. This effort represents the industry's first collaboration to bring together best-in-class technologies and graphical system design tools in a way that simultaneously reduces cost and increases performance through technology integration that spans the boundaries between each company.

AgileSwitch President and CEO Rob Weber said, "This collaboration of global leaders in all key technology domains will bring a new generation of power stacks to the market that enable our customers to develop the most innovative, next-generation solutions for renewable energy applications like solar, wind, electric vehicles, high efficiency drives, grid storage systems and uninterruptible power supplies."

SBE President and CEO Ed Sawyer commented, "This new architecture integrates our industry leading film capacitor technology with advanced gate drives, FPGA-based controls, bus bar architectures, cooling solutions, and IGBT modules. The consortium is on track to become a cost-competitive efficiency enabler for innovative companies in the smart grid, motor drive and digital energy conversion industries."

"We are excited to team up with other industry leaders to build the next generation of power conversion systems," said Steve Bottari, Fuji Electric's General Manager of Semiconductors. "The SmartPower Stack integrated design will truly showcase Fuji Electric's high-performance, high-reliability IGBTs."

Methode Electronics Power Solutions Group General Manager Andrew Urda added, "The combined innovation of the SmartPower Stack consortium companies will provide the power electronics industry with modular, high efficiency building bricks, enabling our customers to deploy next-generation solutions today."

National Instruments Principal Product Manager for Clean Energy Technology Brian MacCleery remarked, "National Instruments is pleased that the consortium selected the NI General Purpose Inverter Controller and LabVIEW system design tools for their integrated control system. The SmartPower Stack with NI GPIC will provide a standard, modular building block for the electric power industry that significantly reduces engineering cost and risk. Development teams can expect to save at least 114 person-months of engineering cost per design and complete their projects in less than half the time."