Vicor Touts its American “ChiP” Fab as the Industry’s First
The ChiP (converter housed in package) fabrication facility will produce power modules in the United States using process steps analogous to semiconductor wafer fabs.
To solid fanfare and with participation from both Vicor management and Massachusetts state officials, Vicor’s new “ChiP Fab” opened on May 18, 2022 in historic Andover, MA.
With this new facility, the company seeks to fulfill its vision of providing self-contained, high-performing modular power systems that can meet today’s demands for ever greater efficiency and power density.
Vicor's new facility in Andover. Image used courtesy of Vicor
And thanks to the site’s vertically integrated nature, Vicor will look to manufacture those products with haste.
“Our new ChiP fab integrates all of the process steps necessary to manufacture high-density power modules in wafer-like panels with short cycle time and flexible capacity,” said Mike McNamara, Vicor’s vice president of operations.
What are Vicor’s ChiPs?
The Vicor ChiPs to be manufactured at the company’s Andover site are complete high-power modules manufactured in “panels” that are analogous to semiconductor wafers. The panels are then separated into individual "chip-scale" components much in the way of silicon chips.
Vicor will manufacture its power modules in panels. Image used courtesy of Vicor
The difference is that instead of an isolated semiconductor component, the result is a complete module, replete with numerous individual semiconductors and passives. The module is the equivalent of the brick converter of yesteryear, only smaller, more efficient, and more power dense.
An example is the DCM3717, a 750 W regulated 48 V-to-12 V converter with a regulated power output.
The DCM3717. Image used courtesy of Vicor
This ChiP converter features a 97% peak efficiency and is available in a 37 x 17 x 7.4 mm surface-mounted package.
Vicor ChiP power devices such as this are also able to flourish even in the toughest environments. This is evinced by their deployment in the company’s Video Ray series of Remote Operating Vehicles (ROV), which operate seaborne search missions at depths of up to 305 meters.
A key feature of the ChiP solution is that the converter’s magnetics are integrated into the device.
Per Vicor documentation, fabricating the energy storage inductor or transformer directly into the power module maximizes performance, and allows designers to breathe easy knowing that the specialized task of magnetics optimization has been pre-executed. In addition, this integrated quality enables engineers to reduce the overall power system footprint in their designs.
With greater and greater amounts of power being handled by ever smaller devices, power density is quickly increasing, making heat management a fundamental issue. Vicor’s ChiPs place heat-intensive devices on both the top and bottom of the module’s central PCB. Then, a thermally-conductive encapsulant transfers heat to each surface. This serves to effectively double cooling surface area relative to PCB footprint, the company says.
The ChiP solution for heat dissipation. Image used courtesy of Vicor
In the image above, the ChiP module is mounted onto the OEM device’s PCB. Again, the top and bottom of the ChiP both dissipate heat to the heatsink assembly, enabling the module to manage far more power for a given footprint. That, in turn, allows for an increase in power density.
Based in Andover, Vicor is a leader in high-performance power modules. The company looks to enable customer innovation with easy-to-deploy modular power system solutions providing robust density and efficiency from source to point-of-load.
Vicor operates in a range of industries, and offers significant lineups of DC-DC isolated regulated converters, isolated fixed-ratio DC-DC converter modules, AC-DC converters, and AC-DC input modules, among many others. The company also offers custom power solutions for commercial, aerospace, and defense applications.