Jonathon Eykyn, IHS
The digital power market is forecast to grow substantially in the next five years with unit shipments of digital power supplies and digital power ICs projected to grow by factors of three and five respectively by 2018 according to IHS.
The early adoption of digital power has been dominated by telecommunications, servers and networking applications. Servers, in particular, have been a strong early adopter of digital power solutions, accounting for a predicted 30% of the digital power IC market and 25% of the digital power supply market in 2013.
Digital power IC manufacturers typically have two main target markets. The first is the end-equipment market at a board level and the second is into the digital power supplies that then power the end-equipment. The majority of enterprise servers now use digital power solutions for powering the processing core and memory, with much of the supporting equipment in networking and storage also rapidly adopting digital power solutions.
The complexity of power management designs for servers has helped to drive adoption of digital power along with the need for high reliability under constant usage and demand for greater energy efficiency. In addition, the enhanced capabilities digital power brings to a product such as the ability to monitor, control and sequence power add further value.
Whilst there is already an established market for digital power components, especially in applications such as severs and telecommunications, adoption by other applications is predicted to occur rapidly and drive aggressive growth as manufacturers become more aware of the benefits they can offer compared with some standard analog products. These include reducing the overall bill of materials cost by reducing the number of discrete components, reducing the overall footprint, increasing power density, providing the ability to monitor and optimize power levels and system requirements whilst in operation and speeding up product time to market.
Many suppliers were quick to build a foothold into the digital power market. For power IC manufacturers, this was often through acquisition such as Infineon’s acquisition of Primarion in 2008 and International Rectifiers acquisition of CHiL Semiconductor in 2011. Power supply manufacturers have typically chosen to develop in-house capabilities, licensed digital power technology or a combination of the two.
Whilst applications aside of the telecommunications, servers and networking markets have been slower to adopt digital power solutions, there are growing markets for both digital power supplies and digital power ICs. Examples include the computing market (e.g. laptop PCs) and the consumer market (e.g. next-generation games consoles). However, there is no limit to the applications that can benefit from digital power solutions with examples now being found in everything from high power industrial applications to small home appliances.