Exactly what constitutes Industry Revolution 4.0 is little confusing. This revolution will include smart, au- tomated factories where machines will be communicating with each other. In addition, there will be role for Internet of Things, cloud computing and many other emerging new technologies. Will this revolution be confined to the industrial setting? If narrow definition of industrial revolution is used to define this revolution, then the market opportunities for power supplies will be very limited. There will be a need for sophisticated, intelligent power supplies, but the volumes will be limited and its impact on the overall power supply industry will be marginal.
Powerbox, the European power supply company has taken a leading role in introducing power supplies for Industry 4.0. Patrick Le Fèvre, Director of Marketing has written a paper: “Powering Industry 4.0— Myth or Reality” in which he states “..the demand for monitoring and control will significantly increase. This doesn’t mean that all power supplies must be digital but that a large portion of power units will in- clude communications interfaces and built-in intelligence such as self-diagnostic, power scaling to load conditions. The power units will be part of the Modular Industry Computing Architecture (MICA) which is something new for power designers not used to integrating communication to sensors and capture devic- es requiring variable voltages...”
From the power supply perspective it may be unwise to limit itself to the narrow definition of Industry 4.0, but make an encompassing, inclusive definition of this future revolution with emerging trends and technologies. Or may be a single definition of the market is inadequate to define diverse opportunities for the power supplies. So more appropriately, let the power supply industry just mention the trend as The Future Market/Applications. Even with these encompassing markets, the growth in power supplies has diminished. The relatively slow growth of power supplies from 2011 to 2015 can be seen in this para- digm. This market growth was inclusive of the high growth of LEDs.
Developments in power supplies are continuously taking place. While the improvements in the power density and efficiency have been generic, the improvements in specific parameters in areas of safety and isolation are taking place for specific applications. Most improvements have been incremental or evolu- tionary rather than revolutionary.
However, with the advent of SiC (Silicon Carbide) and GaN (Gallium Nitride) wide bandgap devices, it seems some significant innovations are taking place at the devices’ level, but so far their market adop- tion rate has been slow. A survey of new products suggests that relatively few products use these new novel devices. FINSix is the leading company that makes phone, tablet and laptop adapters is using GaN devices. But most power supply companies use traditional, established devices and circuit topologies that provide incremental gains. This also may be due to the nature of physical limits within a given power supply design. Once high efficiency or high density are reached additional improvements may be difficult to achieve without adding exorbitant costs.