Power Supplies + Magnetics: Integral to the Growth of Electronics Content

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering, Taiwan Semiconductor



The electronics content in everything is going up across all global markets. In 2021 the market incorporation for semiconductors used in electronic systems reached 33.2% – a new all-time high. The market for magnetics, globally, was 3.8 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to grow to 4.7 billion USD by 2025, at a CAGR of 4.2%, according to Markets and Markets. And Wired & Wireless Technologies (WAWT) reports that the merchant power supply market is approximately 31 billion USD with a five-year CAGR growth expectation of 4.8 percent for both AC-DC and DC-DC converters.

Every electronic system contains a power supply, and any power supply contains magnetics, especially if it is a switching power supply, which most are. What this means is that you cannot really separate the power supply industry from the semiconductor market, nor can you separate the magnetics from the power converter market. Innovations in power supplies are tied to semiconductor progress as well as developments in magnetics and other devices.

I recently worked on a project where a power supply needed to be replaced. The original power converter on the project had a switch to select between 115 VAC and 220 VAC nominal, had no power factor correction and had one agency approval. The replacement power supply was not only smaller and lighter, incorporated PFC, universal input from 85-265 VAC and had a plethora of agency approvals covering both medical and industrial industries, including UL508 for industrial panel use. The new unit also offered lower EMC and was backed up with both FCC USA and a Europe-pleasing EMC performance with margin. Not to mention it cost less than the original power supply and came with a five-year warranty.

This progress in power supply technology was made possible through many innovations, over time, in a multitude of disciplines. Semiconductors, magnetics design and magnetics materials are of course at the forefront of enabling these advancements. But so are capacitors and even resistors, inrush protection devices, MOVs and clamping devices that enable the power converter to survive transients and surges and other passive electro-mechanical components.

Additionally, new software and tools, including 2D and 3D mechanical CAD modeling, increases likelihood of first-pass design success and higher overall quality. There are improvements in PCB layout and in the thermal simulation before building a prototype. Plus, the state of computing power allows electronic design CAD tools to assist in designing magnetics and to perform rapid what-if analysis, margin testing, stress analysis and more. The test and measurement capabilities, like IR thermal cameras, spectrum analysis for EMC testing, network analysis and loop measurement, are all within reach of every budget.

As time goes on, these advancements will increase power converter power density, reliability, efficiency, and quality even more. Technology has no finish line. It is up to us in the power electronics industry to keep the pace moving by building on all dimensions of multidisciplinary progress and create designs that are faster, cheaper, better. Then wash, rinse, repeat.