Thermal Testing of High Density Power Components

Previously I’ve blogged about the test systems I saw during my recent trip to the R&D department at Vicor. Whilst I was there, I also got to see some impressive technology that ensures the thermal design of the company’s modules leads to reliable, wide-temperature operation at industry-leading power densities.

A key factor in designing high density power devices is the thermal performance of the internal circuitry. Vicor maximizes efficiency to reduce the losses as far as possible when designing these devices. Even so, the heat generated by residual losses must be dissipated to avoid overheating, which has a direct impact on reliability.

As with the electrical test equipment, much of the all-important thermal testing equipment has been developed by Vicor’s R&D department. The sophisticated wind tunnel system is one of the best available on the market, but the specialized thermal measurement equipment, product interfaces, specialized thermocouples and analysis systems are all designed and built in-house.

All test stations, and many non-production ATEs, include sensitive thermal cameras to identify potential hot-spots within the device to ensure the product does not exceed the thermal parameters under all load conditions in order to maximize performance, density and reliability. This detailed thermal analysis, extensive burn-in and the subsequent test data obtained is also used as a direct feed for Vicor’s comprehensive data sheets.

 

Wind tunnel used for thermal testing

Wind tunnel used for thermal testing

 

Orthogonal thermal conductivity matrix representation of PCB trace and via geometry

Orthogonal thermal conductivity matrix representation of PCB trace and via geometry

 

I was really impressed by the high level of investment in design and test, yet Vicor considers it essential to ensure that comprehensive ‘real-world data’ are obtained. Investment in development and tools is a top management priority within the company; every operation is equipped to do the job thoroughly. The company’s R&D budget is a high priority and is funded generously as part of the company’s strategy to invest in innovation.

In addition to the accuracy and detail of product data sheets, the investment also means that customers benefit from the many tools and resources available from Vicor. The PowerBench suite of tools includes a web-based comprehensive solution selector that enables customers to select the best product for the application together with simulation to show exactly how the product behaves under all conditions. The newly-launched ‘Whiteboard’ helps customers configure their own optimized system solution, allowing them to simulate and evaluate performance at a power system level.

These are powerful assets for customers and also clear differentiators for Vicor in providing full traceability, sophisticated design tools and the highest density performance in the industry. It’s particularly impressive that the test date from real devices was used as the data feed for tools like the Whiteboard simulator, meaning that the results the performance of Vicor’s power components in real-world applications with very high accuracy.

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