DCMs: The Power Engineer’s “Swiss Army Knife”

March 25, 2017

DCM in VIA packaging technologyEvery engineer has their favorite multi-purpose tool. Maybe it’s a Swiss Army knife, perhaps it’s a particularly useful piece of test equipment, or it might even just be duct tape. In this post, we’re going to make the case for the DC-DC Converter Module (DCM) being power engineers’ go-to tool to solve DC power system design challenges.

The DCM is an isolated, regulated DC-DC converter that is available in ultra-high-density ChiP packaging and the electrically- and thermally-adept VIA package. In addition to providing isolation, regulation and voltage conversion, DCMs in a VIA package also offer integrated EMI filtering, tight output voltage regulation and a secondary-referenced control interface. This makes them as useful and flexible as conventional Bricks, while delivering the performance, power density and ease of use associated with modern power components.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that EDN named DCMs in VIA Packaging as one of their Hot 100 products last year. What is surprising, however, is the vast range of applications that benefit from using these components.

Tethered UAVs

DCMs are lightweight, small devices, making them ideal for applications such as tethered drones (UAVs), where size and weight are critical. These applications frequently use a high voltage to transmit power to the UAV and then rely on a DCM to convert it to the system voltage. The wide input range of DCMs is particularly suitable for this application as it allows them to compensate for any drops in the power cable. To learn more about this application, download our white paper explaining how DCMs keep tethered drones flying.

Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Another application where the size and weight of DCMs is an advantage is electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EVs and HEVs). The DCM can be used to convert the high voltage from the main traction battery down to a regulated low voltage bus for the 12V nominal system, while maintaining electrical isolation between the two.  There’s a great blog post by Arthur Russell, one of our principal applications engineers, that describes how DCMs can be used to distribute power to HEV/EV electrical systems.

Rail Systems

DCMs provide a great solution for traction applications, offering a high efficiency and power density of up to twice that of transactional hard-switched converters. The high switching frequency of the DCM also makes system design easier, reducing the need for energy storage in bulk capacitance. Electronic Design has a fascinating article about the [power] rails for rail applications that describes how the DCM is being used.

Pulsed Loads

It’s not just transportation applications where the DCM excels. Their ability to drive highly capacitive loads means that power systems based on DCMs can be sized for the average, rather than the peak demand of pulsed loads such as some amplifiers or flashing LED lights. This power averaging approach is described in an article published by Power Electronics, as well as our white paper and webinar, “Maximum Load: The Wrong Specification for Pulsed Power”.

Many More DCM Applications

The capabilities and ease of use of DCMs means they’ve been used in many other applications, including:

  • Industrial and process control markets that benefit from their rugged design, flexibility and ease of use
  • ATE and semiconductor manufacturing equipment, which use DCMs as flexible converters that are inherently low-noise due to their high-frequency Zero Voltage Switching (ZVS) topology.
  • Communications systems that can use ChiP or VIA DCMs for voltage conversion on line cards, as well as VIA DCMs within the power distribution system.

Meeting Unique Requirements

Maybe after all of this, you still think your DC-DC application can’t use a DCM because of your unique requirements. Think again: DCMs can easily be customized, allowing you to design and order a DCM that meets your specific requirements with just a couple of clicks. For high power applications, it’s easy to parallel DCMs to meet the needs of high-current loads.

More Information

To find out more about DCMs, and add these “utility knives” to your toolbox, visit the Vicor website or search for DCMs on the blog.


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2 Responses to:
DCMs: The Power Engineer’s “Swiss Army Knife”

  1. S.Saravanakumar on July 27, 2017 at 12:13 AM

    Even DCM Via package can be parallel for higher power DC/DC applications?

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