DCM Packaging: More than Different Housing

September 24, 2017
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DCM in VIA packaging technologyThe Vicor DC-DC Converter Modules (DCMs) have been very popular with engineers, providing an easy-to-use solution for power designers looking for isolation, conversion and regulation in a convenient single power component. We’ve blogged about the differences between DCMs in a ChiP and VIA package, but how do you make the decision about which DCM to use?

In our recent global survey of power engineers, we asked about their challenges and priorities. The responses to this survey not only demonstrate the need for a flexible, general-purpose DC-DC converter like the DCM, but also highlight the reasons why both ChiP and VIA packaging platforms are needed.

Why Use a DCM?

With a selection of different input voltages, output voltages and power levels, there are DCMs that meet the electrical requirements of a vast array of applications. All DCMs deliver with power with no-compromise in performance, which was revealed as the biggest priority for power engineers in our recent survey, having been cited by 75% of the engineers who responded.

Why Two Packaging Technologies?

The VIA and ChiP packages allow the engineers to meet differing needs. The differences between them are best illustrated by considering the challenges and priorities faced by power developers.

Delivering Power Density

Vicor ChiP DCMsMinimizing the size of the power system is increasingly important and was ranked as the second most important priority by respondents to the survey. Although both families of DCMs deliver excellent power density, the ChiP packaging technology allows unrivalled density in terms of both power-to-volume (1032 W/in3) and power-to weight. When looking for a solution to minimize the size or weight or your system, DCMs in ChiP packaging technology are the clear choice.

Enabling On-Time Project Development

Power developers don’t just need to meet technical challenges: In our recent survey 83% of respondents said that meeting project timescales was a problem for them, and 76% thought that timescales were reducing, making the problem worse.

DCMs in a VIA package offer integration that makes development easier, reducing the time and project risk associated with the power system. With integrated EMI filtering, tight output voltage regulation, a secondary-referenced control interface, and flexible thermal management, the DCMs in a VIA package deliver the performance and density required by modern high-performance power systems with the simplicity of a conventional brick. For time-pressured engineers, the DCM in a VIA package eliminates the design of additional circuitry, providing functionality that “just works”.

Reducing EMI

EMI remains a challenge for power designers. Although DCMs in both ChiP and VIA packaging offer a high-frequency, low-noise soft-switching topology that inherently reduces the EMI generated, the DCM in a VIA package integrates EMI filtering, reducing development time and providing predictable performance that increases the likelihood of passing certification first time. Although very low-noise solutions can be developed using the DCM in ChiP packaging, VIA packaging technology provides a convenient, proven off-the-shelf solution that is ideal for many applications.

Other Considerations

The DCM in ChiP packaging technology enables power sharing in arrays, without the need for additional components, unlike other DC-DC converters which cannot be paralleled easily. For very high-power applications the inherent scalability of the DCM in the ChiP package makes it an ideal choice.

Where power systems must drive highly capacitive loads, the power averaging capabilities of the DCM in ChiP packaging is a key consideration. This functionality allows pulsed load power systems to be smaller, lighter and cheaper.

Cooling is a challenge in modern space-constrained applications. The VIA packaging technology has been designed to make cooling easy, and although very high-efficiency thermal solutions can be developed for the converters in ChiP packages, it does require more engineering work. The VIA package is especially useful for cooling in harsh environments.

Conclusion: Which DCM?

Although offering the same basic functionality and high performance, there are significant differences between the DCM families in the ChiP and VIA packaging technologies. The ChiP package offers the ultimate in performance, particularly in terms of power density, while the ease of use and additional functionality of the VIA package makes it ideal for time-pressured power engineers who want predictable performance and additional filtering to easily address EMI requirements.

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