Today, it is not a new thing if we provide digital controls to power supplies. Still, today many market drivers combine it to stimulate adoption across a surprising range of industry segments.
Digital control in power supplies is an expanded sector; it includes essential digital signalling (like on/off) to an old analogue controller to complex operations, including a digital signal processor.
The latter represents an added cost; swiftly reducing chip price points and frequently sophisticated demand from manufacturers means that adoption is skyrocketing.
We can see the clear benefits of fully digital power supplies because of their much-advanced flexibility. The feasibility of adjusting power supply performance characteristics depending on different applications, environmental factors, and system performance variables expands the scope of practical benefits and cost savings.
Latest microcontrollers with DSP can examine the output voltage of every switching cycle, monitor fault and status conditions, react to warnings, and event logging is all possible options that would need hardware replacement earlier.
Today, when there is an increase in IIoT device demand and deployment, often in an application where physical access seems to be a challenge, this flexibility is powerful.
Besides, the location of many such devices on the network edge makes the value of real-time monitoring at this level valuable for multiple reasons, with predictive maintenance and enhancing efficiency.
Industry 4.0 of Smart Factory manufacturing applications are fit for digitally controlled power supplies. In smart factories, detailed logging can be integrated with other data in AI tools or dashboards to assure those performance parameters are managed in real-time. Another benefit is the ‘data lake’ of historical performance data can be extracted from these logs, facilitating predictive and preventative maintenance modelling to be highly improved.
The digitally programmable ability becomes necessary in ruggedized components and their designed operating environment, increasing product lifetime and better energy consumption.
Optimizing energy consumption by mapping and coordinating the power supply performance to the system power budget of particular value in extreme conditions, where thermal variations may influence standard performance.
As a result, not only IIoT enterprises are actively interested in digital power supplies, but recent reports share that global military requirements are increasing rapidly, and the reason behind it is digital power management.
One report released by Transparency Market Research predicts that the global next-generation military power supply market would reach up to US$ 20,111.7m by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 5.2% during the forecast period (2018 to 2026). As per TMR analysis, the programmable power supply segment occupies the maximum market share, increasing at a CAGR of 5.5% through 2026. Though there are many applications of programmable power supplies in the military, one fundamental purpose is to secure militarily significant sensitive electronic devices from grid power quality instability – whether everyday environmental factors or malicious actors cause that instability.
The telecommunications industry is another important growth market for digitally programmable and ruggedized power supplies as it needs robust and rugged power supplies that can be installed in towers. These towers encounter different challenges like high-salt marine environments near the cost to dusty city locations. It is essential to keep maintenance costs to a minimum to manage margins, particularly when viewing the new expenses of 5G network upgrades.
A vast spectrum of applications and environments are leveraging from a digital power management solution, so it is a complex task to narrow down the field for a specific application is critical. The topmost benefits of digital power management are reduced cost and number of components, enhanced development time covers, and an enhanced number of DC-DC converter options. These are appealing features, but it also drags design challenges. Few considerations include general power supply design needs like overcoming unwanted ripple and managing direct current resistance (DCR), along with digital power management difficulties, precisely control algorithms, and firmware design. In fact, we can say that these have been the reason behind delayed digital power management implementations. The control algorithm is of central importance. Though it can be optimized and updated later, adequate expertise must be introduced early in the design process.
Stability is one of the central design challenges which compelled analogue systems to get into a series of costly premium techniques.
Digital power management systems can resolve this issue while offering compensation-free power converters with high bandwidth and enhanced transient response. This is possible by generating a completely synthetic current control loop that produces cycle-by-cycle phase current balancing. This process is essential for complex multiphase power supplies for significant CPU, FPGA and ASIC arrays that are generally used in rendering and artificial intelligence (AI) operations.
Through Digital power management, it is possible to control and monitor every setting through software, making designing and tuning loops more straightforward. The most valuable part is during debug time, the status and condition of the power supply become immediately apparent. Furthermore, the consequent strength to alter filters and neutralize the noisy conditions in software and near-real-time offers versatility in resolving any specific difficulties that come up and even accelerates the process.
Lastly, as the power supply should be functioning at an optimum level which implies that thermal performance should be excellent, in many cases allowing cooling provisions like airflow and heat sinks need to be optimized or even omitted. This leads to a slender design that can be suitable for restricted spaces and cabinets.
It is now apparent that digital control of power supplies is acquiring good attention across the board. There is an extensive list of benefits, from improving flexibility and reducing operating costs to increasing lifespan and integrating with broader IIoT strategies such as predictive maintenance and modelling. Even if analogue control has a role in low-power and manageable applications, the whole process will be digitized in the coming years.