Industry Article

Utilizing DC-DC Converters in Space-Critical Power System Applications

June 28, 2019 by MINMAX

Power system designers are constantly under pressure because they are tasked with developing highly adaptive solutions that comply with today’s operating environments without interrupting design-to-manufacture cycles.

Power system designers are constantly under pressure because they are tasked with developing highly adaptive solutions that comply with today’s operating environments without interrupting design-to-manufacture cycles.

High power-density modules are generating a high amount of interest from worldwide designers who face board space constraints in application areas such as mobile telecoms infrastructure, industrial automation, transportation, and embedded computing equipment. The encapsulated package and excellent thermal performance increase designers’ confidence about the long-term reliability of these products, even in the most demanding industrial applications.

Designing power systems has become more and more challenging as consumers are increasingly attracted to applications that are minimally designed and deliver high performance while remaining cost-effective. However, selecting the most affordable board-mounted power solutions isn’t enough. 

DC-DC Converters for Power System Design

Enter DC-DC converters — voltage supply modules that can be used as conveniently as plug-and-play solutions. DC-DC converters are designed to comply with high-efficiency output in a broad spectrum of space-critical applications such as consumer electronics, mobile devices, battery chargers, gaming consoles, LCD panels and lighting systems, and point-of-sales (POS) devices, among others. 

DC-DC converters are broadly classified into the following two categories: 

  1. Transformers that change one DC voltage into another through output voltage, which is independent of load.
  2. Transformers with DC-DC isolation barriers that electrically separates two circuits. 

Based on the nature of their construction, unregulated DC-DC converters can deliver up to 70 to 90 percent power efficiency, while regulated ones provide up to 85 percent efficiency. 

Owing to the high efficiency that DC-DC converters deliver, they have remained one of the most dynamic segments in the entire power electronics spectrum. There are two major drivers enabling the DC-DC converter market to grow: 

  1. Large-scale adoption in modern computing and telecommunications technologies.
  2. Abundant scope for power system designers to experiment and innovate at the level of circuit design, converter architecture and topology, which enables them to produce custom converter modules that comply with system-level requirements.

DC-DC Converter Benefits

The growing rate of DC-DC converter integration in computing and telecommunications technologies demonstrates the superiority of the power architecture, adding to the increased adoption of these modules. DC-DC converters are instrumental in producing smaller and less complicated printed circuit board (PCB) designs — thanks to the flexibility they offer to designers in terms of experimenting and customization. Such flexibility enables designers to speed up the time-to-market without compromising system-level requirements. 

In addition, DC-DC converter-based smaller PCB designs allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to optimize the space they have to work with by adding attractive features within a small form factor – a critical attribute that traditional DC-DC converters fail to offer. With due consideration of these factors, it can be seen why DC-DC converters are becoming the go-to component for high-efficiency output in industrial space-critical applications.

MINMAX MD DC-DC Converter Modules

The MINMAX MD family of isolated DC-DC converter modules offers a power density of up to 63.5W/in3 for use in space-constrained designs. These modules offer 6-10 watts to support power systems and have an industry-standard footprint of 0.94” x 0.54”, and is just 0.31” high and weigh 6.1g. 

The high efficiency of the modules’ power regulation technology and the thermal characteristics of the package design mean that the converters can achieve very high power density while supporting operation at temperatures up to 90°C.

System design engineers can use this DC-DC converter to cut both board footprint and weight — typically by 50% when replacing other modules with an equivalent power rating.


MINMAX MD DC-DC converter

Figure 1. The MINMAX MD family of DC-DC converter modules offer high power density in small form factor.

MINMAX created a straightforward integration process for MD converters in end product designs. The shielded metal case with insulated baseplate provides excellent EMC performance. The MD products are certified for compliance with the EN 55032 EMI standard to Class A, and with the EN 61000-4-2/3/6/8 standard, there’s no need for external components. Class A compliance with EN 61000-4-4/5 and with EN 55022 Class B require only a small number of external components.

Isolation of 1.5kV protects sensitive circuitry from noise and supports use in safety-critical applications. 

The MD converter modules offer high efficiency and accurate regulation across the whole line, load, and temperature range. Typical peak efficiency is 88% at the maximum load, and no-load power consumption is just 0.1W. Line regulation is rated at ±0.2%, and load regulation is rated at ±0.5%. 

The converters have no minimum load requirement and maintain stable regulation with no oscillation in no- and light-load conditions. Typical start-up time of 20ms helps designers to eliminate the risk of system timing failures.


voltage results of the MD converter modules

Figure 2. Voltage results of the MD DC-DC converter modules.

MD Converters for Limited PCB Space

As enterprises demand product miniaturization and feature-packed products, power system designers are left with no other option but to make the best of limited PCB space. Traditional AC-DC converters lack the flexibility that would allow designers to experiment and innovate custom layouts on given PCB space. 

Featuring the smallest DIP-16 package, MINMAX MD converters enable designers to use the PCB space optimally. Designers can now integrate advanced performance features that could improve product performance, including a guaranteed steady 6-10W output, whereas mainstream converters within the same form factor can only deliver 3W. Opting for these DC-DC converters can offer a higher level of efficiency for space-critical applications.

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